You made it past high school graduation! Only the summer lies between you and your first year in a brand new world. I definitely remember this transition as full of mixed emotions. I was thrilled with the idea of getting away from home, but petrified when I thought of what I might not be prepared for.
Of course, there are countless ways to prepare, which is one of the reasons I was so overwhelmed. There are many different expectations for summer that aren’t always the best, as June Xia acknowledges in “The ‘Correct’ Way to Spend Your Summers in High School.” So in order to break it down, I’ve come up with three categories that may help simplify the priorities. I’ve also included a few specific examples that I think were important in my own preparation.
Exploring Your College
I’d say this is one of the most important groundworks for college, if only to help put your mind at ease. If you’re like me, your pending university experience will constantly be running through your mind. So why not give in to your curiosity? There’s really no better time than the summer. Here are a few things I wish I would have done more of before I moved to my new campus.
Visit your university’s website and resources
University websites can be confusing at first glance. My first time on my school’s site, I didn’t get much out of it and didn’t try again until I had to. I wish that I had taken the time to really look around on my school’s website and see what kind of information I could discover. If I had, I would have better known how to find any type of assistance when I needed it. I could have found better jobs to apply to on campus. I might have even gotten more involved in school activities if I had known where to look.
Every school has so many different resources for their students, and it’s valuable to know what’s available. Don’t be like me and not find out about the free writing help, the free counseling, or the free tax consultants until your senior year. That kind of stuff could be available to you from day one.
Introduce yourself to your soon-to-be roommates
I know. This may be a little awkward. But it’s worth it to establish a good relationship with your future roommates so that you aren’t faced with a complete stranger on your first day. Believe me, sleeping in the same room with someone you don’t know makes awkward look normal.
So, take a little initiative and reach out to your roommates on social media. Introduce yourself! You could even start sharing ideas for what to pack and then plan who will bring what. Also, make sure you aren’t bringing anything that might kill them (my roommate was allergic to lavender).
Go to your future school and city early
If you’re moving to a new city, it may take a while to get to know the area. I would have preferred if I had given myself a little more time to just hang out in my new home. I got there with only enough time for me to unpack, say hi to my roommates, put my backpack on, and go to school again.
What I wish I had done instead was spend more time exploring the city and campus with my family as a last bon voyage. After that, I would spend a good week getting to know how I fit in to my new environment. I made sure to find all of my classes beforehand so I wasn’t entirely clueless on the first day of the semester. With this kind of preparation, I felt confident I would last longer than a day before I felt like running back home.
The next category to think about is self-reliance. Hopefully, you don’t need to start from scratch here, but I definitely wasn’t 100% self-reliant by the time I was on my own. Let’s be real, the luxury of always having food in the fridge, a car to borrow, and a nice meal at the end of the day—no one wants to give that up. But alas, these luxuries seemingly evaporate in college. There are a few changes you’ll want to make to steel yourself for student poverty.
Get a job that teaches valuable skills
By this time, a job may seem pretty obvious. But notice I didn’t say get just any job. No, just any job isn’t going to get you everything you hope for. That’s why I say find a position that teaches you skills that will help you move up in your desired profession. Granted, you may not know what that is yet. I certainly didn’t in high school, but I did know that I loved swimming. So I became a swim instructor. And I learned skills from that job that transferred to others. So even though I never worked at a pool again, that experience moved me forward.
However, I’ve also had the experience of having just any old job, and it didn’t get me anywhere. I’ve never been able to capitalize on the skills that I learned there. It wasn’t what I wanted to continue doing, and it didn’t help me in my goals. I was only there to get money, and that’s all I got. But looking back now, I should have found employment geared toward my future. It’s for that reason that I say, find a summer job that you value as a learning experience.
Learn how to cook your favorite meals
Dun, dun, dun. This is by far my least favorite piece of advice. In fact, I still haven’t done it myself. But that’s also why I felt I need to include it, because I now live a sad life where I mess up when I’m making boxed macaroni and cheese. So please, do better than me and learn about what goes on in the kitchen.
Doing this will not only keep you healthier, it will also make you more friends. For like I said, you’ll be surrounded by starving college students, and if you can make a good lasagna, you’ll be able to get lots of people on your side. Not to mention, you can always trade favors for a slice of pie.
Do your own laundry and dishes
You’ll also want to practice doing your own dishes. If you haven’t yet, you’ll soon realize that it’s a really big deal to keep your sink clean when you’re living with roommates. No one likes seeing other people’s dishes fill up their kitchen, especially when they want to have friends over.
And of course, laundry tends to pile up pretty quickly too, so that skill will prove indispensable. Surprisingly, I’ve had a number of friends who said that they had no idea how to work a washing machine until their first couple weeks at college. That was pretty shocking to me, until I realized I had no clue how to check my car’s oil. So who am I to judge? As for you, learning these type of everyday skills might put you ahead of the rest.
Packing Up Your Life
Finally, the last aspect of moving to a new home is the packing. Not my favorite activity, but it deserves the time. What you pack in your bags becomes your life for the next eight months at least, and what you leave behind might not see the light of day for years. With this in mind, there are a few choices I could have made to prevent an all-nighter the night before I left for the university.
Organize your room
For me, packing is easiest when I’m working with an organized space. If I know where everything is, it’s pretty simple to grab what I need for a trip. But this isn’t the only reason I say this. You’re starting a new life, and establishing change in your bedroom might help you adjust to bigger change coming later. So I suggest you make organizing your room a big project. Take the time to really rake through what you have, evaluate whether or not you need or want it, and then simplify.
If I had taken the time to go through my old stuff, life would have been much easier in all of my subsequent visits home. I wouldn’t have to worry about planning in time during my week-long vacations to go through all of my childhood toys. So while organizing may not seem like a big deal now, it makes a big difference in the years to come.
Start packing early
Packing takes time—a lot more than you may think. So start early, and work at your own pace. Unpacking will be a lot easier if you had the time to put belongings where you want them instead of just throwing odds and ends into the same box. I know that when I don’t pack well, I go crazy trying to find what I need, and I end up taking a few unnecessary trips to the store.
Also, by packing little by little, you’ll give yourself time to establish a list of what you don’t have, which will help when you go shopping for the essentials of college life. You might even have time to read this post: The Do’s and Don’ts of Packing for College. Things like that will keep your stress level low as you’re getting ready for the next step in your grand life.
So enjoy your last summer before college! Make sure you give yourself time to explore your new home, learn to be on your own, and figure out the essentials. You may not have time to do each and every tip I mentioned here, but don’t worry. I didn’t either, and I seem to have made it okay. But just remember, the more you prepare for college, the less you’ll find yourself saying “I wish I had.” Instead, you’ll feel more confident and accomplished.