The summer between high school and college is an exciting time. You’re officially grown up and you’ll soon be off to college, with new people and (in most cases) in a new town.
Needless to say, you want to make the most of this summer of freedom, now that you’ve graduated high school. However, there are 20 things you should do during that summer before college.
1.) Familiarise yourself with the town and college
Chances are, you’ll be moving away from home and the first few days can be overwhelming when you try to take everything in. If you can, visit your future home. Check out where you will be living and what sort of shops and conveniences are within walking distance. Where can you get the bus? Where is the good but cheap coffee (this is important)? Sign up for a library card while you’re there, and get reward cards from shops you’ll likely be using (grocery stores, stationery supplies etc.). If you know your address (in case you’re living off-campus) walk from there to the campus and measure how long it takes. If possible, get a map of the campus and familiarise yourself with the layout in order to avoid getting lost and being late for your first classes. And beat the rush of fresher’s week / orientation and find yourself a doctor / GP / dentist etc. early – especially in the UK they may not take new patients in after the first few weeks as there’ll be a rush for the available spaces with thousands of new students arriving at the same time.
2.) Write and print your CV
Write a professional looking CV, print it out a few times and also take a digital copy with you. You’ll likely apply for student jobs or work experience at some point, so on your town familiarisation (see above) check who’s looking to hire students or part-time staff and hand in your CV. That way you may already have extra income lined up when you start. If you can’t do this beforehand, hit the town on your first or second day and leave your CV with businesses that are hiring. You’ll have the time advantage over those still needing to write and print their CVs when they arrive.
3.) Invest in business attire
You’re not in high school anymore and your clothes should reflect that. That does not mean that you need a whole new wardrobe, but invest in a few nicer tops and trousers. Men, if you don’t have one yet, buy a suit, dress shoes and a tie. Women, invest in dress pants, blouses, a blazer and a nice (and comfortable) pair of pumps (or shoes fit for a business environment). You will probably apply for a part-time job or work experience at some point while you are at university/college, so make a great first impression by dressing accordingly. Mix & Match with your usual wardrobe plus accessories can work wonders as well. Hint: try jeans, T-shirt/blouse and blazer for a smart casual / business casual look you can pull off every day.
4.) Get a haircut
Going away to college is a chance to present a new, grown up You to the world. Go to your trusted hairdresser / barber. Even if you just get a trim or renew your highlights, it may be a while before you’ve found a hairdresser in your college town who you trust to get it right. A new hairstyle can be confidence boosting, just make sure you ask the hairdresser for tips on how to best style your hair in a hurry or what products you should / could use.
5.) Learn to do laundry
If you move away for college (especially when you move too far away for weekend visits home) you need to learn how to do your own laundry (if you don’t know this already). Memorise what the symbols mean and which clothes to wash with what detergent and temperature. Go through your wardrobe and look at the things you want to take with you: how easy are they to keep clean? Except for suits/coats etc. try and stay away from dry-clean only items as those bills can soon add up. Likewise, you need to know exactly which items are handwash only and which ones can’t go in a tumble dryer, so you don’t ruin your favourite clothes. Also, learn how to iron your clothes.
6.) Collect your favourite recipes
Student food can be pretty dull. And while it’s cliché and predictable, there will be times when all that’s left in the pantry is a bowl of pot noodles and a few crackers or some beans on toast. Go around your family and friends and collect your favourite recipes and learn how to make them. Try and get some variety and recipes that do not require a lot of preparation or ingredients. Never underestimate comfort food like your gran’s famous [insert favourite/family secret dish here] – knowing how to make those meals will give you a wide variety of options. If you don’t know how to cook (yet), learn the basics at least. Making pasta or rice counts as cooking. Learning how to make these recipes is also a great way of spending some more time with family and friends.
7.) See your doctor / dentist
It’s always a wise idea to get a check-up before you go on a long trip, and moving away to college counts as a long trip. Make sure everything is alright. If you need medication (or contraception, for example), ask your doctor about prescription renewals, possible referrals to doctors in your new town or whether you can get two months’ worth of your prescription when you leave in case you don’t find a new doctor right away. If you need any procedures done, consider getting them done before you move away. If you are a woman and moving to the UK, I’d recommend visiting your gynaecologist to make sure everything’s OK, but wait with contraception renewal until you are in the UK – contraception is free for women in the UK via the NHS, so I’d think twice about paying €300 for the implant, for example, when you can get it for free two weeks later. Also, make sure your insurance covers you in your college town – some may incur extra charges in case you move abroad or out of state.
8.) Get a summer job or do work experience
Some courses call for you to have completed a certain amount of work experience before you start your studies. Make sure you get those out of the way before you head off to college. Getting a summer job will allow you to make a bit more money you can use towards your big move. Consider doing work experience (even if not required) in the field you’ll be studying and would like to go into – it’s best to find out beforehand whether you’re cut out for the job and all it entails instead of after graduation and three to four wasted years.
9.) Meet your room / dorm mates
In case you are not going to be living at home or sharing a house with friends, it’s a good idea to get to know your new room mates / dorm mates beforehand. Especially in the US, colleges sometimes let you know who you’ll move in with beforehand. So if you know the name, try and get in contact, whether it’s in person, via Skype or email. Next to basic introductions and interests, find out about allergies (there might still be cat/dog hair on some of your stuff, for example), diet (carnivores living with vegans can lead to arguments), whether they play instruments (because a 3am jamming session might not be everyone’s cup of tea) and stuff like that.
10.) Work out a budget
While this is not a fun task, sorting this out before you get to college will save you loads of trouble in the long run. Factor in all your money, whether it’s income, allowance from your parents, tuition and maintenance grants, bursaries, scholarships or loans. Add up the monthly bills you know (rent, utilities, phone/internet, insurance etc.). Decide whether you’ll have a credit card, debit card, overdraft. Put money aside for food and transport, but don’t forget to factor in text books, stationery/supplies, socialising and emergency expenses. Set up standing orders / direct debits for monthly payments of the same amount (e.g. rent). If it’s due on the 10th of the month, make sure you set it up to leave your account a week beforehand if possible. There may always be bank transfer problems or weekends / holidays – paying early means that even with delays you’ll still always pay on time. You may want to consider taking your money out at the start of the month and dividing it among different envelopes so you only spend what’s in there (e.g. $30 mobile/cell, $50 gas / car parts, $25 social etc.) but use whatever system works best for you. You may also consider setting up a savings account and pay your leftover from the month into that to give you a bit of a reserve for bad months or savings for holidays / gifts etc. Also set up online banking.
11.) Get organised
Student rooms – whether they’re dorms or in private housing – tend to be on the small side. Organisation is key. Use the summer to get into a routine you can keep up at college. Declutter your desk and wardrobe. Consider saving your music / films to an external hard drive to free up the space those CDs used to take up. Make a file with all your important info: medical files, insurance, tenancy agreement, matriculation, certificates / school reports, car documents and so on. Best make copies and leave the originals with your parents, just in case. Mark all the electronics you want to take with you with a UV pen. In case something gets stolen this mark (consider your initials) can prove ownership.
12.) Start using a calendar / planner
Living away from home you’ll be solely responsible for keeping your appointments and completing coursework before deadlines. Use the summer to find a planner that works for you layout-wise, no matter whether it’s a paper planner or digital. Consider colour-coding appointments and deadlines so one glance will tell you what’s planned for the week. The more you use it, the more it will become second nature. So once you get to your college, simply continue marking deadlines, homework and social engagements. Make it a habit to always write down dates and times immediately. This can then help you make up a proper study schedule.
13.) Buy text books
This one depends a bit on whether you will study somewhere you can drive to (and load up the car with absolutely everything) or whether you’ll be taking public transport to get to your new town. If at all possible, buy your text books before you get to university. While there might be cheap offers on at the college book store, buying new can become very expensive very quickly. My tip is buying used text books – especially those marked “written in” or “highlighted” because to a student that can increase value. Somebody else may have already read the text and underlined the important passages or wrote hints for their analysis in the margins. Books like that will not only be cheap, but they’ll also come in handy in the long run. Next to used books stores and online text book trading sites, try the alumni association. Loads of graduates will not keep their text books – whether they just want to get rid of the weight or they know they’ll never need them again – and may be able to give you a deal for the whole set.
14.) Get in contact with the college’s alumni association
Ask the association whether they can set up contact with a recent graduate from your chosen field. They’ll not only be able to tell you where to find the best café, nightlife, shops etc. in town, but they also know the college by heart. Ask them about the professors and what to look out for. Whether notes are taken with a pen and paper or laptop in their lectures. Who is lenient or gives extra credit activities, and who hands out F’s as soon as you’re one minute late? Ask them anything you want and need to know about the college and what sort of classes and project your chosen studies entail. Just don’t forget to get some student lifestyle tips as well as they will come in handy. For example: best value for money meal in town, which stores offer student discounts and where best to earn a few extra bucks.
15.) Buy dorm essentials
Again, just like with text books above, this depends on whether you have to buy things when you get to your college or whether you can spend the summer shopping for bargains. You’ll need bedding – duvets, pillows, more than one cover for each, possibly a mattress (if it’s not provided or health problems require you to have a special mattress). A desk lamp, laundry basket/tote, alarm clock, extra blanket. Laundry/drying rack. Depending on your location, consider buying a fan and/or electric heater (if that’s allowed, check your lease). A mini fridge can also come in handy for study sessions to keep drinks and snacks. Underbed storage bags or boxes, stackable boxes or a small chest of drawers. Work with what you’ve got but you will need to maximise your available space, so bring over-the-door (or over-the-radiator) coat racks for your towels and jackets and clothes hangers that can hold several items at once. Loads of shops will offer college discounts the closer it gets to the start of term. Multi-sockets are your friends, as are USB adapters of all sorts. Depending on the dorm dynamic you’re going to have, you may not need your own set of dishes, but to be on the safe side, consider taking camping plates / mugs / bowls and cutlery with you as they’re light weight and robust.
16.) Buy study essentials
Much like the dorm essentials above, study supplies depend on how you’ll get to your college town. If you can buy in bulk and start organising binders at home, that’s great. Start off with one binder per class, a few pens, highlighters, post-it notes, refill paper and a calculator (even if you don’t need it for your subjects). Will you be taking notes by hand or on a laptop? If you decide to upgrade your laptop, make sure you’re familiar with it and all software is running before you get to college. Invest in an up-to-date dictionary and thesaurus, as well as USB sticks and an external hard drive – “back it up” will be your mantra for the next few years. Noise-cancelling headphones might also be an idea.
17.) Change your address and subscriptions
If you have any subscriptions, look through them to work out which ones to keep and which ones to drop. For the ones you are going to keep, change your address so they’ll go straight to your college address. Consider subscribing to a college town newspaper. Make sure you file a change of address with your bank, license issuers etc.
18.) Sign up for services and freebies
You can be a student without a TV – sign up for an internet service like Amazon Prime Instant Video or Netflix instead and watch on your computer. This is also a great study incentive – if you can’t do both at the same time, study first and reward yourself with a movie (if I – as a total TV junkie – managed this for 3 years so can you!). Sign up for student discount emails and free services. If you study abroad or out of state, sign up for frequent flyer miles and / or a student rail/bus pass.
19.) Spend time with your family
Maybe invite absolutely everyone for a big family dinner or an “off-to-College” party. Visit your grandparents. Get into a crazy water fight or go to an event together. Take a trip, even if it’s just for a day, or enlist everyone’s help shopping for your new place. Cook together and learn your gran’s secret recipe (because you’re grown up now and can be trusted with the secret ingredient).
20.) Spend time with your friends
Chances are you’ll all be off to different places after the summer. Despite all the planning, take time for your friends. Go out together, take a trip or cook together, have BBQs in the back yard or simply hang out. You may not see them for quite a few months, so make the most of this last summer before your college adventure. Shopping for dorm essentials or new clothes is more fun with friends. Whatever you do, make memories. Capture some on camera for the inevitable bout of homesickness.