Summer Checklist for Incoming Freshmen

Make the most of your last summer vacation before college starts with these five steps.

By Ashley Henshaw | November 26, 2013

Future College Freshmen: The last summer before you begin college is a special time. You’ve worked hard to achieve your academic goals in high school and with your college plans all set, it’s time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. In addition, you can take advantage of this break by using these steps to get a jumpstart on your transition to college.

1. Get a Summer Job

It’s tempting to spend your last summer before freshman year hanging out with friends and family you won’t see regularly once you move to college. However, getting a summer job may make life significantly easier for you financially come fall.

When looking for a job, consider working for a chain that has locations in both your hometown and your college town (like Starbuck’s or Chase Bank). Work there in the summer and there’s a chance they may be able to transfer your job to a different location when fall rolls around.

Even if you only work part-time this summer, try to save as much of your earnings as possible. Think of it as a little starter money for college. Once at school, you’ll face expenses you may not have had to deal with when you lived at home, like groceries, laundry or even just picking up cold medicine from the drugstore. Those costs add up fast, so put a little savings away for your first year in college.

2. Determine Your Budget

Setting a budget is best done by sitting down with your parents and hashing out the details of your college finances. Fox Business recommends reviewing your tuition and other educational expenses. Don’t forget to include room and board, too. Figure out how much your grants, scholarships and loans will cover and whether you have sufficient funding to pay for the remainder.

Once the basics are covered, it’s time to set a budget for all the day-to-day expenses you’ll encounter. Will you get a job on campus? Will your parents contribute to your expenses in any way? If you don’t have a bank account, now’s the time to open one. Start using budgeting tools to get a sense of how to manage your money. You can create an Excel spreadsheet or have your expenses tracked automatically on sites like Mint.com. Getting these issues figured out up front will help you avoid financial troubles at school.

3. Chat with Your Roommate(s)

Most college freshmen live in the dorms with at least one roommate. During the summer, you’ll receive your dorm room assignment, which usually includes some contact info for your roommate. Use the contact info to get in touch and introduce yourself. Communicating by email or phone is a great way to get to know each other a bit over the summer. According to U.S. News and World Report, you should also hash out the details of your living situation, like who’s bringing a mini-fridge and how each of you feel about having visitors stay over in your room.

4. Get to Know Your College

The summer before freshman year is a great time to explore what your college has to offer. Look through the course catalog and choose your classes strategically. Find out what campus clubs and groups your college offers; joining a club or group in the fall can be a great way to make new friends. You can also look for on- or off-campus jobs and send out a few applications. There’s a lot to take in during your first semester of college, so looking into these things before school starts will help you feel more prepared when you move in this fall.

5. Explore Your Passions

Entering college marks an important step towards adulthood. In the months before your freshman year, take time to do something that excites you and challenges you. Whether it’s volunteering with an animal shelter, tutoring at-risk children, reading interesting books or traveling to a new place, these activities will inspire you to continue searching for your passions once school begins.

In addition to helping you better yourself, this type of activity also keeps you in the learning mindset over the summer. You’ll keep your mind sharp, making a rigorous class schedule less overwhelming once school begins. Plus, you’ll get some great new contacts which may help you land a job or an internship in the future.

Quick Facts

  • When looking for a job, consider working for a chain that has locations in both your hometown and your college town (like Starbuck’s or Chase Bank). Work there in the summer and there’s a chance they may be able to transfer your job to a different location when fall rolls around.
  • Even if you’re rooming with a good friend freshman year, don’t skip step three. Despite the fact that you know each other, the reality of sharing a small space could put stress on your relationship if you don’t figure out some “ground rules” beforehand.
  • A great way to reduce your tuition costs is to get involved with a work-study program. Students receiving a certain amount of financial aid usually get first dibs on these jobs. Contact your financial aid office to ask about work-study opportunities on your campus.

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