Are you as thrilled before the start of the new academic year as I am? Especially for freshmen, summer is the best period to get ready for that first day at college. Your head might ache already from the amount of stuff you need to take care of: figure out your schedule, buy textbooks, set up a university account, connect to your future classmates…
We’ve made this checklist for you so that you can keep everything under control. You can find a printable guide at the end of this post—it’s so handy to use! We took care to include some tips and those essential things that might not appear on your departmental webpage. Feel free to modify the list according to your needs, but never leave the important stuff out! Try to engage with these 12 points throughout the whole summer—don’t leave them until the very last moment. With this checklist, you’ll be done with all the preparations before you cross the doorstep of your new home as a first-year student. Making these small decisions and steps now will let you have more spare time for concentrating on your studies and having fun during the first term of your college life!
The first year of college is surrounded by a bunch of myths. If you are also wondering about how to navigate your life throughout this whole academic year, check this exciting book The Freshman Survival Guide. This will be your Bible during the first year—from practical tips on networking with your professors to dating on campus.
1. Take Care of Administrative Requirements
That’s your number one thing—take it seriously. Fulfilling these requirements is the foundation you’re building for the next few years of your life! You need to set up a student account, pay your enrollment fee, clarify your financial aid situation, take placement tests, set up a meal plan, and sort out parking and medical questions. The rule of thumb is to follow your departmental or college guidelines carefully: they’ll tell you what, when, and where. Nowadays, college websites offer their own checklists scrutinizing all the administrative steps you need to do before the orientation week. Although annoying and tiring, these things are crucial.
2. Apply for Housing
Just remember: the earlier, the better. Commonly you can get accommodation on campus in student dorms (in some colleges, it’s even a requirement), so apply for a place now if you haven’t already. If placement is competitive, spend some time exploring the backup options. When you secure your accommodation, start making a list of items you need to furnish the room. It can be fun to create your own Pinterest board with ideas for your dorm room!
3. Know Your Schedule and Your Classes
Scrutinize the information available on the departmental web page and start preparing your timetable. When is your orientation week, when is the deadline for your enrolment fee? Explore what classes are offered this term and which one are you going to take, try to draft your Fall Term weekly schedule.
Another thing you should do is apply for classes (the registration can open before the orientation week). Being an early bird will save you from those stressful moments of being waitlisted and not knowing your final weekly schedule.
A bonus tip: you can take part in summer courses offered at your college and make the credit workload slightly easier for the coming academic year.
4. Buy or Rent Your Textbooks
At some point, you’d need to buy textbooks. Be prepared for the ugly truth that college books can cost you a fortune, especially when bought in college bookstores. During the summer, you should explore cheaper alternatives to save yourself from this financial burden. The most efficient thing is to buy used textbooks with platforms like BooksRun—it’s easy to find the edition you need, shipping is free, and books come in good condition. At the end of the term, you can sell the book to BooksRun for a valuable buyback. That’s the best way to keep your textbook costs minimal.
An alternative way of saving money is renting textbooks. You rent a college book for a certain period and ship it back (with a prepaid label) to BooksRun at the end of the term.
It’s also smart to buy textbooks online a bit in advance—this way, you can get them a bit cheaper before everybody else. That’s why it’s essential to know your schedule in advance and check the course requirements. Also, you might start reading for your major, so get some introductory textbooks and go ahead!
5. Connect with Your Future Classmates
Find a FaceBook group with all students accepted in the same year and press join! You can’t believe how smoother the first days will be if you know your peers in advance. If there is no such FaceBook group or a WhatsApp chat—maybe you should be the one who makes the first step!
You should also make sure to follow your college and department pages on FaceBook as well as some other interesting organizations. This way, you’ll be up to date with all the events happening on campus on time!
6. Get Ready for Online Learning
Most probably, an online learning environment will remain fully integrated into our schedule even after the pandemic. It would be best if you got acquainted with this teaching and learning system to make the most of it. Now there are a bunch of videos or posts explaining distance learning that are easy to find. However, the most effective thing would be to take part in an online course this summer (on Coursera, for example) to get hands-on experience.
7. Figure Out Your Study Method and Note-Taking System
First, you should simply figure out whether you prefer handwritten or typed notes (or a blended version, which is the best). Since it is sometimes prohibited to use laptops during seminars, stay flexible, and get ready for both options. Learn about further learning techniques like “question” (excellent for working with textbooks) and advanced note-taking systems like the Cornell method or mind-mapping. Afterward, prepare your tools—get notebooks, pens, online templates, etc. It might sound bizarre to think of it now, but trust me, you’d be happy that you made these tiny decisions back in July and not during your first seminars.
8. Set up Learning Apps and Platforms
Many tools and apps make learning more comfortable—they help you with time management, concentration, budget keeping, and so on. Some of our favorite apps and platforms are mentioned here but take time to find something for your own needs. You’d need to check the Pomodoro technique, which is essential for boosting your concentration (check Flow for a desktop version). Download a budget app (like CoinKeeper) to observe and control your finances. Explore various note-taking services (standard Word or EndNote, but there are many more advanced student note-taking apps like Notion). You’d need to set up a calendar and a task manager (either as apps or in your analog Bullet Journal). You’d benefit from setting up a recording app, Zoom, and Dropbox in advance too! It’s better to choose what you need and set these apps up now during the summer than hastily arrange something in September.
9. Check Extracurricular Activities
Want to continue playing badminton? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to sing in a choir? Whatever kind of extracurricular activities are on your mind—explore them now. Sports facilities on campus, music, debate clubs, theatre, volunteering—you won’t have time to explore these opportunities later. It is better to make a decision now, or at least choose some options. If you have some specific routines that you can’t live without (swimming on Thursdays or jogging every morning), check the possibilities to go on with these activities on campus.
10. Visit Career Services
Thinking about having a job on campus? Act now — check the career service’s website for useful tips and information for any first-year student. There you’ll find most of the available part-time jobs and what kind of work-study positions are offered at your college. Maybe you can already set up an online meeting with one of the consultants. It’s also a good time to update your CV.
11. Check for Student Discounts
Local businesses are happy to provide plenty of student discounts! It would be silly not to use the opportunity to save a few dollars here and there. Your college can give you a list of available discounts. Otherwise, you should explore it yourself or ask continuing students about the best offers.
And last but not least…
The most important thing—you made it! We wish you a relaxing and productive summer that will prepare you for a smooth transition into a college atmosphere.
Get College Freshman Checklist
Save (right-click on the image and choose “Save image as…”) it on your laptop or your phone or even print it out and pin it on the wall! With this checklist, you’ll make sure that your preparations for college are under control. There are a few empty lines so that you can modify and add your ideas.
Stay safe and enjoy your summer!