10 Things to Know the Summer Before College
If you thought summer would never get here, believe us when we say it will be gone before you know it. And if you’re a senior, anxiously awaiting your final last day of high school, college is just around the corner. You may have several questions about this next step, and we’re here to help make that transition as smooth as possible. Here’s a quick list of some important things to know the summer before you head off to college.
- Declaring your major before enrolling is not necessarily a binding contract.
A former student told us she wanted to be a lawyer, so she chose a Political Science track her freshman year. After two years at school, a law professor sat down with her and asked what she loved to do. She realized that her true passion was writing and reading (a big part of the law). Her professor suggested for her to switch majors to English Literature, as law schools seek students with high grade point averages and strong LSAT scores. She said, “I have never regretted my decision to change majors!” Don’t ever feel you are stuck with your first choice; just be smart about regularly exploring and evaluating your career interests and work values as you proceed through your undergraduate classes.
- It’s OK to wait until after the first day of classes to buy your books.
Perhaps you’re the student who is always early for appointments and plans ahead, which may mean your first semester at college you want to have every book on your list in hand the first day of class. This can be a big mistake. Some professors remove books from the original summer list, and you may find that you could have purchased textbooks on Amazon, Better World Books, Chegg, or Valorebooks.com for about half the cost you’d pay at the campus bookstore. Most schools do not take back books at full-price; once you buy books they lose resale value. You may want to wait until you attend classes and have searched the Internet (or local used book stores) before ever setting foot in the campus bookstore. This could save you some much needed cash!
- If you’re not an early bird, don’t sign up for morning classes!
This should be a no-brainer, but not everyone’s internal clock works better at college. If you hate getting up early in the morning, don’t schedule your classes for 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. It’s just too easy to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Remember, your mom won’t be there to pull you out of bed in time for class once you move to campus.
- Read the syllabus for every class.
Remember in high school when your teachers reminded you frequently about upcoming exams or project due dates? Well, that doesn’t usually happen in college. A professor will pass out a syllabus (some are huge), and you are expected to take note of any important dates found in this document. Be sure to mark every due date on your calendar and include reminders on your smart phone and/or computer, as well. Know how many classes you can miss (see #3), if any, without being penalized, or your hoped-for ‘A’ can quickly turn into a failing grade.
- Stick to Deadlines!
College is all about hard deadlines. When the financial aid office says it needs your signed acceptance form by a certain date, it means business. Missing a deadline can result in loss of financial aid, not getting into a class you need, delaying (or missing) your graduation, and more. And forget about turning in a sick note or other excuse for missing a deadline in class — that typically won’t fly in college.
- Find out about study abroad opportunities right away.
Don’t wait until your junior or senior year to ask about going abroad for a semester. Check into these opportunities your freshman year, as it will give you time to prepare for the financial and academic requirements to take advantage of these opportunities. You won’t regret a moment you spend abroad.
- Intern as much as possible.
Again, don’t wait until the last semester of college to get an internship. Even if your degree does not require one for graduation, interning during the summer months can help give you real-world experience for your anticipated career path, as well as provide networking opportunities. Internships look great on a resume and can certainly help when looking for a job after graduation.
- Don’t stress over being perfect.
So many students go into college with the intent of finishing with a 4.0 grade point average. Don’t be surprised to find yourself in challenging classes that are very different from high school. In fact, you may find that you learn more in these courses because it’s outside your comfort zone. Try not to be devastated if your ‘perfect’ record is tarnished. You’ll soon discovered that employers rarely ever ask for your grade point average; they just want to know you are capable of performing the work required for the position. The knowledge you gain from the coursework and internships are what really matter most, along with your work experience.
- Only use credit cards for emergencies.
Everywhere you turn, someone is trying to get you to take out a credit card. While we do think it’s important to have one with a smaller limit (under $1,000), we caution against taking it with you on a day-to-day basis. It’s too easy to charge your lunch, coffee, and social activities to a card. These small charges add up quickly, and you can find yourself in credit card debt before too long. Keep your card tucked away for emergency use only.
- Get to know your professors.
Believe it or not, your professors can help you do more than just get a good grade. You may even find that you have a lot in common and gain great advice for upcoming classes and resources for your career — like internships, letters of recommendation for scholarships and graduate school, and even employment after graduating,. Professors want to help you succeed, so stop by and say ‘hello’ sometime.
While it can be a bit overwhelming to step onto your campus for the first time, think of it as exploring the great unknown. You’re starting with a blank canvas and the masterpiece you create is totally up to you. Just remember to ask for help when you need it, and set aside some time to have fun. It really is true that college is what you make of it. Enjoy!