12 Things Every Student Should Do the Summer Before College

Knowing what to do the summer before college can help lead to a seamless transition into student life. Check out our list of 12 things to do this summer.
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Published on Jun 14, 2022
Updated Nov 21, 2022
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Ready to Start Your Journey?

College is an exciting time full of new people, unique experiences, and a busy schedule. The transition to college can often feel overwhelming as you learn to balance new responsibilities and prioritize your education.

This is why it's important to treat the summer before you start college as the calm before the storm — a time for final hurrahs and last-minute preparation.

We've put together a list of tips to help you prepare for college and enjoy the summer before, complete with expert insights from two college administrators.

1. Visit Your Campus

If you haven't toured your college campus, summer is a great time to visit. Many colleges offer guided tours throughout June, July, and August.

On these tours, you can learn more about the school, try out the dining hall, and even meet a few students. Familiarizing yourself with the campus, dining locations, and classroom buildings can also help ease some of the stress on your first day of college classes.

Summer is typically a beautiful time to see your campus, as well — if you're lucky, the fountains will be on, the sun will be shining, and students will be out throwing frisbees and reading on the lawn.

2. Earn Money

It's no question that college can be expensive. Many students choose to spend the summer before college earning money to help pay for their education and living expenses.

"Save up 'spending money' for the year to treat yourself to some things that will make you happy in a challenging first school year," says Keith Stanford, director of Midwest recruitment at Tulane University.

You can pick up a part- or full-time job during the summer. Consider looking for a place with an employee discount that benefits the student life. You could also create your own schedule with a babysitting, dog-walking, or freelancing gig.

Another way to earn some money is to host a yard sale. Big life changes are a good time to organize, sort, and clear out possessions you might not need anymore.

3. Take a College Prep Course

The transition to college isn't always seamless. Some students take preparatory classes that introduce them to the rigor and pace of college curricula.

Your college may offer a prep course for incoming students. Alternatively, you can take prep courses at your local community college.

One big benefit of taking college prep courses? You can earn credit before officially starting college.

According to Stanford, "anyone who has the resources to take coursework that can provide either a review or an opportunity to get ahead in a discipline that may prove challenging" should consider taking a college prep course.

Another option is to take college prep courses online. These tend to be more convenient, especially for people with a lot of commitments, like a full-time job or family to raise.

Note that schools may call these courses different things, such as pre-college summer programs or college readiness programs.

4. Practice Cooking

Many students entering college are beginning a more independent chapter in their lives, which may include cooking for themselves for the first time. Summer is a great time to start honing your culinary techniques.

You could make meals for your family, try your hand at meals for one, practice meal prepping, and learn how to grocery shop on a budget. Many online recipes show you how to upgrade affordable basics like ramen noodles and quesadillas to tastier, more sophisticated dishes.

5. Connect With Your Roommate

If you're heading for dorm life after the summer, it's a good idea to connect with your future roommate. Whether you'll be sharing spaces with a randomly assigned roommate or a friend, it can help to coordinate communal dorm room supplies or decor.

"The big benefit of reaching out to your future roommates before you get to campus is you will already have one friend when you arrive," says Jerry Ross, associate vice president for enrollment management at Chico State.

The more comfortable you are with your roommate before school begins, the smoother your college transition will be.

Stanford recommends "setting expectations and being transparent [with your roommate] so there's no awkward beginnings."

6. Attend Orientation

Many colleges and universities host a summer orientation for incoming students. It's a time to connect with your roommate, make friends, navigate the campus, and begin feeling comfortable with the transition to college.

You can learn more about student clubs, organizations, and other extracurricular activities.

Orientation is also typically when first-year students register for classes. At orientation, counselors walk you through academic requirements and help you choose your classes.

"It is incredibly important that first-year and transfer students participate in orientation so they can get proper academic advising and support with course registration to get their academic journey off to a good start," says Ross.

7. Clean Out Your Closet

The transition to college is a good time to reassess your belongings, clean out things you don't use anymore, and move forward. Take a summer weekend to go through your closets and deep clean your space.

If you're going to live in a dorm, you might want to consider how to downsize, organize, and limit what you bring. You can donate or sell anything that doesn't fit or that you don't think you'll use in college.

8. Spend Time With Friends and Family

Summer may be your last stretch of free time to hang out with friends and family before school begins. Even if you aren't going too far away from home, you'll probably be a lot busier.

We recommend taking some time to hit up your favorite local spots with your loved ones before classes start.

It's also an opportune time to start setting up your college support network. "I encourage students to be prepared and make sure their advisor, friends, mentors, siblings, and parents are available to listen and provide a familiar voice to lean on," says Ross.

Having friends and family to support you when you feel homesick or particularly challenged can go a long way to boost your mental well-being.

9. Send Final Transcripts

Most universities ask you to send in your final high school transcript before the fall term begins. Check with your college for transcript deadlines and submission instructions. Some high school counselors will submit your transcripts directly to the college once they're finalized.

10. Go Shopping for School Supplies

Summer is an ideal time to shop for school supplies, such as a college backpack, pens, organization materials, and more. Lots of retailers will have back-to-school sales and extra inventory.

Fair warning: Don't buy your textbooks too early. It's not uncommon to arrive on syllabus day and hear the professor say the textbook is optional.

Also, once you're on campus, you can sometimes buy books at a lower price from previous students or borrow them from the campus library.

11. Arrange Financing

Students must typically pay tuition and fees before the first day of classes. Make sure you finalize your financing and plan your payment schedule the summer before college.

"Whether you are relying on financial aid, scholarships, paying out of pocket, or getting help from family, it is important to come to college with a clear plan for how you will pay tuition, as well as for textbooks and other academic costs," says Ross.

If you're applying for student loans, the approval process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Once you've secured a student loan, the lender will often send financing directly to the university.

12. Road Trip With Friends

Ah, the classic road trip — there's no better time than the summer before college for a fun and idyllic adventure with your friends.

Map out a route to a new or beloved city, build a playlist, pack your favorite snacks, and make unforgettable memories before starting the student life.

With Advice From:

Portrait of Keith Stanford

Keith Stanford

Keith Stanford currently serves as director of admission, Midwest region, for Tulane University. He has enjoyed a 20-plus-year career in higher education.

He began his admissions career at his alma mater and immediately realized he was joining a career that has a significant impact on improving the lives of our youth. This has motivated him to continue to build lifelong mentoring relationships with his students. Stanford's travels have taken him around the country in search of wonderful students and throughout Latin America.

Outside of work, he is an avid tennis fan.

Portrait of Jerry Ross

Jerry Ross

Jerry Ross is associate vice president for enrollment management at Chico State. In this role, he leads efforts to enroll and retain students. This includes working with the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and Scholarships. His work includes efforts to achieve the university's access mission and to recruit and enroll students from historically underrepresented groups.

Prior to joining Chico State, Ross worked on enrollment issues at the University of Florida, Purdue University, and Syracuse University. He holds an Ed.D. in educational studies and research from the University of Southern Mississippi.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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