Like the colorful and constant noise of summer fireworks, advice for college first-years has begun exploding from all directions. Celebrations are mixed with a nervous excitement that will not be matched or replicated ever again. Going to college in the fall. Kaboom!
In the spirit of independence, I recommend five things to rehearse or practice this summer before you pack your bags . . .
Schedule your own appointments. Once you get to college you will have to manage your own time and obligations. Meetings with professors do not schedule themselves. Instead of having mom make the calls to the dentist, doctor and pharmacy, start making those arrangements for yourself. Right now. Need a haircut? Book it. Confirm the dates and times. Offer to do the grocery shopping for your family. Take charge of your calendar starting now -- it will give you time to practice managing a busy "life schedule," similar to what you will experience in college.
Become an "information seeker." Celebrate your accomplishments and certainly relax a little this summer, but keep a sharp and active mind. Read for pleasure, watch and listen to a variety of news programs, and pick up a national newspaper at least once a week. Colleges and universities want their students to be curious, inquisitive, and able to make an informed argument. Do not wait for information to land in your lap -- go forth and find it! Your professors will expect you to arrive fully prepared to engage, learn, discuss, challenge, and contribute.
Have an adventure. Plan a trip for yourself. Map it out and get yourself from one location to another without the assistance of your parents or family members. Book a flight, train, or bus and visit a friend or relative at least three hours away. In college, you will have to arrange your travel around classes, exams, and other commitments. Consider this a stress-free test drive.
Share your toys. Put yourself in a situation in which you are forced to share personal space, food, supplies, furniture, and electronic equipment with another human being. Camping in a tent might be a good approach! When you get to college, you will very likely have at least one roommate. If you've never shared a bedroom with a sibling or bunked in a small cabin at summer camp, you may not be prepared for the cozy confines of a residence hall room. Learning to negotiate space and synchronize alarm clocks is a valuable skill.
Talk it out. One of the most important ways to prepare for college -- and for life -- is to engage in open communication. Most families have begun talking with their college bound kids about issues like body image, stress, alcohol, and healthy relationships. It's important to continue having honest conversations about the social and academic pressures that may crop up in college, and use the summer to review your family's perspective. Clear communication with your parents reinforces the trust that is so crucial in supporting you during the college years.