The summer prior to heading off to college is an exciting time. In addition to all the usual warm-weather activities, there are graduation parties, saying goodbye to friends, and packing for fall. Although it’s a super busy time, you want to be sure you are ready to tackle the challenges of your first semester. In this article, we will talk about how to prepare yourself for college classes over the summer.
Get Yourself Oriented
If your school does not offer a formal orientation, you will need to acquaint yourself with things on your own. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with several details before you show up to class:
Make sure you know what courses are required and choose wisely. Don’t be corralled into taking classes you don’t need. If you have taken any advanced placement or international baccalaureate courses, you may be able to apply your credits.
Read through the entire description and syllabus for each course. Becoming familiar with the instructions is a simple way to prepare yourself for your first semester at college, and there is no reason not to do it.
Look over the grading system for each class, attendance policies, and any deadlines for project completion. If you don’t have them on paper, you should be able to find them on the department web pages for your major.
If it’s feasible, you may want to arrange a second visit to the school. This will afford you another opportunity to check out where your classes will be held and familiarize yourself with student housing and the other buildings on campus.
Preparing Yourself Academically
The next step you should take during the summer is to brush up on your academic skills and get ready for the challenge ahead.
If you know you struggle in certain classes you will be taking in the fall, now is the time to look for opportunities to improve yourself academically. It may help to work with a tutor or take a college-level adult education class. You could even take a course at a community college. Without the pressure to get a particular grade, you can learn stress-free and at your leisure.
Optionally, you could simply do some studying on your own. Utilize online tools and tutorials to bring yourself up to speed. Khan Academy has several excellent AP courses that can help you get ready.
While you are at it, reacquaint yourself with the study skills that got you this far. You will need to approach studying in college the same way you did in high school, only better. Websites like Shovel offer a wealth of helpful and free study guides as well as an app that can help you set up a study plan to manage your time.
Read! Your school may assign you a book to read over the summer before you come to your first class. However, if they do not, there is no reason to wait. Readers are naturally curious life-long learners and reading itself will keep your mind sharp and focused. You don’t need to read anything too complicated—go ahead and catch up on that novel you’ve wanted to finish.
If one of the requirements at your college was to have at least a couple of years studying a foreign language, hone those skills further. If you plan to travel this summer, pick a destination that speaks the language you’ve been studying. If you are staying at home, watch foreign films, or volunteer in communities where your second language is spoken regularly. You can also visit a website like Livemocha, where there are millions of users to chat with in 40 languages.
Preparing Yourself Socially
Join your school’s online communities and social media sites to check out what’s going on behind the scenes. Most colleges have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and you can gain a lot of information about the activities and happenings just by being a part of the online scene. Checking them out also gives you a chance to make some new friends before you arrive.
You may also want to check out the clubs and organizations at your university. They can usually be found right on the school’s website. Looking into these will give you a general idea of what activities are available and let you make some contacts ahead of time if you choose to participate.
If you don’t already know who you will be rooming with, now is a great time to reach out to your future roommate(s). Avoid the awkwardness of meeting at orientation by getting to know each other a little bit beforehand. Find out what you have in common and even meet up in person, if possible.
You will want to make sure you get your textbooks well ahead of time. The list of required reading materials will typically be online or included with the class schedule that was mailed to you. Be prepared to start your coursework immediately. You can even start reading ahead of time. If you order early, you will have a better selection of used or rented books to choose from, which can be much cheaper than buying new.
Amazon Student offers lots of deals on textbooks, laptops, and other school supplies. Shipping is lightning-fast, and a student account is free for the first six months. It will entitle you to all the perks of Amazon Prime without the monthly payment. Just be sure to cancel when the year is halfway up if you don’t want to be charged the regular monthly fee for the service.
Self-discipline will be a necessary skill to master if you want to succeed in college, and the best time to start practicing it is before you start school. Get a planner or download a time management app and set up a schedule for yourself. Follow it for a few days and see how much more productive you are.
There will be many activities and commitments as a college student and managing your time wisely will help you stay on top of all of them. You will be taking control of your own schedule now—from getting up for class to making sure you get a good night’s sleep. Nobody is going to be on your case about missing class or forgetting to take a quiz. Your professors expect you to behave like a competent adult who can meet your obligations. The amount of effort you put into college directly correlates with what you will get out of the experience, so don’t cheat yourself.
Think ahead about the items you might need to pack. If your school is located in a different part of the country, what is the climate? You may need winter boots, gloves, and a warm jacket. On the other hand, if you are going someplace hot, make sure you have plenty of shorts and warm-weather shirts to keep you comfortable.
If you are staying in student housing, make sure you know what you can bring. Most schools have health and safety rules about what items are allowed in dorms and campus housing. For example, at some colleges, you can bring a microwave, but at others, it is not permitted. Candles are usually not allowed, so leave those at home. You may want to talk with a student currently living in the dorms to find out what you should bring that is absolutely essential.
If your college is large, you may be doing a lot of walking. Make sure you have shoes that are comfortable and supportive enough to trek across campus several times a day.
Preparing for college over the summer is one of the best ways to put yourself ahead of the game. It can also eliminate any pre-semester anxiety you may be feeling. By knowing what to expect and getting into the mindset of college, you will be organized and ready to go when your first class rolls around.
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