Pre-Freshman Summer To Do List:
Here are some Organizing Skills to hone and Issues to resolve:
1. Personal Money - Will you have a local bank account or rely on a debit card? Will you have a credit card? Take care of this early in the summer and practice. Know how to withdraw, deposit, check your balance; what your passwords are, what the associated fees are (and how to avoid them); what to do if there is fraudulent activity on the account and how to be sure there is not.
Make a clear list of what you will be responsible paying for and what your parents will either help with or pay for.
Figure out a simple budget. How much money do you have, divided by how many months you are at school, subtracting the things that must be paid for – books, medical supplies, fees and dues, etc. Keep track of this activity and let your parents know Before there is a problem.
2. Food: what meals do your meal plans NOT cover (most campuses have some); dietary restrictions, special holiday restrictions, or allergies – how does the campus handle them? What food prep facilities are available in the dorm? What are your must haves and how will you get them? ie: Basic one person set of dishes and utensils (non breakable is best), a simple way to heat food, cold storage, etc..
3. Health – do you need a local MD for anything? If so, research one now. How will any prescriptions be refilled? What are the rules about storing prescriptions once you are on campus? What are the proceedures for when you get really sick? Most campuses expect that you will: self report to the nurse (hard when you have a very high fever and are tired and confused); have room mates who will care for you (including bringing in food and monitoring fever, symptoms, duration, medication); and that you will get any prescriptions from the drug store on your own. (again, all very difficult if you are pretty sick). The days of having a fully staffed 24/7 residential infirmary are over. So, know this up front and have a plan, especially if you do not want to/or cannot rely on your parents. This is the year you really may get pretty sick; you are living in close quarters with a lot of people from all over the world, under a lot of stress, maybe not eating so well, etc. Please, at least let your parents read this paragraph.
4. Exercise: what keeps you healthy, sane, and stress free? (or at least reduced?) What do you need to do to be sure you can continue those routines in college? If you don’t have answers for this question, take the summer to figure it out. It is really important.
5. Sleep habits: what do you need in order to fall asleep and stay asleep in less than ideal conditions? (noisey, too light/too dark, no music/too much music, people moving about your room, etc.) Figure it out. Practice. How do you wake up in the morning? Be sure you have a method besides a parent waking you!
6. Stress Management: what besides exercise helps you work out the kinks so you can focus. You will indeed make new friends, but have some coping strategies that are under your control until you do.
7. Laundry: if you don’t know how to maintain the cloths you are taking, either learn how or don’t take them. Do not take more clothing than you are willing to maintain. The rooms and storage spaces are very small. Where is the laundry room located? Pick a laundry sorter and transport system that will be easy to transport and that is sturdy enough to be overloaded and roughly handled.(wheels, sturdy frame, labeled bags or baskets) Your storage system should also be easy to wash. Don't forget a sewing kit.
8. Stuff: how you will organize your stuff will depend a great deal on how the room is set up. DO NOT BUY anything until you have learned all you can about the room set up (see below). Really, you will need to measure storage spaces, see where outlets are located, and be able to choose shelving that actually fits. Wait to buy until you get there.
9. Safety: You must educate yourself on what services are available on campus; how to stay safe in the town surrounding the campus; how to stay safe at parties; and how to stay safe on dates.Find a parent, an upper classman, a friend with an older sibling and have more than one frank discussion. If the campus offers an escort service, and an emergency system learn how to use it when you get there - not once you are in a dangerous situation.
Next up: how to keep your stuff safe, especially electronics and expensive items. There are many different products available. This is important for both small and large campuses. Research on the web. Consider how you will back up your electronics as well. The night before a paper is due is a perfectly rotten time to find out that your computer has seized.
Hint: the campus police are required by law to keep daily log books that are public records. During a preliminary campus visit, stop by (or have a parent stop by) to have a look at the last 6 months. You will learn a lot just by seeing the types and frequencies of calls they are responding to. You can also do a media search for the school or town. Knowledge is your friend.
10. Room maintenance. At least give a passing thought to what sort of cleaning supplies you might want (dish soap, whisk broom, sticky clothing roller etc.)
1. What is your learning style? If you don’t know, find out. You must be able to adapt to several new professors, a new pace for learning, and higher expectations for what you produce coupled with less supervision and structure.
2. Study Skills: What do you need to be both efficient and effective with very little help? What are the resources available to you on campus and how do you access them?
3. Study Habits/ Strengths/Needs: Music or quiet; morning or night; people around or not; phone calls, texts, face book, etc. You must be honest with yourself and realize that if you can be more efficient, it will buy you time to do what you want to – guilt free. Practice setting limits with yourself – write them down and keep track of how you do. No one will be there to remind you to get back to your homework, and there will be a million distractions.
Try out libraries if you haven’t already. They are often a great place for freshmen living in chaotic dorms.Timers are your friend. (there are many choices - electronic and otherwise).
4. Paper management: Even if you are terrific at electronic systems, there will be paper to manage. Learn how to set up a simple filing system and be sure to take supplies with you to do so. It can be kept in an accordion file, a portable file box, or a drawer in your desk as long as it is labeled and sorted.
5. Electronic aides: What works for you? Do you know how to set up files on the computer for ongoing projects, research, course emails and electronic documents? Be sure you know how to operate, and have practiced using, any new toys you get. Do NOT wait till August to get a new computer. Be sure you know what systems the campus supports, and what the help desk is equipped to do.
Hint: while on your preliminary campus visit, stop by the help desk and ask what the most common computers/systems are? Don’t get something obscure unless you are a wiz at fixing it because it will surly crash two hours before your final paper is due to be handed in.
Also find out about printing. How do you pay for it, where do you retrieve your documents, etc. Bottom line, do you want your own printer? A blinding snowstorm at 2 am is a bad time to have to get to the library to pick up your documents. Suggestion to parents is that they provide or keep at home back up cartridges, cords, cell phones, chargers etc. Label, label, label everything! You may have a prayer of getting a power cord, dock, etc. returned if your name is on it.
YOU CANNOT SEE TIME CONFLICTS IF THEY ARE NOT WRITTEN DOWN. If you were one of those people who resisted using a day planner of some sort, LEARN NOW. (am I shouting? This is the most common issue that I am called in to help with) Your time commitments change radically in college. You may have a day with one 2 hour class- from 2:00 - 4:00 in the afternoon– and nothing else. That is a lot of unstructured time. You will also have a multitude of activities vying for your attention. They may or may not be honest about what the time commitment really is. (hint: ask someone who is already involved. Do they make you stay over a holiday or vacation to practice? Is rehersal regularly called for Saturday night?) You will also have far more responsibility and far less help structuring your academic responsibilities. This must all get laid out in written form some how (electronic or paper). And it must be in only one location.Really.
1. Choose: paper or electronic; portable or fixed; color coded or not, etc. Be sure there is plenty of room on each day, and that you have a way of carrying over items that are not accomplished. And be sure there is room for time commitments (specific times) as well as tasks (to do list) to be accomplished for each day. If you are using paper, I highly recommend a system that uses lined sections.
2. Then – EVERYTHING goes on this calendar: academics, meetings, MD appointments, shopping lists, parties, laundry, to do lists, long term projects broken down into tiny steps, etc. If you do not know how to use a planner effectively, learn. You cannot keep it all in your head! Practice this summer even though it seems goofy. Create the habit and get really good at the system you have chosen. Don’t forget to include the obvious (ie: work every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:00 – 6:00) 3. Figure out how you will structure up your free time; how will you track your accountability for accomplishing tasks? What do you need to help you do so? What do you personally need to stay on track? Efficiency and effectiveness are two different things.
1. Asking for help from professors, professionals, and peers may be a new experience but it is a crucial skill to learn, and be sure you do this early and often. All of the campus professionals are there to make sure you succeed (you are paying their salary and it is your success that drives the institutions success after all) BUT they will not seek you out. They have very little information to gage how you, personally, are actually doing in the class (no quizzes, maybe no discussion, maybe TAs doing the actual lectures, etc.) They are also expecting you to be an adult. They will be happy to look over drafts of papers, listen to an idea, answer questions about what you didn’t do correctly, but you will need to set the appointments. Do this early and often. It always pays off. Also be sure you know what help is available on campus by way of tutoring, time management coaching, etc.
2. Finding opportunities: $, internships, work, etc. Same applies for these categories. It is all there, but you must seek it out.
3. Interpersonal advocacy with room mates, frat/sorority members, club members, classmates etc. Do not wait till you feel you must leave school to address any kind of issue in this area. Again, there are several ways to get help – be sure you know what they are before a problem develops. If one does, do not wait till it is at critical mass. If someone is aware as a situation is developing they are in a much better position to be your advocate and help, than if they are called in at the last minute. Getting help signals maturity. You do not have to do everything by yourself.
4. Safety: all campuses have protocols in place to keep you safe. I am begging you (as a concerned adult who has seen too many things go wrong on college campuses). Please avail yourself of what the campus offers. If the systems aren’t used, they will be discontinued. If you don’t use what is available to you and something goes wrong, your parents will kill you. Please stay safe.
It’s time this summer to get many issues out in the open and talked about, so you will be well prepared when you go off to school. Here are a few:
1. Will they have access to your personal money; if so get it set up in a bank account with all the passwords and account numbers together in one place. Be sure it is a bank that allows fee free withdrawals on or very near your campus.
2. Will they have access to information about you on campus (like disciplinary issues, academic performance, medical issues, and psychological issues)? If you have or will turn 18, you must get forms signed by all parties ahead of time. Your parents will not be able to see your grades or talk with professionals on campus without this step. Get this taken care of when your parents are with you or ahead of time through the mail.
3. What legal documents will you need to have with you and how will you keep them safe? (divers license, birth certificate, social security #, passport) There are many forms of locked boxes available to take with you (office max).
Organizing Supplies: What you can do this summer BEFORE you go shopping for stuff for your room?:
Make a list of questions
Use the internet, your campus visits, facebook, etc. to get the answers.
Visit the campus and dorm if possible and take careful notes, or see if they will connect you with an upper class student. Or, once you get your room mate assignment, see if they can go visit if they live closer than you do.
Many of the colleges have web sites, facebook pages, chat rooms, etc. with live web cams, times to skype with current students, etc. Use these!!
1. How will my room actually be set up? Are the beds bunked or on the floor, desk with/without drawers and storage, lighting sources What storage spaces are provided (closets, shelves, desks, drawers, under bed) How much hanging space (measure the rod if possible, then literally hang up what you think you will be taking and measure the length)
2. Laundry facilities (same floor, basement, another building) and process (coins or card, supplies available on campus, what transportation system will work best for you?)
3. How to access the dorms and academic buildings (will you have a key, card, etc.)Next question: how will you keep from loosing said item? Wallet, key chain, etc.
4. Food prep. What are the facilities in the dorm and what are you allowed to bring? Work out with your room mate who will bring the larger items like microwaves, refrigerators, printers, coffee pots, etc. There is no room in these rooms, so duplicates of these items are a waste of space. Campuses often rent the larger items for reasonable fees and then you don’t have to transport and store them over the summer, or deal with them if they break.
Things to learn if you don’t know them yet:
Your social security number; Banking; how to do Laundry; how to File papers electronic and hard copy; How to prepare one breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal, and simple cooking, especially on a stove top or using a toaster oven (it is unlikely you will have access to a full size oven your freshman year); How to keep a good calendar and use it to manage all your time and tasks; How your available cash will be managed and accounted for; how you will know if there is a problem with your money and what to do if there is; how to use a debit card, checking account, credit card.
Things I was happy I brought to school: (from current freshmen)
(besides the obvious stuff)
Look around your room and your house to see what you already have that you can repurpose.
Full length mirror that hangs over a closet/armoire door
Extra towel drying space (over the room door)
Door stop (the very best way to meet people is to keep your door open)
Shoe holder/rack that fits over the back of the door
Under bed storage containers on wheels
Thin Hangers and hangers that hold multiple items
Don't bring too many cloths.
Simple tools (hammer, screw driver, box cutter, etc.)
Rolled Quarters (laundry) - get them from the bank before you leave
Baskets/bins for items you normally store on your desk
Basket/bin for toiletries (not your bathroom tote) to hold extras in your room
Medium size cloth cubes you can throw stuff in there if tired or rushed and organize it later. These same cubes work really well on top of closets to hold underwear, socks, etc. Saves drawer space if it is scarce. Different colors make it easy, keeps items private. Some come with lids. (container store)
A set of plastic drawers on wheels (see office max) is great for stuff you don’t use that often like tools, medical stuff, and monthly supplies, extra toiletries, etc. They cannot hold too much weight, though, so use shelves in closets for the heavy items(like large bottles of laundry soap, shampoo, etc.)
A shower caddy with a thick handle because the skinny ones are harder to carry. Big ones are helpful because bottle sizes change.
A bigger trash can; the tiny ones they provide fill up really fast
2 sets of sheets (it's hard to get one set washed, dried, and back on the bed in one day)
Book ends (more than one set)
As many extra sets of shelves or cubes as you can fit on your desk surface (see target, or container store for shelves; can even use shoe shelves if they will be up against a wall). The cubes on the desk (can be laid down so they are open in the front, not sitting on their bottoms) are good for storing books because the shelves are really long. Novels and novel sized text books fit in them to keep them organized, along with spiral notebooks, printer paper, etc.
Text books and notebooks are easier to store standing up on your desk. If you make a horizontal stack you have to rearrange it every time you need a book or folder. Use book ends, or two cubes.
Memory sticks that look different with a system to know where you stored what
Small electric fan for sleeping - even if there is air conditioning your room mates may have different temperature preferances. Conversely, extra throw blankets if you are always cold.
Shelves, especially if you have a top bunk and need a place to put glasses/alarm/water, a reading light. (container store, bed/bath/beyond have shelves that clip to the beds or under the mattresses).
Storage cube/ottoman: good for extra seating but still useful for storage (ie: extra sheets; seasonal decorations, or out of season clothing, extra blanket)
A folding chair for when you want people over, but easy to store
Drawer organizers or small baskets for inside keep stuff from sliding around (silver ware drawer organizers often work well for desk drawers - but measure before you buy, small cubes for dresser drawers, etc)
COMMAND STRIPS!! Lots and lots of command strips.
Several extension cords
Reading light that plugs in (for study and in bed reading when someone else may be sleeping)
Flash light that clips to a back pack - it does get dark early in the winter
Hanging cubes for closet rods to hold folded items like jeans, t- shirts (if you don’t have a dresser - but do not overload them)
Storage bags for under your desk/bed or on top of your closet (can use blanket bags from bed/bath and beyond or container store)
Vacuum sealed storage bags can double as packing tools/storage at school (out of season clothes, holiday decorations, and to keep extra stuff out of the way) Either the kind you suck the air out of with a vacuum, or the kind you roll up till the air is out.
A hard plastic storage bin under one of the beds to store all food so it can be found (all of it) and it will be easy to know what you have when you're hungry, or what you are almost out of. Be sure it is bug proof.
Coat hooks (too bulky for inside closets) that hang over the back of the door.
Folders/binders to hold syllabuses and any tests/quizzes/homework you get back after the class is over. Plus a filing system to hold all of the paper or a big accordion folder sorted by subject. Saving the tests can be helpful for studying and insure you receive credit for your work.
(I suggest staying as close to the system you used in high school as possible, at least first semester, if it worked for you in high school. Modify it as needed, slowly)
Basic office supplies
Use the web! Many stores have packing lists, as well as many web sites. Just google it :)
Guidance is always available from What's Organized? LLC whenever you need it as well.