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9 Things to Do the Summer Before College

Experts encourage students to complete any assigned reading before arriving on campus so they are prepared to engage with classmates.

JOSH MOODY  June 25, 2021

While the transition from high school to college can be daunting for incoming freshmen, arriving on campus well prepared can help them excel. Education experts suggest students use the summer between high school and college to develop a plan for the fall.

Though students may see summer as all fun and games – and there should be plenty of that, too – it’s also a time to lean into their future. Incoming freshmen unsure of how to use the summer before college should check out the tips below to make the most of that transition.

Students worried about being academically unprepared for college should revisit content they learned in high school and look to build upon those skills, experts say.

Robert E. Johnson, president of Western New England University in Massachusetts, encourages students to reengage with content from their senior year, particularly math, science, English and areas where they may need improvement.

Students can also get a head start on college classes by reaching out to professors and asking for the syllabus early so that they know what to expect. This may also give incoming students the chance to get a jump-start on reading for the fall classes they’ll be taking.

Complete Summer Reading

Some colleges assign the same book to the entire incoming freshman class to read over the summer. These programs vary by college, with some requiring students to complete the reading and others merely suggesting it.

Experts encourage students to complete any assigned reading before arriving on campus so they are prepared to engage with classmates.

Attend Orientation

Orientation offers incoming students the chance to meet faculty and staff as well as future classmates. Beyond that, students can register for classes, meet their academic advisers, participate in orientation activities, tour the college and get to know the campus.

“Additionally, many schools also offer pre-orientation programs for students to get to know their classmates in the weeks leading up to freshman orientation,” Christopher Rim, founder and CEO of admissions consulting firm Command Education, wrote in an email.

Orientation can also be a time to learn more about the community where a college is located. Beverly Woodson Day, senior director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions at the University of Texas at San Antonio, encourages students to take time to wander off campus and explore broadly.

“I always tell students to try to get to the city where your institution is and understand the landscape, understand the culture. See where the essentials are,” she says, noting that incoming freshmen should seek out retailers and services in the larger community off campus.

Incoming students often don’t have to wait until orientation to get to know their future classmates or roommates.

“Most students receive the names and emails of their freshman year roommates during the summer before freshman year,” Rim says. He adds: “Students should reach out to their roommates and start getting to know them through email, text, call or Facetime.”

Colleges may also have other ways to connect, such as a dedicated Facebook group for an incoming class, experts say.

Johnson also encourages students to think about how they’ll get involved on campus in the fall by checking out student organizations.

Paying for college is challenging for many families, but staying on top of financial aid can help keep those stress levels in check.

Incoming freshmen “should make sure that they visit the financial aid office while they’re on campus (for orientation) and, if they are eligible for financial aid, make sure they’ve done everything they need to do,” Johnson says.

Beyond financial aid, students need to think about the big picture financially, crunching the numbers for expected costs while away at college, Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner for Mint – a financial management website and mobile app – wrote in an email.

She encourages students to open a high-yield savings account and direct money there, as well as obtain a credit card, and she cautions students to not overspend and to pay close attention to credit card interest rates to avoid spiraling into debt.

Creating a budget is another important part of financial planning, and students should calculate their projected income against expected expenses.

“The sooner students create and start following a budget the better,” Castro says.

Working over the summer is one way college-bound students can save money for freshman year. This summer may be especially advantageous for teens looking to earn money for college, given the challenges many employers are facing finding help. News reports indicate that the number of working teens is surging and they are landing jobs with flexible schedules and other perks.

“If you don’t have time for a full-time summer job (or maybe you just want to enjoy your last summer before heading off to college) you can still look to make some extra money through a side hustle,” Castro says, citing opportunities such as nannying, dog walking and more.

Regardless of how students make money over the summer, she encourages them to “maximize earnings by saving as much as you can.”

Woodson Day encourages students who are seeking work over the summer or for the fall semester to freshen up their resume. Having an up-to-date resume can help students in their job search and give potential employers a clear understanding of their skills and experiences.

“They’ll want to continue to update that (resume) throughout their college career” as marketable skills evolve, Woodson Day says.

She also encourages students to volunteer over the summer or job shadow a professional, which can help round out a resume.

Johnson encourages students to prepare for dorm life by getting the dimensions of their room so they know what they’re working with. Colleges also routinely provide checklists for dorm essentials that can help students understand what’s needed and what isn’t allowed.

Students are also advised to arrive early and buy essential items locally if they’re flying in or coming from a significant distance.

Additionally “students should think about the household work they may currently split with their siblings or parents that they will now be solely responsible for,” Rim says. He advises students to recognize the skills that they lack and then develop those before college, which may mean learning how to do their own laundry or other chores for the first time – or waking up on their own without the help of a parent.

For college-bound students, high school is officially over. Woodson Day encourages incoming freshmen to recognize the transition that they are in and take the time to write thank-you notes or emails to those who helped them along their journey through high school.

They should also spend time with family and friends, recognizing that they will likely be headed in different directions once fall comes around.

Students should “take the summer to relax, enjoy the family, say their goodbyes, and just get ready to jump into their freshman year,” Woodson Day says. “Because it will be a new challenge, a new journey, and they want to hit it head-on with energy and with excitement.”


US News

Originally published in the US NEWS on June 25, 2021.

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