If you are a college-bound high school graduate, change is coming this fall that will have storylines involving friends, family, and new academic and geographic horizons. Adapting to this radical life transformation will haunt you less if you learn how to prepare for college during summer. This includes vital social, academic, relocation, and health tips that can make or break your freshman year experience.
Read Like Your Future Depends on It
If the college experience was a road trip, reading would be the vehicle. So, get your reading headed in a good direction. Use the back of your college’s summer reading list to jot down these additional assignments:
- Read to stay current on local, national, and international events. What you learn will inform you, your writing, and your conversations in class and elsewhere.
- Read textbooks, the ones that challenged you in past classes and the ones you are going to need come fall. (It’s never too soon to buy or rent class materials if you know the ones you’ll use.)
- Read what the internet can provide on your major, the community, and the college that will be your home.
- Read for pleasure. The beauty of good writing is that it informs while entertaining.
Start the Packing Process by Thinking Ahead
If you don’t know anything about the city, campus, residence hall, apartment, or house you will be calling home, knowing what to take will be impossible. Here are some questions you must answer before starting your packing list:
- What furnishings and accessories will your living space have, and what will you be allowed to add?
- Does your wardrobe have what you will need for the seasonal challenges your new home will present?
- Consider transportation needs – distances you will have to cover almost daily – and the gear you will need to make it as easy as possible. Car? Scooter? Bicycle? Skateboard? Rain gear? Snow gear?
- What school supplies will you need, and should you buy them now or after you move?
- What will you need to keep your electronic gear functioning, and will buying it later be a problem?
- What are your medical needs?
- What comfort items can you absolutely not do without?
If you want to reduce the number of times you start a sentence with “I should have brought,” check out some of the complete college packing lists online. And save yourself some time and hassle reviewing the things you don’t really need.
Inventory Valuable Information and Paperwork
Before high school is a distant memory, consider names and phone numbers you don’t have in your contacts list but might need someday. Log that information, then add contact information for insurance companies, former employers, your doctor and dentist, acquaintances, distant relatives – anyone you might need to reach.
Also consider the papers you might need to take:
- Insurance policies and cards
- Driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, birth certificate
- Medical and dental records
- Credit cards, debit cards, checks
- Auto registration
- Product warranties
Go over the list with your parents, and also have them help you create an emergency contact list.
Tidy Up Your Digital World
If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media account that could create a bad first impression, clean it up. You won’t be the only person trying to get an advanced look at the people you will be rooming, learning, and working with. Tidying up your digital footprint should also account for the instructors and potential employers who could stumble upon your social media history.
There are a number of other ways to get your digital toolbox packed for college:
- Get LinkedIn and/or some other professional networking social media profile. You might not be looking for a job as soon as you hit campus, but you will before you graduate, and it takes a while to populate an account.
- See what online platforms your school uses to engage with the campus and community, from apps and websites to social media, and get familiar with them.
- Get your hands on course syllabuses as soon as possible so you can identify and master any digital tools your classes will require.
A little research on campus internet access, including Wi-Fi hotspots and how many bars your smartphone will have, can change your digital toolbox packing list.
Try to Connect with the New People Your College Life Will Feature
Don’t wait until you walk into your new residence to connect with the people who will share your living space and classrooms. Start by using social media, including the school’s go-to social media platforms, to research roommates, instructors, and staff. Don’t stop there:
- Follow or reach out to groups, clubs, departments – any individual or entity that will be part of your new life.
- If a regional meet-and-greet for future classmates is scheduled, go; if there isn’t one set, try to get one organized.
- Connect with high school alumni who are attending or attended your college.
- Be sure to use orientation to identify people who share your interests and make friends.
Don’t Forget Your Medical Needs
As with summertime preparations for college, health care takes planning. Start by assessing your school’s health care resources. The University of South Florida’s Student Health Services website is an example of what a major university offers. It lists everything from primary care to travel health services.
And don’t leave home without checking medical and dental exams off your to-do list, along with required vaccinations. Those visits will be opportunities to get references on where you could turn for care beyond campus, including specialists in your new college community.
You also might want to:
- Schedule regular checkups with your family doctor and dentist that coincide with planned trips home.
- Determine where you will go for prescriptions when at school.
- Identify health care providers in your college community that your insurance will cover.
About Joe Emerson
Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.