5 things incoming college freshmen should do this summer
It’s hard to believe it, but you’re no longer a high school student. Let that sink in for a moment. Those days of having your mom gently nudge you out of bed at 6 a.m. are gone, along with home-cooked meals and a free laundry service. It’s time to face the world as a young adult and tackle the next phase of your life — college! You’re probably thinking that you have a few months of freedom before you have to deal with any of that, but guess again. Your summer break is an important time of transition, and what you do with it can either help or hinder your future success. Instead of spending countless days sleeping until noon or working on your tan, consider working on these five items before summer fades away.
1. Get a Head Start
Your first year of college will be hectic. You’ll need to adjust to your new home, make friends, and figure out how to balance your academics with a social life. A great way to take away some of that first-year stress is to take a college class or two during the summer. It’s often easier to get into classes, and it will help prepare you for what’s ahead. You can enroll at your local community college or even take an online class. Just be sure to verify that your credits will transfer before enrolling.
2. Find a Job
By now, you know that college is expensive. Why not use this summer to build up a little nest egg to help cover any unexpected costs that might pop up during the next semester? You could also use the money you earn to start making payments on any student loans you may have taken out, which will help reduce your accrued interest and overall student loan debt. Getting a job is also a great way to build your résumé and make business connections. Heck, some jobs even help cover your college tuition and fees. You’ll be glad you have some money set aside when Bank of Mom & Dad runs dry.
3. Meet Your Roommate
Waiting until the first day of college to meet your roommate is not recommended. It’s an awkward situation to begin with, so why not get it out of the way? Use your school’s Facebook page or other social platforms to connect, or simply pick up the phone and strike up a conversation. If your roommate lives within traveling distance, arrange a lunch date to get to know one another. You’ll want to learn about each other’s social habits (party animal or librarian?), sleep patterns (night owl or early bird?), and discuss what items to bring with you in the fall.
4. Create a Budget
If you don’t already have a checking and/or savings account, be sure to set those up as soon as possible. You’ll need one to set up direct deposit for any overage in your student financial aid account, as well as paychecks you might receive during the year. It’s also a quick and easy way for your relatives to deposit cash to your account in an emergency. Ask your bank to issue a debit card that also acts as a credit card. If you are ineligible for one, consider picking up a reloadable credit card instead. This will come in handy when you need to order books online or pay fees. Most importantly, create a budget for the upcoming year. Set aside money for transportation (Spring Break!), living expenses (food and household items), and other bills (cell phone, car insurance, etc.) you are responsible for during your time at school. If you don’t, you may find yourself running on empty and living off the kindness of others, and that’s not a good plan.
5. Talk to Your Parents
Now, it’s your turn to have ‘the talk’ with your parents. Before you leave for college, be sure to discuss financial obligations and understand what expenses your parents are willing to cover. Although they may be perfectly fine with paying your cell phone bill, they may not be compelled to cover those late-night runs to Taco Bell. You’ll also want to review your family health plan, and make sure you understand what you must do should you need to see a doctor or fill a prescription. Know what your copay is and arrange to have your current medications transferred to a pharmacy on or near campus. Finally, create a communication plan. Do you prefer your parents send you emails or text messages? Should they call you weekly or monthly? These may seem like silly questions, but some parents have a hard time letting go. Let your parents know that the first few weeks will be hectic and not to panic if they don’t hear from you for a day or two. If you don’t set some ground rules now, you may regret it later.
Embrace the Changes to Come
In a few weeks, you’ll be taking another step closer to your adult life and creating the person you hope to become. It can be a little scary stepping away from your family and friends, but embrace the changes to come. Life is an adventure, and sometimes it’s those unexpected turns that lead us down the best roads.