You'd think things would be pretty quiet on a college campus over the summer. But, they're not. There are enough things that are just easier to do in summer that we stay pretty busy... it's harder to paint around students than you might think, and they've always got stuff under their bed, so it's our only chance to vacuum, much less shampoo, under there! We're still taking care of getting students enrolled (yes, it's late in the game and it's a bit tougher to secure a spot, but some students change their mind about which college is right for them, so we'll still talk to students in the summer and try to find them a place in the fall if it seems like a good fit). And, as we've been doing about this time of year since 1896, we're putting together that much anticipated orientation packet for new students. Here are 5 important tips you probably won't find in most orientation packets.
1) Talk to Your Roommate Before You Get to Campus. Roommates very frequently form lifetime friendships and can be handy in dealing with those first few days of not knowing anyone (interesting tidbit related to the "what if I don't like my roommate" question: 10% of students come in during the first few hours requesting a roommate change; fewer than 1/10 of 1% come back after the "give it two weeks and if you still hate your roommate, come back and we'll happily move you" period). And, they are often planning on bringing the same stuff you are. A little advanced coordination can make for more stuff and more space! I've seen dorms at dozens of colleges, and I've yet to see one with ample storage space, so one ironing board really is better than two. We've also seen students pool their money and buy some awesome stuff (best so far: 11 international students purchased a 1970's van - which they dubbed The Frenchmobile and actually drove across country over spring break - complete with gray primer on the fenders and orange shag carpet on the walls and ceiling).
2) Postpone the Visit to the Store Until You Arrive. While our dorm rooms are comparatively large, space - especially storage space -- is still at a premium. It's worth looking around before going shopping. For example, we provide students with a microwave... rare is the student who needs two microwaves and, unlike the one you brought from home, if ours breaks we'll just give you another. I drink the tap water (and I'm the guy who actually reads the annual reports water companies file)... you should at least taste it before lugging cases of bottled water from home. Your roommate might bring a shower curtain, a wireless router, or even the latest game console. And, if he or she doesn't, we run free shuttles to Walmart every day during orientation and every Wednesday thereafter. Students often specially purchase, transport, and end up having to store things they just don't need. We've got stores here... and daily UPS, USPS, and FedEx deliveries too. So does most every other school. And, if you arrive without transportation, most schools have some way to get you to the store, especially during the first few days.
3) Actually, You Might Want to Postpone a Few Things Until You Get Here. We treat student information as sacrosanct, so you're not going to get the kind of mailings you might get if we sold your name (we get calls, and it's a decent little moneymaker, but we simply are not going to sell students' names, ever). But, just we haven't bombarded you with junk mail or allowed other to do so doesn't mean we're unaware of the services you need. The four local banks who are willing to offer free checking accounts to our students will be set up in the lobby (and, they'll probably have t-shirts, or at least pens and candy). Presuming they're willing to offer a student discount again this year, AAA will be there too. We'll have a stack of coupon books for you too... you won't need pest control since we provide that, but the pizza and car service coupons tend to be pretty good. Most schools have local merchants who understand the value of catering to students (and that often means discounts).
4) Have an Emergency Plan (and be sure it corresponds with the school's). Our main campus is in Central Florida, so we very rarely get tropical force winds. I have friends who run schools who get the occasional earthquake, or even volcano. Everywhere has some occasional natural weather issue to deal with. None of this stuff happens often, of course, but when it does, students are faced with an important decision... do they stay put? Go home? Go somewhere else? Probably worth a discussion before you leave home. We don't ask students to leave campus in the event of severe weather. Our thought is we told them and their parents we'd take care of them, so we're darned sure not going to ask them to leave if severe weather threatens. But that isn't every school's policy, and it's one of those things worth checking. This also applies to those living off-campus (yes, it's true... while you give up an awful lot of the college experience in return, assuming nothing goes wrong, and while I've never, ever heard anyone lament their 20th reunion "I sure wish I had lived off-campus", you can sometimes save a little money by living off-campus). If our off-campus students don't feel their homes are safe, we'll find them a place to sleep on campus until severe weather passes. But, again, that's not every school's policy. Phone lines get busy during emergencies. Parents worry. Heck, while you're having the discussion, why not sign yourself and your parent's up for your school's emergency text notification system?
5) Plan That First Visit Home (but not TOO soon!) I am not anti-waffle. You don't get a body like mine without liking waffles. But, the fire marshal is going to do an inspection at some point (there's a reason 94% of college fire fatalities actually happen in off-campus housing), and your waffle iron is going to get a ticket, so we're just going to save everyone trouble and make you take it home. And, you almost certainly forgot something. And while we don't make any money on the laundry, free washers and driers are still better. And, besides, your parents miss you. But, don't go too soon or too often... part of the college experience involves "being there". Even though schools plan a bunch of great activities, many others "just happen" spontaneously.
College is a great time. And, a little advanced work makes it even greater!