The summer before college is an exciting time, it’s also time to get ready for the coming year.  Here are 18 Important Things to do Before College to Make Sure You Are Ready…

There’s no question about it, the summer before college is an exciting (and somewhat scary) time.  With high school now behind you and college plans in front of you, it’s time to take a deep breath and get organized. Committing to your campus is only the first step in this journey. There are lots of things to do the summer before college to make sure you’re ready.

It’s going to be tempting to dedicate the time to enjoying one last summer with your high school friends before you all set off on your own college pursuits.  There will be time for that — life is all about balance — but it is imperative to get these items done! The successful launch of your college experience will depend on it! 

UCLA campus building

Things to do Before College

Below is a handy to-do list to refer to. (I’m pointing out the obvious in case one of your parents simply handed this to you after waking you at 2 PM).  It’s separated into four information buckets. I don’t know about you, but I find that taking on big tasks in small chunks minimizes the possibility of getting overwhelmed by what needs to be done.

You can work through this list one bucket at a time if you like, or knock out two in one sitting if you’re feeling motivated.  Beware of due dates, though! The items in the first two information buckets in particular will have some deadlines connected to them.  Are you ready? Let’s do this! 

Academic and Administrative Action Items

There are some very timely administrative driven action items you will need to take care of and almost all of them have due dates attached to them: 

  1. Attend Orientation:  This is a great opportunity to learn about all of the services available to the university student body.  These can include social, health, and financial services as well as programs that help freshmen ease into campus life. 
  2. Meet with your adviser:  You will schedule your classes for the first semester during this meeting.  At some schools, this is one of the activities that occur during orientation. 
  3. Set up your College Online Portals:   Setting up your online accounts is vital! Critical school information will flow through these channels which include your college email account and main campus online portal.  Be sure you set them up and check them regularly.
  4. Financial Aid: Accept your financial aid offer.  Make sure you know what you have to do in order to continue receiving financial aid each year and how your aid may change in future years. 
  5. Complete Your FAFSA: Short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you will need to complete this form before each academic year if you wish to get any financial aid from the federal government. 
  6. Purchase a laptop:  If you don’t already have a device, you’re going to need one before heading off to school!  Make sure it’s light because you’ll be carrying it a lot.  Other good features to look for include; a good processor speed, long battery life, and wireless capability. Consider a built-in web camera as well, it’s a feature that definitely proved its usefulness during the pandemic.  You’ll be note-taking, researching, and producing projects on this thing so make sure it is functional and durable!  
  7. Summer Reading:  Some freshman courses and seminars assign summer reading. If you’re enrolled in this sort of class during your first semester, make sure you do the work! 
Girl walking down UCLA path

College Life Action Items

This bucket addresses the foundation of your college life.  Where will you live?  Who will you live with? What sort of meal plan will fuel you?  This is another time-driven section.  Whether you live on campus or not, you will likely encounter competition for the most desirable living situations.  In other words, you’ll need to act quickly! 

  1. Select Your Housing Option: Many universities require freshmen to live on campus. If you are not attending one of those schools, will you live on or off-campus? Check the web page for your university housing office for more information about your choices. 
  2. Living on campus?  Your college housing office will send you resident information and a contract. You must return any needed paperwork and deposits before the given deadline.  Other action items connected to on-campus living include:
    • Select a meal plan:  This may sound counterintuitive but I advise you to start with the smallest meal plan option. This doesn’t mean forced deprivation or even rationing will be in your future! Believe or not, there will be days that dining hall dollars go unused — like when you opt for 15 more minutes of sleep and quick breakfast in your room. Money can always be added to your account if the small plan really wasn’t right for you. 
    • Secure a parking permit: If you plan on taking your car to school, your university will likely require that it be properly permitted and registered with the school’s transportation office.  Check your school’s website. 
    • Contact your roommate: Get the contact information of your assigned roommate or roommates. Be sure to reach out!  Start getting to know to them better now to avoid a first awkward meeting at the dorm when everything else also feels awkward. This is also the perfect time coordinate who’s bringing shared dorm room items.
  3. Go shopping:  There are essential items you’ll need to purchase to make your college life more comfortable (i.e.: bedding, towels, etc.). Many big box stores offer services where you can secure these items while at the store location in your hometown and have them waiting for you to pick up in your college town! Since we’re all about handy lists when it comes to college life prep, here’s a shopping and packing list to refer to. 
Girl in white UCLA sweatshirt sitting against white lampposts at LACMA exhibit

Personal Action Items

This portion covers YOU — yep, just you!  There’s no time like the present to think about your basic needs because once you’re at school your parents won’t be at the ready to resolve any issues.  

  1. Get a Physical:  Most schools require first-year students to submit the results of a recent physical exam along with their vaccination history before they can register for classes. 
  2. Get Organized:  Here’s a basic list of errands you’ll need to knock out to accomplish this. 
    • Set up bank accounts and credit cards.
    • Get prescriptions refilled 
    • Get your car serviced: The last thing you need is a car break down in the midst of adjusting to college life.
    • Register to vote: If you’re attending school out of state, be sure to request an absentee ballot in your home state. 
  3. Sit down with a calendar:  Record your key academic dates – the start and end of classes, dates for finals, and vacation times. Jot down commitments such as a job and any extracurricular activities. This will not only help you map out your first semester, but it will also ultimately help with time management for the upcoming year. 

Family Decisions

This may be the bucket you’ll want to rush through and I hope you won’t.  Having been a college student myself and having just launched a college student, I can now see both sides of this list.  Getting ready for college is an exciting time for the student. Parents, whether they want to admit it or not, are grappling with mixed emotions.  So, bring them into the preparations — it’s easy! 

  1. Tap parental knowledge: Is there any area where you could benefit from further coaching while you can still yell into the next room for help?  Whether it’s laundry, cooking, or balancing a bank account, there is no better time to ask for parental assistance in honing life skills! 
  2. Establish a communications plan: How often will you be coming home? How often do you want to hear from your folks while you’re at school? Make sure you’re on the same page, it will save a lot of grief later.
  3. Medical coverage:  Know your health insurance status. Are you eligible to stay on your parents’ plan? While no one wants to imagine the possibility of a medical emergency, this is an important thing to know! 
  4. Medical emergencies: Now that you’ve primed your parents with the discussion about medical coverage, let’s cover medical emergencies.  You’re 18 now, which means your parents don’t automatically have the authority to make healthcare decisions for you — even if you’re still covered on their health insurance! If you want them to act on your behalf in an instance where you’re unable, put a healthcare proxy in place. This authorizes them to make medical decisions for you.  You will need to check the laws in your state for executing such a document. 

Bonus!

I know I said this list was divided into four buckets.  This item is so important, it shouldn’t be in a bucket of any kind.  It is one of the most important things you should do the summer before college. 

Spend Time with Friends and Family: (I told you we’d get to this!) You’re  going to have a busy schedule once the semester gets going.  While you’re still home this summer, be sure to spend some quality time with high school friends and family.  Hint: You’ll have more time with them if you get up before 2 PM! 

And if you haven’t celebrated yet, plan a last minute graduation trip!

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