GFM JUL 2016
Things to do this summer before college begins
Fortunately, there’s a happy medium—and The Secrets of College Success by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman is here to make sure your child starts her first year of college completely prepared, and to guarantee her success in the college years to follow.
Here, from the professors’ perspective, Jacobs and Hyman share the best things to do the summer before anyone starts college:
Get to orientation—early. Unless your daughter’s future alma mater is the exception to the rule, she will have the opportunity to visit campus for an orientation session sometime during the summer. Typically these are day-long affairs in which students and their parents can tour the campus, learn more about the school, and visit with a few faculty members and academic advisers. Depending on her college, she may even be able to sign up for courses. (Ideally, make sure it’s her doing the picking and not mom or dad).
“Many colleges follow the so-called airline model, which means they offer only a limited number of spaces in each class, especially in large, required first-year courses,” shares Jacobs. “When the spaces are filled, that course is closed. Unless students want to spend their freshman year in second- or third-choice classes, it’s easy to see why it’s a good idea to go to the very first orientation session!”
Get some hardware. If one takes a walk around a typical college campus, they will still see some students taking notes the old-fashioned way with a notebook and pen but increasingly, various types of electronic devices are appearing in classrooms . . . and they’re definitely being used in dorm rooms to do research, write papers, put together presentations, etc. The point is, if your daughter doesn’t already have a computer—preferably a laptop, tablet, or e-reader—now’s the time to get one. (Before buying, though, double-check your college’s policies—some schools issue laptops to students, and others recommend that students purchase specific brands and models.)
“If your daughter opts for a laptop, whether she chooses a PC or a Mac, we think her computer should weigh no more than three or four pounds and have at least a six-hour battery life,” says Hyman. “You don’t want her to break her back carrying a laptop to class, and you definitely don’t want it to run out of power in the middle of a lecture. We also recommend laptops with a webcam and good speakers (if nothing else, she will appreciate being able to Skype to help with homesickness), and that have a full-size (or at least 92% of full-size) keyboard.”
Get some software. Once she’s decided which computer she will be taking to college, it’s time to think about software. No matter what she’s studying, it’s a fair bet that she will have to write papers—so a word processing program is a must. Microsoft Word is the college standard (get the new 2015 version at: microsoft_word.en.downloadastro.com), though many students like the free OpenOffice or LibreOffice alternatives. Whatever software she ends up with, she should take a few hours to play around and familiarize herself with how it works, assuming it’s a program you haven’t been using already.
“If you’re buying more task-specific software—say, for business, graphic design, or a urban planning course—we strongly recommend that your daughter holds off until her course has started and his instructor tells her what to buy,” Jacobs warns. “It’d be a shame to spend $329 on the wrong program, only to find that it’s nonreturnable.”
Surf the college website. Sure, she’s flipped through glossy brochures, watched the exciting propaganda videos, and maybe even been on a campus tour or two while you were applying to college. But now that she’s been accepted, it’s time to take a second, more in-depth look at her college—especially concerning the academic side of things. First, she should go to the college portal of the university she will be attending, and look for the academics or for current students tabs. Then search for the college requirements, the list of majors and minors, the individual departmental home pages (where you might even find syllabuses for the courses offered), and the course schedule (the actual list of courses to be offered in the fall—not to be confused with the course catalog, which is the list of every course ever offered at the school).
“The more you know about the structure of the school, the easier it’ll be to navigate once you get there,” Jacobs points out. “As she looks at the academic calendar, she should take note of when classes start and end, when finals are held, the dates of those all-important school breaks, and whether your school celebrates Martin Luther King Day, Earth Day, or Tu B’Shevat. Now’s the time to try to make sure that your sister’s wedding or the family ski trip to Steamboat Springs doesn’t get scheduled smack in the middle of final exams week.”
Dust off your language skills, and crack open a few books. Many colleges—especially those with liberal arts curriculums—have a foreign or world language requirement, often a four-semester sequence in a language of her choice (although she may be able to test out of all or part of these classes). Now would be a good time to brush up on a language she learned in high school or speak around the house. If her summer plans include travel abroad, and if her second-language skills are up to the challenge, she should resolve to speak only the language of the country from touchdown to return home.
“Better language proficiency will not only save her some of the distribution requirements, it’ll actually be a boon if she majors in a field that uses other-than-English language resources—European or Asian history, international marketing, Slavic literature, or pre-med,” Jacobs explains. “And if her school assigns summer reading for the first-year experience course or the freshman seminar, she should plan to get it done. She doesn’t want to be behind before the race has even started.”
Reach out to the roommate. It’s always a good idea for your child to find out with whom she’s going to be sharing her digs for the next nine months or so. If she’s planning to live on campus, her college may be sending all sorts of information about her assigned roommate, but even if they don’t, she can check him or her out on your own. You don’t have toresort to scourbackgroundchecks.com or beenverified.com; a simple Google search or glance at his or her Facebook page should provide a little dirt—er, information—provided her roommate hasn’t set the privacy settings too high (which is a fact about the roommate, too). Of course, your daughter could also do things the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone, too!
“Once she gets to know her new roommate a little—or if she’s rooming with a good friend from high school or that she requested after meeting at orientation—it wouldn’t be a half-bad time to make some room rules,” advises Hyman. “When do lights go on and off? What will the ‘do not enter—you wouldn’t want to see what’s going on in here’ signal be? And how much noise and partying is too much (or not enough)?”
Pursue a passion. The summer before college is one of the last times she will be able to do what she most enjoys doing for 100% of the time. (After all, summer jobs, internships, or extra courses might lie ahead!) For Jacobs, age seventeen, this activity was reading Russian novels. For Hyman, age eighteen, it was working in a camera store. For your daughter or son, maybe it’s mountain biking or painting.
“Getting in touch with one’s true passion—and cultivating it without the demands of school—will put students in a really good and motivated mood for college in the fall,” shares Jacobs. “And, with any luck, it’ll interest her in taking an elective course in Tolstoy, marketing, or civil engineering that she will look forward to going to. Actually, that’s one of the big secrets of college success—lining up what one wants to do with what one has to do. If one succeeds at this, one will likely succeed at college.”
“When it comes to doing well in college, knowledge really is power,” concludes Jacobs. “Knowing what to expect and being prepared to hit the ground running can mean the difference between confidence and uncertainty, seized and missed opportunities, and success or failure. So don’t wait—put the summer to good use!”