The Summer Before College Checklist (2024)

June 29, 2023
3 min read

If you’re heading off to college, congratulations! Before you go, here’s a complete checklist to ensure you’re ready for this big step.

The transition from high school to college can feel like a landslide of new information and pitfalls at every turn. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate summer before-college checklist. We’re here to ensure you’ve got your affairs in order before you head off on your exciting new journey.

Follow along as we run through everything you should do before heading off to college this fall; if you’re here even earlier, even better! In our books, it’s never too early to start preparing for college. So, whether you’re a freshman or sophomore still figuring out the basics or a soon-to-be college student aiming to get a jump on planning, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s get started!

Things to Do the Summer Before College

Heading into college is a big step, and the summer before is your golden chance to get a head start. Let's look at a few key things you'll want to tick off your list:

1. Make Sure Your Finances Are in Order

If you’re applying for student loans (FAFSA), financial aid, or scholarships, apply quickly and learn how long you’ll have to wait before hearing back. Make sure you know all of the expenses you’ll have to pay and the deadlines for each. 

Some expenses may come up in early summer; for example, some colleges require a downpayment for residency to hold your place.

Along with managing your FAFSA, financial aid, and tuition payments, it's important to have a well-rounded understanding of all the potential expenses that could crop up and how to address them, especially if you're applying for student loans, seeking financial aid, or applying for scholarships. Here are additional steps to consider:

Apply Early and Understand the Timeline

Whether you're applying for loans, financial aid, or scholarships, do so as early as possible. Knowing when you can expect a response will help you plan your finances more effectively.

Familiarize yourself with all expenses that may come your way and their respective deadlines. This includes tuition, books, housing, and any other fees associated with your education.

Plan for Early Expenses

Some colleges may require early payments, such as a downpayment for residency, to secure your spot. These expenses often arise in early summer, before the start of the academic year.

If the deadline for an expense arrives before your student loans, financial aid, or scholarships come in, you can take out a student line of credit from the bank. This option isn’t the most ideal, but it is a quick workaround for last-minute surprise expenses that you can pay back later on.

Clear Communication with Family

If your family is paying for a portion of your school, make sure the terms and amount you’ll need are clear right away. It's best to facilitate open communication from the get-go to ensure each party understands school expenses, deadlines, and finance options. 

Discuss the amount they will contribute and the terms of this support to avoid any misunderstandings. Ensure there's an open line of communication regarding school expenses, deadlines, and financing options. This transparency will help all parties involved understand the financial commitment and plan accordingly.

2. Register for Classes (Early!)

Classes can fill up very quickly, so you should register for your top choices as soon as possible. Make sure to look at your credit requirements for graduation to plan your course selection appropriately. If you can, try planning out the courses you’ll take in each year of your degree so you’ll know how long it’ll take to graduate. 

This is also true for residency buildings—if there’s a specific building you want to live in on campus, apply for it before it fills up!

3. Figure Out Where You’ll Live 

Whether you choose to live on campus, in residency, or off campus, this is one decision you should make as early as possible. Figure out how much rent you’ll have to pay, how much you’ll have to spend on transit, and the best way to get to each of your classes from your chosen dwelling. If you’re living in residency, reserve your spot early. 

Many colleges make living on campus mandatory for freshmen. To learn about the living requirements at your school, check your college’s online housing office resources. They should also provide information on the following: 

  • Meal plans
  • Parking permits
  • Transit
  • On campus resources
  • Types of rooms and furniture included in each

You should also contact your roommate if possible. This could make your first interaction less awkward and help you both get more prepared for the road ahead. 

4. Build Your Resume

Before heading off to college, you can consider building your resume. If you’d rather take this summer off to mentally prepare—you wouldn’t be the first. However, taking relevant internships, volunteering, or even starting a self-motivated project can help you get prepared for the course material ahead. 

5. Make an Appointment with Your Doctor

It may be a while before you’re back for a checkup! Make appointments with your doctor and dentist before heading off to college, and ensure you know where to go if you need medical attention during your first year.

6. Check Out College Facebook Groups

Many colleges have online forums dedicated to new students. If you’re entering into residence, you may even be able to chat with your future RAs, roommate, or next-door neighbors to ask important questions. These forums can be incredibly useful to soothe anxiety and to develop your college packing list.

7. Attend School Events

Take a look around your future college! There are typically many events you can attend to learn more about your campus, curriculum, and resources. Orientation is an excellent way to get acquainted with your new environment, as well as fun frosh week events! 

In addition to meeting new friends, you can also meet with your academic advisor. They will help you schedule classes, set up your online college portal (if you haven’t already), and answer any questions you may have about your school. 

8. Spend Lots of Time With Family and Friends

The summer before college is one you’ll likely remember for a long time. So, you should spend plenty of time at your favorite spots with your favorite people. 

This is your chance to create lasting memories with those who've been by your side through thick and thin. Whether it's late-night talks, road trips, or simply enjoying a quiet afternoon in each other's company, make the most of these moments. 

9. Spring Cleaning & Summer Shopping

It’s time to tidy up and refresh your wardrobe as spring rolls in. While you're at it, start putting together that shopping list for college. Grab your textbooks early to beat the rush, and remember, a good laptop is a must-have for all your essays and notes.

When applying to and preparing for college, there's a lot to keep in mind. You have to be mindful of what colleges have test requirements and which have adopted a test-optional policy

You also have to make sure your application stands out, whether through your essay, extracurricular activities, or letters of recommendation. 

Balancing these elements with the practicalities of preparing for your new life on campus—from housing to registration—can feel overwhelming, but a well-organized approach can make all the difference. 

FAQs: Summer Before College Checklist

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about things to do before college. 

1. What Should I Do in the Summer Before I Go to College?

Before college, it’s important to develop a checklist to ensure you take care of each important task. Make sure to get your finances in order, apply for courses, figure out your housing options, and attend pre-college events!

2. What Should I Pack Before College?

When you’re ready to head off to college, make sure to pack resourcefully. Don’t forget these must-have items:

  • Laptop
  • Cables (phone charger, extension cords, etc.)
  • Headphones
  • Textbooks
  • Passport and ID
  • Toiletries
  • Weather-appropriate clothing and undergarments 
  • Bedding
  • Reading light

Make sure to donate some old clothes that you don’t wear anymore; you’ll likely want to do a bit of shopping in your college town. 

3. Why Is it Important to Have a Checklist for the Summer Before College?

Leaving key items at home can be devastating, especially if you’re studying far away! Make sure to make a thorough checklist before leaving for college to ensure you won’t forget anything. Shipping is more expensive than you may think; don’t learn about it the hard way!

Final Thoughts

While making your checklist for the summer before college, ensure that you are thorough. You should have your finances in order, know all of your important deadlines, and have signed up for all of your classes at least two months before leaving for school. 

Take care of all administrative duties before leaving to ensure that once you get to college, you can focus on adjusting to your new environment, making friends, and meeting your professors. 

Good luck this year!

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