Just a few short months ago, you were putting the finishing touches on your Early Decision or Early Action application to your dream school—and now, luckily, you finally have that coveted acceptance letter in hand. Finally, the college process is all over! Now you can just sit back, relax, and coast until graduation… right? Not quite. We know, we know, it’s oh-so-tempting to succumb to the seductive pull of senioritis and spend the next few months catching up on your Netflix roster. But there are still productive ways to keep busy between now and graduation! That said, here’s a list of five things to do if you’re one of the lucky few who got in early.
1. Look into academic departments
Some of us apply to our dream schools knowing exactly what we’re majoring in, while others don’t have the slightest clue. Now that you can cross “College I’m Attending” off that giant list of unknowns that make up the future, take some time to peruse your school’s website and do some research on the majors and areas of study offered. Does your college offer special joint major programs, like Economics-Politics or Philosophy-Classics? Can you have a minor—or even several minors? Or does your college offer concentrations instead? Are there feeder programs or joint graduate programs with the medical school, law school, or other professional schools? These are the things that you should be looking into when checking out the academic departments at your college, because they’ll play a big role in the next four years of academic career.
Some colleges, like Occidental College in Los Angeles, even offer a design-your-own-major program. If it looks like your college doesn’t have a course of study that quite fits what exactly you want, dig into the major declaration process and see if there’s an option like Occidental’s. Even if you come across a program that seems perfect, it’s important to keep an open mind and not get set on any one major or department. You’ll change a lot during your undergraduate career, and as advising dean Lavinia Lorch of Columbia University says, you’ll probably “change your major three times in your head before you even get close to declaring.”
2. Check out summer programs
Does your college offer pre-orientation programs? Most colleges do, and they’re an awesome opportunity to meet with some other new incoming freshmen and make friends before you finally move on campus. Make sure to look into what specific options your school offers, which can range from camping trips just a few miles from campus or intensive summer language programs around the world. You might just end up meeting some of your best friends taking Spanish in Barcelona!
Aside from pre-orientation programs, it’s important to consider whether your school has a mandatory summer orientation program. Will that affect your summer plans or any family traditions? If you typically spend summers overseas or with family, you might have to return home earlier than you normally would to prepare for move-in day. Do you think you want to move in early? You might want to, especially if you’re looking to rush a sorority in the fall semester. It’s important to make sure that you can move in early—some schools don’t allow students to move in before a designated move-in day unless they’re recruited athletes or traveling a very far distance. Look into your school’s move-in policies and see what applies to you.
3. Get involved on Facebook
One of the pluses of living in the age of the Internet: thanks to Facebook, starting college doesn’t mean you’re diving headfirst into a pool filled with thousands of strangers. Most colleges and universities have official Facebook groups for each admitted class or even special groups for Early Decision admits, so take advantage of the opportunity and join them. Check the page out from time to time and post occasionally (although when posting, make sure to follow HC’s tips for pre-collegiette Facebook etiquette!). You might find people on Facebook that you have a lot in common with and choose to start a dialogue with them. By the time it’s move-in day, you might even know enough about each other to strike up a friendship. If you really hit it off with someone on Facebook, you may even want to request each other as roommates, something that most colleges allow. However, before making this decision, be sure to think about it carefully—the way people present themselves on Facebook isn’t always the way they are in real life.
Use Facebook to gain familiarity with your new classmates. You might also warrant a friend request from a creeper or two—but hey, it’s Facebook, what else is new?
4. Visit campus (again)
Hopefully you’ve visited your dream school before sending in a binding application, but if you haven’t, this should be on the top of your list. If you’ve already toured your school, it’s worthwhile to go again and maybe even spend the night. Think of it this way: before, you were just a high school senior checking out prospective colleges, but now, you’re officially a member of the Class of 2017. By now, you should have a pretty good idea about the type of campus it is (rural, urban, suburban) and how the surrounding area affects campus life, but there are other little things for which you should look. Read the bulletin boards and flyers around campus—it’s a quick and easy way to get a glimpse of what’s going on outside of the classroom and to see what clubs are still active. Although most colleges have a list of student organizations online, they’re not always updated regularly to add new clubs and remove those that are no longer active. Flyers and bulletin boards give you a look into what’s really going on on campus.
Call beforehand to see if you can visit while a class is in session, especially if you think you know what you want to study. Checking out an intro level course is ideal, since they’re what you’ll be taking freshman year and they’re your introduction to a course of study. If you absolutely hate the intro material, it may be a sign that that major is not right for you. Most importantly, walk around the campus, get a feel for the vibe, and find places that you feel comfortable in. Of course, most of your real exploring won’t happen until you actually move in, but another campus visit is most definitely a productive way to use your time.
A second campus visit is also a good time to talk to students on campus, especially current freshmen. Ask around to get the scoop on which freshman dorms are best, which things are must-haves or are better left at home, and what to expect from orientation and your first week on campus. This is also a good time to get answers about any of your doubts. If you’ve heard that the social life on campus is dull, the best way to find out if this is true is to ask students. Asking current students about life on campus is by far the best way to get the most out of a campus visit. If you absolutely can't visit campus, go to the next best source for insider info, the Pre-Collegiette Guide.
5. Keep doing your homework
Don’t kid yourself—senioritis is not just some myth; it’s the real deal. Once you’ve already got in to your dream school, it’s super easy to just clock out for the rest of the year, stop doing your homework, and quit studying for tests. But be warned: when you accept an early decision offer of admission, the university will maintain the right to rescind your acceptance should the quality of your academic performance sharply decline. It’s not an empty threat. Make sure to keep on top of your schoolwork and maintain your grades. You might not have to uphold a perfect 4.0 anymore, but your grades definitely still matter.
When you get into your first choice college early decision, it’s easy to think that it’s all over—but really, a whole new chapter of your life is just beginning. It’s important to put the right amount of effort into prepping for you new life, and our list is just what you need to start!