By Shereen Jeyakumar
April 7, 2018 (HER CAMPUS) — It’s finally over. After weeks of debating with your parents and constantly listing pros and cons of colleges in your head, you’ve finally made a decision. It’s not easy to choose where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life, so give yourself a pat on the back – you deserve it. While it may seem far away right now, the next few months are going to fly by. If you’re wondering what to do in the meantime, read on. We’ve talked with collegiettes and experts around the country to list your next steps after accepting a college.
1. Don’t brood over ‘what if’ colleges
After you’ve carefully made a decision and sent in your acceptance letter, don’t let your mind wander to that timeless question, “what if?” You’ve chosen the school that best fits your life goals. If you know you’ve chosen wisely, stop yourself from worrying. It won’t help you any.
Dr. Bari Norman, certified educational planner and co-founder of Expert Admissions, reminds you to keep your focus. “It’s important to know when to move on, and this is one of those times,” she says. “It may not be easy, but you want to start focusing on where you’ll actually be going to college so you can make the most of it and give it a fair shot. You had whatever school you’re attending on your list for certain reasons – remember those reasons, and start focusing on the good.”
Oftentimes, we have to go against family or friends when choosing what’s best for our lives. If your parents or friends aren’t too supportive about where you decided to study, don’t let that get to you. This is the start of your life and learning to choose for yourself is important!
2. Figure out your living arrangements
When you send in your acceptance letter to your college, you’ll most likely receive an e-mail from the department that handles orientation. They will give you information about signing up for orientation, choosing your dorm and meal plan, and even picking your classes. Pay attention to the deadlines and write them down so you’re prepared for the months leading up to your first day of school. If you’re unclear about anything, don’t be afraid to shoot an e-mail back and clear your doubts – it’s proactive and they’ll be happy to help.
Choose a dorm and meal plan that fits best with both your financial and academic needs. If you’re going to school close to home, you might be able to commute and save money. If you’re going to school far away, you’ll probably need to invest in a dorm and meal plan.
Iesha, a sophomore at the University of Florida, gives you tips on finding a place to live. “Start doing research on all the specifics for living accommodations,” she says. “You may want to live on campus your first year, which is both convenient for getting to classes and ‘forces’ you to see other people frequently and make friends. However, don’t be afraid of looking into off campus options your first year – I found out I could live off campus at a cheaper rate than a dorm and I personally like having my own bed and bathroom. I learned to be independent even more quickly when I got an apartment, but choose the option that is best suited for your needs.”
You might even be thinking about bringing your car to school. The best way to find out information on the specifics of such living arrangements at your school is to check online and connect with current students. Your school will most likely have a FAQs page for new students – check that out and talk to people who already live on campus if you can.
3. Check if you have required summer reading
Colleges sometimes have required summer reading for incoming freshman. In my case, they actually sent the book by mail and emphasized that we’d be assessed on the novel within our first semester. Not all colleges will do that, but definitely make sure you know whether you have a book to read – you don’t want to completely miss it. It will most likely be mentioned in the welcome e-mail from your college, but if not, check on the website to be absolutely sure.
If you’re enrolling in an English course your first semester, teachers will often have books they’d like you to read over the summer. Send an e-mail to the teacher and see if you have any reading. Even if you don’t, your proactive attitude will stand out and they’ll most likely remember you by name when you’re finally in their class.
4. Apply for scholarships
College is a huge financial burden. Whether you, your parents, student loans, or a combination of the three will be covering your tuition, it’s definitely a difficult burden to carry. During your last summer before college, you’ll most likely have a good deal of free time. Take a few hours every week to apply for scholarships. It’s really easy – you’ll probably just need to fill out some information and write a quick essay. Since you’ve already written a ton during application season, you only need to tweak a few things here and there and send it off.
Not sure where to find scholarships? It’s a lot easier than you’d think. First of all, you can simply look online. There are tons of scholarships you can find with just a simple Google search. If you want to look for local opportunities, ask guidance counselors at your high school and check with institutions around your hometown. The key is to look for scholarships with both a small applicant pool and small reward. You’ll have a much better chance of getting a $100 scholarship from a local society than a $3,000 scholarship from a big chain. Don’t let the small amount of a scholarship dissuade you from applying – the numbers can add up.
5. Connect with other incoming freshmen
A great way to calm your pre-college nerves is to connect with other new students. That way, you already have a few ‘friends’ even before you set foot on campus. Look for a “New Student” or “Class of [Insert Graduation Year]” Facebook page for your college – most schools have one to help freshmen foster a sense of community. Join and be active on the page. You might just meet some great friends. And if you really connect with someone, you could even ask that person if he or she’d like to room together. It’s great to choose your roommates so you can have a better idea of who you’ll be living with.
Iesha notes that finding roommates before you get on campus can enhance your college experience, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to choose people that you wouldn’t normally become friends with. She says, “I recommend finding roommates ahead of time, unless you want to get paired with someone randomly, which can also be exciting! I chose roommates I thought I’d click with the best and even some outside of my normal circle and it turned out splendidly – we’re all super close now!”
Dr. Norman adds that orientation can be another great way to meet both freshmen and upperclassmen. “Many schools also have orientations for first-year students in the months and days before school starts. These events will be great ways to meet other incoming students and also upperclassmen who will volunteer as part of these programs,” she says. “Upperclassmen are great resources, and it’s always nice to know someone older on campus who you can reach out to, if needed.”
If you know people from your high school will be attending your college in the fall, definitely reach out to them. You may never have spoken to them before, but they’ll be glad to know they’re not alone. Who knows, you might become good friends!
6. Shop and pack for your dorm
Make sure you have a plan when you go shopping for dorm supplies. Write down a quick list of the essentials you’ll need for setting up your room. You don’t want to arrive your first day and forget something important (and then have to fight the crowd of incoming freshmen at the nearest superstore). If you’re moving far away and have to travel by plane, keep in mind that you’ll most likely need to buy the majority of your supplies at your college.
Your school will probably provide you with a packing list, but if not, feel free to check out our ultimate collegiette packing list. It’s got everything you need – and more.
Finally, and most importantly, let yourself relax. You’ve made it – you’ve braced yourself through hectic college application season and you’re finally at the pearly white gates of college. From here on out, you’ll have more freedom in your life and the opportunities are endless. Let yourself cool off and enjoy your last few weeks of high school. Give yourself a break – college will be stressful enough.
Dr. Norman reminds you that it’s okay to do nothing. “This might not be the advice you’re expecting to hear from a college advisor, but I think it’s a great time to do nothing, however you define that,” she says. “Most students have been working really hard leading up to college, and they’ll be working hard again once they get there, preparing for the next phase after college. This is the one summer where you’re sort of in between things, and I think students should take advantage of it, if they can.”
Maybe take up a new hobby this summer: playing an instrument, yoga, painting. This time is for you, and you deserve it. Good luck, future collegiette! You can achieve anything and everything if you put your mind to it. Be excited about your college experience and keep dreaming.