8 Things to Do or Learn Before Freshman Year
There are still a few weeks of summer left. That’s enough time for a few more lazy afternoons and some good times and adventures with old friends. But with freshman year looming on the near horizon, it’s also time to start taking concrete steps toward being ready for your first semester of college.
1. Do you know your details?
If you’re like me before college, you probably haven’t had to deal with too much bureaucracy as of yet. You’ve let your parents help with tedious and high-stakes detail-y things like opening bank accounts and knowing where your birth certificate is kept. The thing is, you’ll be on your own in college, and while your folks will still offer help and guidance (at least, we can all hope so), this is a good chance to get a handle on some details. So figure out:
- All personal ID information. Social security, birth certificate, driver’s license, etc. Learn the numbers, make copies, and/or find out where your originals are kept.
- Medical and other insurance details
- Banking and other financial details
2. Can you feed yourself?
Seriously. Can you feed yourself?
If you’re in a dorm, there will probably be someone else doing the actual cooking for you. But a few cooking lessons are probably a good idea anyway, and it’s certainly a good idea to head to college with a basic grasp on nutrition, grocery shopping, and the basic mechanics of getting food into your body.
Do you know how much groceries cost? Can you prepare three basic meals? What snacks make you feel full and energized? Ask for help if you need to. You still have a few weeks.
Seriously. Don’t be that guy who has never touched a washing machine before. Dorm room laundry facilities are unpleasant enough even if you’ve already experienced a fair few decisions about water temperature and spin cycles. Learn to do your laundry.
4. Basic computer tech stuff
Make sure your technology is working properly: That you have all necessary software and that you know how the various programs function. Do a bit of troubleshooting. Back up all your important files, and leave a copy of your full hard drive at home.
Many of the worst freshman year disasters you can encounter begin with technology woes. Make sure everything is in working order, that you have plans in place, and that you have some idea of how to fix problems that arise.
In your last few weeks before school starts, think back on the tech stuff you’ve struggled with thus far, and take a bit of time to address these issues. Can you use Excel to create a graph? Do you know how to make a decent looking Power Point presentation? Can you share large documents, and how to collaborate with a group online?
You’ll learn more about all this stuff as your college days go on. But start ahead. Do yourself the favor of being organized, knowledgeable, and prepared with your tech skills and products before you leave for school.
Even if (like me) you kind of hate this stuff.
5. Emergency preparedness
I recently wrote a whole blog post about this subject. Take a bit of time with your family to talk through some emergency situations and procedures. Beyond just knowing your medical insurance information, make sure you also have a conversation about what should happen in case of emergencies. If Grandma gets sick while you’re at school, will you come home? If you break your arm, what will you do, and who should your friends call first?
Hopefully you’ll never need to make use of this information. But accidents happen, in college as in the rest of your life. Make a plan for how to cope and how to communicate. Have a plan.
Get a jump on the key ideas in your major or areas of interest. Read a lot.
Or don’t. Not everyone is that nerdy. But if you feel like it… pursue that interest. Because you’re about to spend the next few years choosing what to learn. If you have that urge already, then go ahead and get started.
7. Make some money
A bit of extra money now could mean way more freedom and fun during the next year. Save up all you can. If you haven’t already gone through all available scholarship opportunities, research what might be available to you. Likewise, if you get the chance to make some extra money—whether it’s taking on another shift at your summer job or babysitting for the neighbors—say yes to whatever comes your way.
Students are often living on a shoestring. Do what you can to accumulate a bit of a buffer between now and your first day of class.
8. Make some memories
Before you head off to school, spend this last few weeks of your pre-college life making memories. Really soak up your hometown. Have some great times with your high school friends. Indulge in some nostalgia for childhood places and activities. Spend extra time with your family.
If this is the first time you’re leaving home, it’s extra important to invest meaning in these last few weeks. You’ll be back soon enough, but things change fast in college. Remind yourself of all the great stuff about home, and then get yourself launched into the next part of your life.
Enjoy the rest of this summer, and good luck as you begin your college career!