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How to Make the Most of the Last Summer Before College

Trying to decide how to make the most of the last summer before college can be hard. That’s why we’ve created a list to help you out.

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Ah, summertime—the season of relaxation and carefree living, especially for those who just conquered high school! Knowing what to do the summer before college can be challenging though. Balancing the multitude of tasks awaiting you as you are about to embark on your college journey with some fun and adventure takes careful planning. That’s where we come in. We’re here to help you get organized to maximize your last summer before college. We’ll sort out a summer filled with adventure, laughter, and cherished experiences, while also tackling responsibilities in advance.

Strengthen your ties with Adventures From Scratch!

Fostering strong bonds with your family and friends is a priority this summer before you leave for university. We’re committed to ensuring that you make the most of your time with loved ones, whether you’re in the comfort of your home or exploring new horizons. With our engaging scratch-off adventure books brimming with fun activities, and virtual games suitable for all ages, we offer you an array of fantastic opportunities to transform ordinary moments into extraordinary experiences. Simply grab our Family Edition, Date Edition, or Friends Edition. Consult the key, scratch off an adventure, and start making memories with your crew!

How to Make the Most of the Last Summer Before College

The transition from high school graduate to college student can be an exciting time and intimidating for an incoming freshman. Experts in education recommend that students utilize the summer between high school and college to create a plan for the upcoming fall semester. While summer is typically associated with relaxation, fun, and games—and there should be plenty of that, too—it’s also an opportunity for you to proactively shape your future. If you are an incoming freshman who is uncertain about how to make the most of the summer before college, you can refer to the following tips to ensure a smooth transition.

1. Set academic goals.

Take advantage of the summer break to engage in self-reflection regarding your academic strengths and weaknesses. Assess your performance in different subjects and identify areas where you may need additional support or improvement. Set goals for the upcoming semester and focus your efforts effectively.

To address areas that need improvement, consider enrolling in online courses or attending workshops related to those subjects. These resources can provide structured learning environments and expert guidance to help you enhance your understanding and skills. Look for reputable online platforms or educational institutions that offer courses aligned with your areas of interest or difficulty. Remember to set realistic goals for the summer. Break them down into smaller milestones and establish a study plan or schedule to keep yourself accountable. You might also consider speaking with a guidance counselor about possible tutoring options for that subject and setting it up in advance.

2. Learn new subjects.

Summer classes present a unique opportunity for you to expand your horizons and venture into subjects that go beyond your regular curriculum. It serves as a platform for academic exploration, allowing you to delve into new areas of learning and skills.

One option for summer school is to focus on technology-related subjects. This can involve developing proficiency in coding, computer skills, or graphic design. You can gain hands-on experience in areas such as programming, software development, web design, data analysis, or digital media production. With the increasing importance of technology, these skills have become highly valuable and sought after by employers.

3. Research your college.

To make a smooth transition into your freshman year, it’s important to become familiar with your college campus, facilities, and available resources. Take the time to explore the campus layout. Locate important buildings such as your dorm, libraries, student centers, and recreational facilities. This will help you navigate the campus confidently once you arrive.

Review the course catalog and syllabi and pay attention to prerequisites, core requirements, and elective options in your intended major or area of interest. This will allow you to plan your academic path and select college classes that align with your academic and career goals. Don’t rely blindly on a counselor to set up your coursework. Make sure you do your own research.

Researching campus life, clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities is another important step. Look into the wide range of clubs and organizations. This is your chance to branch out. Most colleges offer academic clubs, cultural groups, sports teams, ministries, and community service organizations. This research will help you find opportunities to get involved and meet like-minded individuals who share your passions. Engaging in extracurricular activities will enhance your college experience, so get started as early as possible.

4. Connect with future classmates.

Join online forums or social media groups for incoming freshmen at your college. Engage in conversations and connect with your future peers. This can help alleviate anxiety and provide a sense of community before you even step foot on campus. If you’re getting a new roommate, meet them in person. Do some shopping for your dorm, or grab a coffee to get to know them.

5. Develop essential skills.

Develop the essential skills that will greatly contribute to your success in college. Time management, organization, and effective communication are among the top skills to focus on. Use the summer to enhance these skills through reading, taking online courses, or seeking guidance from mentors or counselors.

Time Management

Crucial for balancing coursework, assignments, extracurricular activities, and personal commitments. Use the summer to learn effective time management techniques such as creating schedules, prioritizing tasks, and setting realistic goals.

Organizational Skills

Strong organizational skills will help you stay on top of your responsibilities. Take the time to organize your study materials, set up a system for keeping track of assignments and deadlines, and establish routines that promote productivity and efficiency. Play around with some scheduling apps, a physical planner, or a calendar, and see what works best for you. Mom won’t be keeping up with your stuff anymore, so you have to develop your own plan.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is vital for academic success and building relationships with peers and professors. Practice active listening, clear and concise writing, and confident public speaking. Consider taking online courses or workshops that focus on improving communication skills, and seek guidance from mentors who can provide valuable feedback and support. When it comes to effective communication, practice makes perfect.


Reading can significantly enhance your critical thinking, comprehension, and writing abilities. Take advantage of the summer break to read the classics or academic materials that align with your interests or future college coursework.

6. Prepare your living arrangements.

If you’ll be living in a dorm room on campus, there are a few important tasks to complete before moving in. The college housing office will send you resident information and a contract, which must be returned with any required paperwork and deposits by the specified deadline. Make a checklist of essential items you’ll need and start packing early to avoid last-minute stress. If you will be living off-campus, research housing options and begin the process of finding suitable accommodations. Here are some other action items related to on-campus living:

  • Select a meal plan: Consider starting with the smallest meal plan option. There will be days when you won’t use all your dining hall dollars, because… Taco Bell.
  • Secure a parking permit: If you plan on bringing your car to campus, check your university’s website for information on obtaining a parking permit. It’s likely that you’ll need to properly register and permit your vehicle with the school’s transportation office.
  • Contact your roommate: Obtain the contact information of your assigned roommate(s) and make an effort to reach out to them. Getting to know each other before moving in can help avoid any initial awkwardness when you meet in person. It’s also a good time to discuss and coordinate who will bring shared dorm room items. You don’t need two microwaves.
  • Go shopping: Go shopping for essential items to make your college life more comfortable. Purchase twin bedding, towels, and other necessary items. Some big box stores offer convenient services where you can secure these items in your hometown and pick them up in your college town, which makes moving day far easier!

7. Plan some finances.

Understand the financial aspects of college, including tuition fees, scholarships, student loans, and financial aid. Create a budget for your expenses and explore part-time job opportunities or internships to gain financial independence and valuable experience.

Completing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a vital step in securing financial assistance for your college education. The FAFSA is a form administered by the U.S. Department of Education that determines your eligibility for various types of federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. The application opens on October 1st each year, and it’s recommended to submit it as early as possible to maximize your chances of receiving aid. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your school’s financial aid office or utilize available resources for guidance and support throughout the FAFSA process.

8. Take care of personal needs.

There are a few logistical and health demands that you’re going to have to complete before your enter university. Get them done early and out of the way, so you aren’t rushing around the week before you move.

  • Get a physical: Many schools require first-year students to submit the results of a recent physical exam and vaccination history before registering for classes. Check your university website for necessary vaccines. Many require a tetanus booster, Hep A, and meningitis shots.
  • Get organized:
    • Set up bank accounts and credit cards. You will need access to your own money if you’re moving away from home. If you get your first credit card, make sure it has a very low spending limit, and don’t increase it. The point is to build credit, not debt.
    • Fill all prescriptions, and find a local pharmacy in your new town.
    • Get your car serviced to avoid any unexpected breakdowns while adjusting to college life.
    • If you’ll be attending school out of state, register to vote or request an absentee ballot in your home state.

9. Research college career choices.

If you are like most of us, you’ll likely change your major at least once. However, you can streamline the process by doing some research on the available options. For instance, you obviously know about nursing, and your stereotypical thought of a nurse might not interest you. But, did you know there are nurses that never see a patient and never wipe a butt? They work in technology, informatics, research, coding, or education. The same goes for most career paths. There are likely far more options than you are familiar with, and nobody is going to fill you in on them. You’re going to have to find them yourself!

12. Purchase a laptop. 

Before starting college, it’s important to have a reliable device. When choosing a laptop, prioritize a lightweight device since you’ll be carrying it around frequently between classes, libraries, and study areas. Look for models with good processor speeds that can handle multitasking efficiently. Choose a device known for its durability, as it will likely withstand the rigors of college life.

13. Make some money.

Getting a summer job and earning money during the summer before college can help ease the financial burden of education and provide extra funds for fun. By proactively seeking ways to earn money, you can build a financial cushion and have the means to treat yourself to things that bring you joy. Here are some ways to earn money:

  • Get a job: Obviously, right? Look for employment opportunities that offer flexible schedules so they won’t fully hinder your summer. Consider establishments with employee discounts to maximize your savings.
  • Explore freelance or gig work: Take advantage of your skills by offering services such as babysitting, dog-walking, or freelancing. These options allow you to create your own schedule and potentially earn extra income and have time to enjoy your summer.
  • Host a yard sale: Use the transition to college as an opportunity to declutter and organize your belongings. Host a yard sale to sell items you no longer need. This not only helps you earn money but also simplifies your move and creates a fresh start for your college journey.

14. Learn how to cook.

Entering college often marks the beginning of a more independent lifestyle, including cooking for oneself. Utilizing the summer to develop culinary skills can be highly beneficial. Consider the following ideas to enhance your cooking abilities:

  • Prepare meals for your family: Take the opportunity to cook for your family, experimenting with different recipes and techniques.
  • Practice cooking for one: Start experimenting with cooking meals tailored to single servings.
  • Learn meal prepping: Explore the concept of meal prepping, where you prepare multiple meals in advance to save time and ensure you have nutritious options readily available. Having a premade breakfast is invaluable when you roll out of bed at 7:58 for that 8:00 exam.
  • Master grocery shopping on a budget: Learn how to shop wisely and make the most of your budget. Play around with some coupon apps like Ibotta or the Walmart app. Sign up for grocery store discount cards.

Don’t forget to have some fun!

Transitioning from high school or college to adulthood is the perfect time to explore new places. At Let’s Roam, we recognize the transformative power of travel, regardless of age. For many recent grads, trips serve as a symbolic rite of passage, offering them an opportunity to explore their capabilities before venturing into the world independently. These suggestions aim to inspire and empower you as you venture into this new chapter in your life.

15. Go on a road trip.

Going on a road trip offers an exciting opportunity to break free from your usual surroundings and take on an adventure, whether you choose to travel solo or with friends. The open road beckons with its boundless possibilities, presenting stunning landscapes and unique roadside attractions at every turn.

Simply pick a destination on the map, hop in your car, and let the journey unfold before you. As you travel to new territories, you can immerse yourself in exploring charming towns, savoring local cuisines, and taking on invigorating hikes in national parks. The beauty of a road trip lies in the freedom to meticulously plan your route or embrace spontaneity along the way.

If you’re particularly interested in visiting national parks, be sure to check out our blog on “The Ultimate National Park Road Trip.”

16. Go on a service/mission trip.

Participating in a mission trip is an extraordinary opportunity that can profoundly transform your perspective on the world. If you’re interested in joining a mission trip, there are various avenues to explore. Start by checking with local churches or community organizations. They often organize mission trips tailored for young adults, providing a chance to engage in meaningful service work.

Teen travel agencies are specialized travel services that cater to young people and curate trips that combine volunteering with tourism. They offer a diverse range of experiences, such as working with injured primates in the jungles of Costa Rica, teaching English in schools in the Philippines, or contributing to well-digging projects in African villages. These agencies take care of the logistics, paperwork, and security, ensuring the comfort of parents and allowing you to focus on serving others and embracing the journey.

For detailed information and a comprehensive list of service trips specifically designed for teens, I recommend checking out “The Top 12 Service Trips for Teens.”

17. Backpack across Europe.

Backpacking across Europe offers young adults an incredible opportunity to immerse themselves in history, arts, and diverse cultures within a relatively small space. It’s a popular choice for travelers seeking a rich and enlightening experience. Europe is an accessible continent for first-time travelers due to its well-developed infrastructure and excellent public transportation networks. This, coupled with the extensive availability of hostels in mid to large-sized cities, makes it convenient for backpackers to navigate and connect with fellow travelers. Additionally, the prevalence of English-speaking eases communication barriers.

It’s worth noting that many European destinations are considered safe, providing a sense of security for travelers, especially when compared to major cities in the United States. A backpacking adventure in Europe opens doors to endless discoveries, memorable experiences, and a deeper understanding of the world. To save money, consider backpacking through Eastern Europe, focusing on Romania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.

18. Visit some of the best beaches in the U.S.

While many dream of exploring far-off exotic beaches, the United States is fortunate to possess an abundance of breathtaking coastlines. From the sun-kissed shores and swaying palm trees of Hawaii to the turquoise waters of the Florida Panhandle, the options seem endless.

Choosing among these incredible destinations may prove challenging. Fear not, as we are here to assist you! We have curated a collection of some of the finest American beaches!

Closing Thoughts

Now you have a comprehensive list of what to do the summer before college. We hope it wasn’t too overwhelming. While you will have a busy schedule taking proactive steps toward shaping your future, make sure to leave time for relaxation and enjoyment. Spend time with family and friends, because in some cases when you leave for college, it will be months before you will see them again. Focus on your tasks, but don’t stress over them. Just take a few proactive steps a day, and start early. Don’t wait until August 1st to start your college prep. Now, get going. You have a lot to do!

If you’re considering taking a gap year or are looking for more summer ideas, take a look at our “22 Great Gap Year Ideas, Trips, and Activities for Young Adults,” and “14 Great Graduation Trip Ideas.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to do nothing all summer?

Doing nothing all summer might get boring. If you need ideas on what to do this summer, check out the amazing options from Adventure From Scratch.

How can I have fun in the summer before college?

The summer before college can get busy preparing for your freshman year, but it’s also important to have fun! Consider going on a road trip, backpacking Europe, and going on a service trip.

What are ways to prepare for college during summer?

Some great ways to prepare for college during summer are setting academic goals, researching your college, developing essential skills, and preparing your living arrangements.

What are practical things you can do the summer before college?

Practical things you can do the summer before college are learning to cook, making extra money, and taking care of your personal needs.

What are ways you can involve family and friends while you prepare for college?

Involve family in college prep by asking for help with financial planning, learning to cook, and preparing your living arrangements. Also, take time to make some fun memories together during the summer!

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