Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

How To Make The Most Of Your Last Summer Before College

Our guide to preparing yourself for college

The time between accepting your high school diploma and packing up your car with dorm supplies is a crucial moment in your life. This very well may be the last summer of complete freedom that you'll you have.

Summer internships and coursework will most likely be a part of your new college life, so it’s important that you make the most of this time and prepare yourself for what lies ahead. These next two to three months before move-in day are expected to be filled with a mix of emotions—excitement for the new things to come, but also a bit of nervousness (and maybe even anxiety) about leaving behind your family, friends, and the familiarity of home.

Don’t let these nerves get to you! There are a number of things you should do to prepare yourself for your new life as a college student (and don’t worry, none of them involve any studying) and make the most of the free time you do have.

We made a list of tips to help prepare you for the next chapter of your education (and life). Click through the gallery below to read on.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Take the time to relax and recharge (but don't waste your days, either)

As I said earlier, this may be the last summer you have of real freedom. Go on fun adventures with your friends, lay out on the beach alone, sleep in late when you can. Do things that relax and ease your mind, body, and spirit—really reflect on the emotions you're feeling, both the good and the not so good. It’s crucial to start your first semester in a good headspace.

However, while you should be giving yourself a lot of TLC and R&R (and have a lot of fun, of course), you should also use this time to work on managing your time between work and play. “This is hard to do until you’re fully engaged in college life, but practicing your time management skills over the summer can help prepare you for all the time managing you’ll need to do when you get here,” says Devon Pryor, director of Orientation & Transition Programs at NYU College of Arts & Science Advising Center. “The sooner you’re able to effectively figure out how to manage your time spent in class, studying, having fun, sleeping, eating, etc., the easier college will be.”

Pryor also suggests taking up a part-time job so that you can save up money to bring with you to school (you’ll likely get bored of the cafeteria food pretty quickly).

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Start a goal journal

Goal journals are awesome, especially if you’re someone that doesn’t normally write out lists to stay organized. You can set up your journal however you’d like, but start by writing out your goals and what you wish to achieve your first month, semester, and year at school—whether it’s maintaining a certain GPA, joining a certain interest group on your campus, or personal goals such as making sure you stay in shape. Writing everything out yourself will help you feel much more organized and in control of all of the changes you’re about to encounter.

Of course, you may not accomplish every single goal, as you can’t know for certain what your first day, semester, or year will be like until you get there. Keeping up with this goal journal will help you keep your priorities in line once the semester begins, and will also encourage you to have the most positive college experience you can.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Go on a trip with your best friends

You’re about to make a whole new group of friends and take on a heavy workload, so you most likely won’t be seeing your best friends from home as often as you’d like after you start college. Plan a fun trip to take together this summer—whether it’s a weekend getaway to your favorite beach or a week-long vacation to somewhere you’ve never been—and make some new memories with your besties before you all move on to a whole new world. Even a day at the spa is a great way to get away and spend some quality time with those closest to you. “Have a lot of safe fun this summer—you’ll have plenty of fun in college, but you will have a lot of work to do. Take advantage of some free time before you get here,” says Pryor.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Spend time with your family

Depending on how far away your school is, this may be one of the last times you’ll all be together for some time, maybe not even until the winter break. Make an effort to spend as much time with them as possible. Go to the movies with your dad, run errands with your mom, take your little sister to the mall. You won’t realize just how much you’ll miss them until you don’t see them every day.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Cherish those home-cooked meals (and learn how cook yourself)

Soon the days of home-cooked meals every night will be long gone, and your only options will be crappy cafeteria pizza or cooking in your suite/floor shared kitchen space. Now is the time to enjoy all of your favorites, and ask for cooking lessons while you’re at it. Have your mom or dad show you how to cook your favorite comfort meals that remind you of home (for when you’re feeling lonely), as well as some healthy and easy options.

You’ll be the queen of the dorms if you know how to make a mean baked ziti, even if it was made entirely in a microwave.

Also, have your parents show you how to properly do your own laundry—I can’t tell you how many tops I ruined my freshman year.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi

Connect with other incoming freshmen on social media

Nothing will ease your nerves about not knowing anybody at your new school more than by connecting to some of your peers beforehand. There are plenty of incoming freshman groups you can join on Facebook and other platforms, so go for it! Find those who are from your area, those who have the same interests as you, and definitely connect to your roommates or suitemates. “If you’ll be living in campus housing, you should try and meet your roommate(s) over the summer if that’s possible. Even if you just connect on social media or talk on the phone, you can at least decide who will bring what to campus to make some of your shopping and packing easier,” says Kristina Ortiz, LIM College’s Dean of Admissions.

“Many colleges also have summer orientation programs which allow students to familiarize themselves with the campus environment, get to know their future classmates, and register for classes,” she adds. It would be worth checking to see if your school offers this, especially if you’re not going too far away. Being able to march into those dorms knowing a few faces will help you feel a lot less lonely once you say your goodbyes to your family.