- Learn basic life skills
If you haven’t learned how to perform basic tasks like laundry and cooking, do it now. You would be amazed at the sheer numbers of kids who come to college and end up with a load of pink underwear because no one told them not to wash reds and whites together. And then there are those who rely on Febreze alone to do the job, but I won’t go there… Don’t become a social pariah in your pink pants or smelly shirts–do your laundry people!
Learning how to cook may not seem important if you’re moving into a dorm, but once you decide you’re sick of living in a closet and sharing a bathroom with fifty other people, it will be nice to not have to survive off ramen and Marie Callender’s pot pies. Watch your mom or dad. Give yourself that edge so you know how to function as an adult while others flounder around you. Trust me, beans on toast is not date night material.
- Keep to a schedule
An 8 AM class may seem like nothing when you sign up for it. You’ll think to yourself that you did it every day in high school, that it won’t be a problem to do it again in college. However, there are a few factors that change this radically. First, most college classes do not require attendance. It is much easier to justify skipping class when you’re tired from studying (or partying) the night before and you know your professor won’t notice whether you’re there or not. Secondly, your parents won’t be around to make sure you’re out of bed and getting ready. If you’re lucky and you have a considerate roommate, they might wake you up if they notice you’re oversleeping, but that is extremely unlikely, as they will have their own schedule, their own problems, and their own Harry Potter FanLit following to worry about. Keeping a schedule over the summer means that you won’t have to readjust to waking up before noon and doing something other than playing video games in your underwear all day. You can still relax, but at the same time, try to wake up early and go for a bike ride or read a book. You’ll benefit from it later on.
- Attend orientation
If your college offers an orientation program, attend it, whether it is mandatory or not. It will help you prepare for classes, get you familiar with the campus, and introduce you to fellow freshmen. Even if you have friends attending the same college as you, it can’t hurt to make some new friends before you plunge into the deep end in the fall. It’s also nice to revisit the campus in full knowledge that you will be going there in a couple of short months. It’s a good feeling. Orientation helps because, when fall rolls around, you won’t be feeling quite so out of your depth.
- Take a tour of your campus and housing
If possible, taking tours and seeing where you will be going to classes and where you will be living helps out a lot. It will also assuage some of your parents’ fears. Again, it’s all about familiarization; it’s hard enough to adjust to a completely new lifestyle. If you already have some idea of how to get around campus without getting lost you’ll feel a lot more comfortable. In addition, touring the dorms will let you know just how small a space you will be living in, and maybe it’s not such a good idea to bring your giant flatscreen or your entire collection of books.
- Participate in social media sites belonging to your school
I just graduated from UCLA, and I can easily name, off the top of my head, at least five websites actively used by a large portion of the student population that bring us closer together as a community. Some are informative, some are entertaining, and others are bizarre. Look into what your college’s online community is like; reddit.com is host to many lively college boards and may be a good place to start seeing what the people on campus are like. You might even find a place where you can ask any questions you might have, and get more advice that is specific to the college you will be attending. Connect with the students themselves; knowing the inside information on which dining hall to avoid, which professor is most likely to offer extra credit, or the best places to study on campus, is invaluable.
The Freshman Fifteen is not a myth! Dining halls are enticingly convenient and often all-you-can-eat. Sometimes, it’s just easier to grab a basket of fries rather than assembling a salad of questionable freshness. Establish good habits now, rather than suffering later on. Want a dining commons trick? Mine offered grilled chicken breast sandwiches at one station, complete with sugary barbecue sauce and onion rings. Nice for a cheat day, sure, but not for everyday. One trick I learned was to ask one of the cafeteria servers for the chicken breast only. This I chopped up and mixed in with a salad from the greens station. It’s a fact of college life that you’ll sometimes have to get creative with your DC food if you want to eat well.
Most universities also hold intramural sports leagues every quarter. These are designed to be fun and a little bit silly (popular ones include indoor soccer, extreme frisbee, inner-tube water polo, and yes, even quidditch) but will help you work up a sweat nonetheless. They’re also one of the best ways I know to meet new people and bond with your fellow dorm mates.