10 Things to Do in the Summer Before College

You know what the best part of graduating from high school is? No more hall passes. That’s right. After four years of asking permission to go to the bathroom, you’re finally free to use a lavatory any time you want. No official documentation necessary.

That’s a big deal. Use your newfound responsibility wisely.

Of course, graduating from high school is about so much more than just unfettered bathroom privileges. It’s also about transition.

Just one summer stands between you and four years (maybe five or six) of dining hall lunches, intramural ultimate frisbee games, and campus spirit traditions that usually involve collective acts of streaking, jumping in cold water, or both.

Part of your summer should be spent wrapping up old business, while part should be spent preparing for all the new experiences ahead. And frankly, at least some portion must be spent on a beach, at a BBQ, on the lawn of a concert venue, in the driver’s seat of a car headed on a long road trip, or in some stage of well-earned summer frivolity. Naturally, you don’t need us to tell you how to have a good time.

But as for the transition stuff, we’ve got you covered.

As a gift for your graduation, we got you a to-do list. I know, I know. What kind of cheap gift is that, right? Think of us as your experienced but thrifty aunt, the one who sends deeply personalized and thoughtfully written cards on the holidays, all utterly devoid of cash.

Like your thrifty aunt, we couldn’t be prouder, and we just want what’s best for you. So, we’ve got tips for making the most of this final summer before you venture into the unknown:

1. Have a Yard Sale

We tend to accumulate stuff. It’s kind of the American way. I’ve never been in your bedroom closet, but I’m guessing you have clothes you don’t wear, video games you don’t play, maybe some sporting equipment that you literally never removed from the packaging, and possibly a stand-up bass guitar from the time you thought you were going to join a band but never practiced and ultimately realized you hated it. No judgment. We’re all low-key hoarders, but you can’t take it all with you. You’re about to share a cozy (read: tiny) dorm room with somebody else, and they’d probably hate your stand-up bass too. Time for a yard sale, or at least an online sale through a social media-based garage sale community. (They’re all over Facebook). The benefits are threefold: you make critical decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind; this material purge can also be emotionally cleansing as you transition to the next stage in your life; and it’ll probably land you some cash. Besides, if you don’t sell some of this stuff now, your parents will likely trash it the day after you leave and pretend it was an accident.

2. Go Shopping

Now that you’ve got some money in your pocket, it’s time for another act of emotional cleansing: shopping. You’ve got half a dorm room to fill. If you’re anything like us, you’re a geek for cool organizational solutions, such as desk caddies with built-in lights and pens, or sectional containers that offer innovative ways to store your socks. If you’re not like us, at least you can appreciate the importance of efficient sock storage. Also, get new socks … and pants, shirts, hoodies, and whatever other kind of stuff you wear. It’s Back to School time. Turn that yard sale loot into dorm room gear.

3. Visit Your Favorite Spots with Your Favorite People

You know how they say you can never go home again? Well, I don’t know where they got that from. Most of the interstate roads leading to my hometown remain open and accessible. You can totally go home again. But, depending on where you go to college, it could be a while. Take the summer to say your proper goodbyes to your favorite late night diner, your best buds, that convenience store where you got into a fender bender, that wooded trail behind the middle school, that nice old fella who sits in front of the post office and calls you Jake even though that’s not your name (but it’s been going on for so long you can’t bring yourself to correct him). Use the summer to make a few more lasting memories in the places you love, with the people you love … and also, with that guy who calls you Jake.

4. Get to Know Your New Town

The walk down memory lane was nice, but you’ve got big stuff on the road ahead. Research the place you’ll be spending the next several years. (We hope assume you researched the place before you committed to attend!) Now’s the time to learn the popular restaurants, the nearest theaters and music venues, the parks in your proximity; to research the history, culture, and local population; and to identify some of the neighborhoods, landmarks, attractions, and adjacent towns worth investigating. Easily accessible resources such as TripAdvisor and Google Maps can tell you a lot. And if you want to have some virtual fun (which is almost as good as real fun), enter the address of your dorm into Google Earth and start walking around your campus. You’ll get the lay of the land long before you get desperately lost on the way to your first class.

5. Connect with Your New Roommate

You’re about to spend a lot of time with this person, which could be awesome, terrible, or just plain neutral. We won’t sugarcoat it. Every human being on earth is basically a collection of habits, neuroses, and bodily functions. You’re about to share close quarters with one such collection. Likewise, they’ll have to share close quarters with you. Even if this person is cool and you’re cool, human compatibility is a total crapshoot. Best to learn a bit about your new flatmate before you’re both crammed into single-frame beds four feet apart. Reach out by phone, connect through social media, get to know each other, and coordinate on furnishing and outfitting your dorm. Could go great. Could go not so great. Either way, it’s best to figure it out in advance.

6. Schedule a Checkup

Get to your family doc while you’re still local. Get up to date on all your vaccinations; most colleges require that you submit updated vaccination information before or during your first year. Inquire about the Gardasil vaccine, which protects against the epidemic-like, on-campus spread of the sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). If you have a regular or essential prescription, work with your doctor to have it transferred before you leave to a pharmacy near your campus, or get a second prescription written. In general, this is a chance to get a clean bill of health, update prescriptions, and ask your doctor any pressing questions before you leave home.

7. Tidy Up Your Social Media Presence

As long as you’re getting a clean physical bill of health, you should also consider the importance of a healthy virtual presence. We’re not suggesting your history includes anything stupid, embarrassing, or illegal, with snapshot proof posted online for the planet to see. But just in case, it’s time for an online stroll through your digital past. Perhaps you’ve got some deleting to do. Consult your Facebook timeline and Instagram history for anything a future professor, mentor, or employer might find objectionable, or even just worthy of open mockery. This is a good reminder, before you transition into the real world, that what you post publicly can and will be seen by everybody. Clean it up!

8. Register For Classes

Some freshman classes will be mandatory, and you may be placed in them automatically. In other cases, you may be invited to your school for a midsummer orientation, during which you’ll register for your remaining courses. However, if you can register before this orientation, you might get ahead of the cluster-jam of classmates clamoring for the best courses and time slots. Waiting too long to register is a fantastic way to find yourself relegated to a 7 a.m. Friday lecture called Intro to Long-Form Accounting Rhetoric. Reach out to your new academic advisor as early as possible. Seek advice on classes that suit your credit requirements and personal interests. Every school has different rules for how and when you can register. Find out your school’s rules and get the process underway.

9. Get a Jump on Textbooks

With your schedule nailed down, reach out to your future professors and make a list of required texts. If you hate standing in line and paying insane prices for books you’ll never use after this year, a pre-emptive strike is a great move. There are all kinds of discount and reused book outlets online. One of our favorites, Chegg, provides a great marketplace where you can buy, sell, and even rent texts, sometimes at drastically lower prices.

10. Get Wired

Technology is a necessity in college. Before you leave for school, get your gadgets up to date. Check with your college computing resources on campus (and any departments for specialty majors such as video game design) to see if your existing computer meets all the system requirements. If so, remove bloatware, old apps, and all those downloaded Justin Bieberber videos that clog your storage and drag down your speed. (For a better but more drastic solution, start from scratch. Replace a sluggish hard disk drive with a new one or even with a more reliable solid-state drive. Then, install just the OS, apps, and old files you need. Your tired computer may feel reborn.) For your phone, replace that busted screen and maybe download a few awesome productivity apps. The reliability and performance of your equipment will have a big impact on your educational experience, whether you’re moving to a campus, taking online courses, or doing a little of both. For more on how to prep, check The Savvy Student’s Guide to Computers for College for insights on buying a new computer and The Best iPhone Apps for Students in 2018.

All that said, the top priority this summer should be the same as every other summer of your youth: have fun.

And just so you don’t think we’re all to-do lists and business here, dig our summer playlist all season long. I bet your thrifty aunt never gave you one of these!