Most people who have gone to college will tell you those were some of the best years of their lives—but they often forget to tell you that transitioning from high school senior to college freshman can be difficult. It’s exciting to start college, but it can also be daunting.
Luckily, there are some things you can do leading up to your first semester that will help you prepare. Here are five tips you should follow to get ready for your freshman year of college.
1. Sharpen your mind
No matter what they say, college is about learning. You’re essentially preparing for a career by studying with real experts. However, all the graduation parties during the summer leading up to your freshman year can easily cause you to forget this.
Of course, it’s good to have fun with your high school friends before you set off for school. But you have to make sure to keep your brain in study mode so you’re on your best game when you start classes again.
What’s the best way to sharpen your mind? Reading! It doesn’t matter what you read, just that you read. If you’ve already chosen your major, it might help to read related material. If you haven’t chosen your major yet, read a few novels over the summer. They’ll help you focus your attention and give your brain some exercise.
Don’t feel like you have to lock yourself in the library all summer—you don’t have to read the entire canon of Western literature in three months. But it helps to keep your mind as sharp as possible so you’re not taken off guard when it comes time to hit the books in the fall.
2. Do some networking
You’ll probably hear the term networking about 650,000 times while you’re in college, but only because it’s that important. Some of the most valuable things you’ll get from school are professional connections and friendships. It’s never too early to get a head start on meeting people. By reaching out to your future classmates ahead of time, you’ll be a bit more comfortable when you arrive on campus.
Most schools have a Facebook page for incoming freshmen; this is a great place to get to know some of your fellow classmates. If possible, consider meeting up with some people in your area who are attending the same school. This may seem strange, but most people will be grateful for having some connections before school starts. After all, everyone feels anxious about jumping into a whole new environment, so no one is going to judge you for trying to meet people before the semester starts.
3. Communicate with your roommates beforehand
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of freshman year is having new roommates. Living with strangers is weird at first, no matter how well you end up getting along. There’s no way to truly prepare for this, as you never really know what a person will be like until you meet and live with them. The best thing you can do is reach out and have a conversation.
Chat with your roommate to find out what they’re like and to discuss what you’re bringing for your dorm. If you have a minifridge, for example, they might not need to bring one. Just making basic plans like this will break the ice and make the initial stage of your relationship a bit less awkward.
4. Make a budget
Now that you’re heading off on your own, it’s time to start taking responsibility for your finances. For a lot of college students, this is something entirely new. But if you don’t prepare, you’re likely to run out of cash by the end of the first month.
To avoid having to call home for money, take some time and put together a budget. Allocate some cash for books, food, and entertainment. Then do your best to stick to that budget. Keeping a budget is tough in the beginning, but it’s an important part of life. You’ll be better off teaching yourself to stick to a budget early on.
Related: How to Make a Budget in College
5. Think about your social life
Although you’re going to school to learn and prepare for the workforce, your social life is also important. However, you have to stay in control of the type of social life you lead. It’s fun to go to parties every once in a while, but it’s not necessary to party all the time. You’ll find that there are plenty of things to do in college besides drink and a lot of people to do them with.
However, it’s also easy to get carried away by those around you, especially during the early days of college. Spend some time thinking about the type of social life you want to lead once you’re in school. Figuring out what you want to get from your college social life will help you steer toward the right people and activities for those goals. It will also help you spot less-savory relationships before things go too far and you find yourself in with the wrong crowd.
No amount of preparation can truly prepare you for freshman year. After all, you’re being thrown into a whole new environment with strangers. It can be scary! But these tips will make things much easier and allow for a smoother transition into one of the most fun and exciting phases of your life.