Graduation Homework: Six Summer Assignments to Make You REALLY Ready for College

Graduations certainly look different this year, and many question marks remain for the fall. How will be dorms function? Will there be football? Large lecture halls? Schools know few specifics, and we definitely can’t control it. Since this uncertainty breeds frustration, let’s talk about what we CAN control. Start with readjusting the focus away from the missed proms, shows, banquets and ceremonies- not to minimize those losses, but to shift the view and push the momentum forward. Begin actively preparing for and engaging with your new school and community with these six summer assignments:

  1. Make a list of AT LEAST three clubs you’d consider joining (Trust me, they are on your school’s website- start searching!)
    • Make sure at least one club is purely “sign-up” (not tryout, audition or recruitment)
    • Think BROADLY! Colleges have everything you can imagine:
      • Intramural teams can be fiercely competitive or casual fun; sports range from flag-football to ultimate frisbee. Bonus points for co-ed teams to meet a broader range of new friends!
      • Singing, Acting, or Dancing groups– think beyond ballet or hip-hop; consider branching out to couples ballroom or swing- great ways to be “forced” to meet others.
      • Gaming Clubs: Trivia, video, board-game or fantasy-themed
      • Food-focused clubs– restaurant hopping or communal bake-offs
      • Service-based Organizations: Mentor community youth; help feed people experiencing food insecurity or homelessness; or perhaps sign up to walk and “share” therapy dogs on campus!
  1. Consider a Faith Connection
    • Synagogues, churches, and other places of worship throw open their doors to welcome new students, including many active on-campus ministries. Check out your options! Especially if you have grown up with a particular faith tradition, do not underestimate the power of that familiarity to help combat homesickness.
    • If religion is not your thing, no worries. However, if you are curious in this regard (and in the spirit of inclusion, not pressure), know that many students enjoy “sampling” different traditions purely to learn about different cultures and viewpoints, and many universities have cross-faith groups to enhance this type of social interaction.
    • Bonus points: FREE FOOD is almost always involved!
  1. Campus Jobs
    • If you plan to work, start looking at job descriptions and time commitments. General recommendation is to limit your employment to about six hours per week for full-time students, to allow enough time for your studies. Many low-volume on-campus reception jobs allow you to do homework during your down time.
    • Create or touch up your resume, and locate your actual social security card (campus jobs often will not accept a copy.)

Next, start taking charge of your own healthcare! Up until now, parents usually have made the medical appointments, complete with filling out insurance forms and detailed medical background information (shots, allergies, family health issues, etc.)

  1. Schedule and go to at least one appointment this summer, even if it is a virtual visit.
    • Fill out all the billing and medical forms with your parent available to look over your shoulder.
    • Right now, take a picture of your health insurance card (if you have one and plan to use it while you are at school) and if possible, your shot record. At a minimum, record the date of your last tetanus shot in your phone. (This is the most common one you will be asked.)
    • “But I don’t need to see a doctor!” Are you sure?
      • Prescription meds: If you have asthma, allergies, acne, ADD, anxiety/depression, or anything else that requires a prescription, this is a great reason to see your prescribing doctor and get REFILLS for the semester.
      • Immunizations: Is your tetanus up to date? How about the meningitis vaccine booster that you need after the age of 16? Most (if not all) colleges require an up to date shot record and possibly recent physical exam to attend classes and/or live on campus.
      • Do you wear contacts or glasses? Make SURE you have a pair of glasses that matches your current prescription. This is more important than ever with COVID19, which can be transmitted by touching your eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated hands. Wearing your glasses adds another layer of protection.
      • Dentist or orthodontist? One more routine teeth cleaning and/or retainer check is likely in order.
  1. Make a College First Aid Kit
    • Pro tip: order a thermometer now, because they are back-ordered everywhere.
    • Consider these extra items:
      • GOOD band-aids (finger, knuckle, and blister-style)
      • Compression (ACE) wrap
      • Alcohol wipes (to clean thermometer)
      • Bulb syringe to clean ears if they are a wax-builder-upper (all the extra use of ear buds/pods make this worse.)
      • Medications: steroid and antibiotic creams, pain relievers, antihistamine, decongestant, antacid, and cough drops. (Test your first aid knowledge with this QUIZ, and for a detailed shopping list and cheat sheet of what to use when, see bonus section of The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook.)
  1. Get Face Coverings/Masks– These will likely be required for class and most gatherings, so:
    • Students-buy or make a BUNCH of masks that you will be WILLING to wear
      • Fun styles: university colors, mascots, professional sports, Marvel, butterflies- whatever works! EVERYONE will be wearing these.
      • Easy to adjust (ear loops work best for most) and the right fit to easily cover nose and chin, not too tight (for ease of breathing)
      • MANY– these cloth coverings should be worn one day, then washed before next use (same as underwear). Translation: get 7-10.
      • Coffee filters slid in between layers make masks more effective.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t wait till August! Start checking these six tasks off your list now, and feel more confident about preventing homesickness, settling in to campus life, and navigating the health care system this fall. Congrats to the Class of 2020!????

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