Starting college this fall? Here’s your summer checklist

Marcus Blyden,

Photo by Amanda Nguyen,

Friend request your roommate.

After you’re done stalking their Facebook page, it wouldn’t hurt to send them a friend request or message. This way, you and your roommate can communicate before actually meeting in person, giving you a better sense of who they are.

This is also a great opportunity to see what you need to bring. Many dorm rooms on campus are modest in size. To save room, it’s best to not have two of everything. Basically, whoever owns the larger size of whatever you and your roommate were both planning on bringing (TV, couch, table … Beanie Baby collection?), that’s who should bring it.


Find some decorative furniture.

You may be able to “borrow” a lot from your parents’ house without them knowing, like a few hangers and a dishcloth, but I doubt many will let their children leave with the living room couch or the dining room lamps.

Just like the wall of an old MySpace page, the way you decorate a dorm says a lot to your friends when they see it. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up some posters or create a few collages filled with photos of families and friend.


Get your car checked.

A car can be an incredibly useful tool once at college but an immeasurable pain if it were to break down on you. Just make sure to visit your local mechanic. Whether that be for an oil change or new tires, it’s best to get on top of it now before classes start.


Research study abroad.

The chance to visit another country and gain a unique education over the course of a semester or summer is a privilege that many students don’t take.

Planning a study abroad trip is not something that you should wait until the last minute to do. If you know that you would like to take a trip abroad and earn credit for it, it’s never too early to start planning, even if you’re an incoming freshman. Studying abroad can be expensive, but there are options to help students through that.


Go to the doctor.

Just like your car, it’s best to get seen by your local doctor right before heading off to campus. Whenever I go to student health, I quickly realize that many of the students there have the same symptoms I do. And illnesses can spread quickly on a big campus.


Get your money in order.

Sometimes it actually feels as if my money is disappearing from my debit card on its own. And then I check my receipts and realize that I am not an adult when it comes to spending.

When you’re in college, you will find yourself going out a lot more now that you’re not under your parents’ roof. It’s easy to get caught up in a new experience and not realize just how much you are actually spending. And remember: You will soon be buying things that you never really had to buy before, like soap and toothpaste.


Look into clubs and organizations offered by your college.

Coming to a big campus can sometimes be a little intimidating, especially if you’re coming from a small rural area. The best way to meet people at college, at least when starting out, is through a club. A club is a space where you’re already around people who have similar interests as you do. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the club.


Stay ahead of the game.

Even as a grad student (like me), your teachers will sometimes email you early on during the summer, letting you know of any texts or novels that will be covered over the upcoming semester. I just got an email saying that very thing a week ago. While the only thing I was planning on reading this summer were the subtitles within Netflix’s foreign movies, experience has taught me that it would be a good idea to get a head start on the reading.


Apply for scholarships.

There are hundreds of scholarships available to students and probably dozens that any one individual could qualify for. This is free money that I believe many college students do not take advantage of. Here’s a good starting point to find scholarships.


Have fun.

You don’t want your most exciting summer story to be how you watched “Dirty Dancing” nine times in one week and went a whole three days without leaving your room (a personal record).

Don’t forget to have fun and try new things this summer and not get buried in too much work. Take risks. If there’s a girl or guy who lives across the street who you’ve been too afraid to ask out, go for it. Chances are you’ll be going to different colleges anyway.


And a bonus tip: Grow your calf muscles.

I know this may sound like a joke, but trust me, it’s not. There is a lot of walking. You’ll thank me later.


Marcus Blyden is a contributor to, where this article originally ran.