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Pre-College Checklist: Ten Tips To Help You Hit The Ground Running

by Dr. Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman, coauthors of “The Secrets of College Success

Three million students will be starting college this fall. If you’re one of them, it’s a good idea to do some things right now to make the transition as easy as possible.

If you start preparing for your first semester now, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress once you’re on campus. Setting yourself up to hit the ground running is one of the best ways to ensure that you make the most of your entire college career.

Here are ten things you should do this summer to get ready for college:

1. Get to orientation — early.

At your school’s orientation, you’ll not only learn your way around campus and find out about various college services, you’ll also probably actually pick your courses. And, like airplane seats, once the places are gone, they’re gone.

2. Get some hardware — and software.

Though iPads and other tablets are quite the rage, a laptop is a much better choice for college. It’s easier to take notes in class with a regular keyboard, and when writing papers you’ll want a device that uses Word and Excel. Microsoft has special college pricing: Do a Google search for “Microsoft academic discounts” for details.

3. Surf the college website.

Here you’ll find not only the campus calendar and the college’s rules and regulations, but also actual course syllabuses that will help you learn more about what each class entails before you choose your schedule. And while you’re at it, check out the majors and career information.

4. Get the books.

While most students’ natural inclination is to buy books at the college bookstore, you can often get a much better deal on websites such as,, and Be sure to consider all book “modalities”: e-books, semester-long book rentals, and used copies are all ways to save on the $600-800 amount that students routinely pay for each semester’s books.

5. Reach out to your roommate.

Summer’s a great time to friend your roommate on Facebook or email. You can learn about his or her interests, hobbies, and interior decorating ideas, and you can also set dorm or apartment rules.

6. Have “the talk.”

Talk about finances with your parents so that you’re all on the same page: Are you expected to have a part-time job? Are you expected to contribute your own savings? Are you expected to limit expenses in certain ways? And are you expected to maintain a certain grade point average? A meeting of minds at the outset can avert much grief later on.

7. Do the “common read.”

Many colleges have assigned summer reading — often a book of social or political interest — that students need to read before their first-year experience course or first-year seminar. Be sure to carefully read this book (don’t just skim it) well in advance.

8. Get a health check.

If possible, see your family doctor and get a general check-up. Renew any prescriptions you might need for college. College health services are often big, anonymous places, and you’ll probably feel more comfortable with a doctor you know.

9. Tune up your car.

Especially if you’re commuting to school, you’ll want to have your oil changed, tires checked, and repairs taken care of. You wouldn’t want to have a breakdown or blowout on the way to the first day of classes, not to mention the midterm or final!

10. Give it a rest.

You’ll arrive rested and ready to work if you’ve given yourself some R & R over the summer. But if you have a chance to do an internship, job, or community project that develops your interests or career plans — well, that’s a great way to spend a summer too.


Dr. Lynn F. Jacobs is professor of Art History at the University of Arkansas. A specialist in Northern Renaissance Art, Lynn previously taught at Vanderbilt University, California State University, Northridge, University of Redlands, and NYU. Jeremy S. Hyman is founder and chief architect of Professors’ Guide content projects. An expert in Early Modern Philosophy, Jeremy has taught at the University of Arkansas, UCLA, MIT, and Princeton University.

They are coauthors of The Secrets of College Success.




This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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