Packing for college: It’s not so daunting if you do it early!
Once you’ve graduated from high school, summer seems like the perfect opportunity to relax and do nothing before you enter college. Taking time to unwind and hang out with friends and family is important, but you should also consider some simple steps to make the transition into college life easier. Here are five tips to help you prepare for the fall:
• Brainstorm potential careers
Whether you’re looking to develop new political philosophies, communicate your ideas to a mass audience, promote cooperation between different nations, pursue your passion in the arts or something else entirely, it never hurts to get a head start. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, even strangers on the street have probably told you that it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to major in or what field you want to go into. They’re right. Nonetheless, exploring the possibilities will save you time down the road and get you thinking about your future long before it arrives.
• Take a summer class
Summer vacation is obviously a time for relaxing and taking a break from the seemingly endless school-year workload, but there’s no shame in wanting to get ahead and continue your education year-round. Community colleges usually offer introductory-level courses with cheaper prices than what you’ll pay at the bigger universities you might be attending in the fall. Be careful, though. Before you enroll and pay for a course, check with your university’s academic department to make sure that you can earn credit for it later on. It’s no fun to repeat a course you’ve already taken, and there’s certainly no reason to pay extra money. Your parents will be thanking you later.
• Check out your campus before you move in
There’s nothing worse than feeling like a lost freshman when you arrive on campus for the first time, the day before classes start. If money and distance aren’t significant obstacles, take a day trip to your school in June or July. Familiarize yourself with the buildings, take in the atmosphere, perhaps even chat with faculty if they’re around. Equally important: Get to know the community surrounding your school. Research popular restaurants and hang-out spots, find public transportation stops and routes and form a map of the area in your head so you can refer back to it later. Whether your school is located in a major metropolitan area or a more rural community, chances are you won’t be spending all of your time on campus. Knowing the area beforehand will provide you with an opportunity to make friends with confused fellow classmates in the early weeks of freshman year. Know before you go!
(Bonus tip: Join your school’s Facebook pages and make friends with future classmates from afar. These early connections will be a great way to develop new social groups once you arrive on campus.)
• Spend time with your friends from high school
You’ve graduated, you’ve said your goodbyes. It’s time to move on, right? Well, yes, and no. Don’t say a permanent goodbye to your closest friends just yet, especially if your senior year kept you so busy that you had little time to socialize. Summer is a great time to catch up with your friends. You’re all in the same situation, anxious for school to begin but nervous that it won’t be a smooth transition. Take advantage of your similar situations and use this opportunity to share how you really feel. Along the same lines, your parents will be eager to spend time with you in the few months before, in their eyes, you leave the nest. Make the transition easy on them, too! Suggest a family outing or two to spend some quality time with the people you know best.
• Pack early
Especially if you’re really nervous about leaving home, packing might feel like the worst thing to do, because it creates a sense of finality. Once you’ve packed, you’ve essentially committed to moving on and starting a new life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Think of it as taking a long vacation. While it’s necessary and even important to acknowledge that you’re moving on to the next phase of your life, it can be comforting to know that you’re only really leaving home temporarily. You’ll be back sooner or later, and by that time, you’ll probably love your new arrangements! Let the college experience work on you gradually; that way, the transition feels smoother.
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