Top 10: Things to Do Before You Bolt
By Lauren Joffe for The Real College Guide
Hasta la vista, Mom and Dad. Hello, independence … but wait! Not so fast. Before you hit the road and leave your parentals behind, make sure you’re fully prepared for your new life of unwavering autonomy by spending your summer days wisely. Here, 10 things to do before you bolt. Ready, set …
1. Check up on your computer.
New computers rarely come with programs like Microsoft Office, which you’ll definitely need, so be sure to purchase before you’re stuck handwriting your first assignment. And if you’re using an older comp, make sure it’s ready to take the heat: Since you will be on it all the time, install any updates or think about an upgrade. Also, find out if your school offers wireless Internet access (and if your computer is compatible) or whether you’ll need an Ethernet cable. Note: Some schools prohibit users without spyware or virus protection from connecting to the network. So, seriously, get the deets!
2. Make nice with your new dorm mate.
As if you need us to tell you, check out her Facebook or MySpace page so you can get a feel for what you’re in for. Then buckle down and dial her digits for a quick chat to break the ice. Ask if there’s anything you should be aware of (like her fatal allergy to dusk or fear of the dark) and let her know of any immediate concerns you might have (like the fact that you can’t live without cable, and you’re relying on her to bring the big screen).
3. Do it up at a discount department store.
Knock out the staples on your to-buy list before the selection is sold out: sheets, towels, toiletries and storage containers. But also pick up the following often-forgotten items you do not want to leave home without:
* One-cup coffeemaker Brew your own instead of wasting a whole meal swipe for a cup o’ joe from the dining hall or blowing wads of money at Starbucks.
* Mattress pad Make your dorm cot as comfy as the cushy oasis you’re used to at home while protecting yourself from whatever lived on your bed before you.
* Rubber flip-flops Save yourself from the foot infections, clumps of hair and other mysterious masses that live in your communal shower.
* Power strip Surge-protect your PC while hooking up your iPod station and hair dryer all at once.
4. Secure your class schedule.
Enrollment deadlines are not meant to be ignored. In fact, the earlier you sit down to set your schedule, the better your course selection will be — so definitely don’t wait until the last minute. Also, pay attention to class restrictions, since some courses may require department approval ahead of time.
5. Plan your budget.
Living costs at college range from campus to campus — the amount of money you’ll need largely depends on the location of your campus (cities can be more expensive) and the choices you make (like ordering in instead of suffering one more dining hall meal). Extra expenses will include social costs (movies, concerts, game tickets, cover for some parties), toiletries, food and drink beyond your meal plan, and transportation. Ask an upperclassman or student advisor how much cash she spends on average each week. Then pool your summer savings to determine whether you can cover your own expenses. If you need help, ask your parents or start looking for a part-time job on campus — before you get there.
6. Visit your school’s Web site.
Your university may offer registration guides, campus news and summertime get-to-know-each-other sessions that you definitely do not want to miss out on — especially if you’re in the habit of throwing college junk mail in the trash (which is where important info may very well be). Plus, seeing your campus colors on the screen will psych you up — or at the very least, calm your nerves and get you into the spirit.
7. Get packing.
Whether you’re shipping all your stuff UPS or loading up the car and driving cross-country, don’t leave packing to the last minute, when you’ll want to laze around and hang out with friends you won’t be seeing for a while. Designate an area of your house or bedroom to stow things you buy especially for college or things you don’t use daily but know you’ll need to take. Do not overpack! The amount of space you will have in your new room is likely much smaller than your current living quarters. Only bring what’s necessary, as your parents can always mail any left-behind belongings.
8. Put together a tool kit.
Once you’re at school on your own, you’ll be shocked how often you’ll need a pair of scissors or a screwdriver — even if you’ve never used one. If you need to hang a poster or fix a loose screw, a simple, handy kit will be of great use when you least expect it. Bring a little box with a screwdriver (both Phillips and flathead), hammer, pliers, nails and screws. An inexpensive small cordless drill/screw gun is a good investment too. Pack scissors as well as adhesives, like sticky tack and tape, with your desk stuff.
9. Get protection.
There’s no harm in being prepared for safe sex even if you have no particular plan or person in mind with whom to have it.
10. Hang with your high school pals.
You know you’re going to miss your hometown friends, especially during the first few weeks you are apart. Yeah, you’ll make a whole slew of new friends. But make some memories first by hanging with the crew this summer.