Did you know that anywhere between 10%-40% of students who are intending to go to college—that have even been accepted and paid their deposits—still don’t make it to campus in the fall? This happens for many reasons, one being that even though you’re accepted, there is still a bit of work to do before actually making it to college. First-gen students are particularly at risk for this phenomenon (which is often called “summer melt”) for a number of reasons including lack of knowledge, preparation, and loss of support from their high school counselors.
We’ve developed this helpful checklist to keep seniors from “summer melt” and get them onto the campus of the colleges that will help them succeed. Whether you’re working with a counselor from a community-based organization or you are doing it on your own, we recommend you use these steps as a guide to help you stay on track. Keep in mind, depending on your situation and the college you’ll be attending, the checklist may be a little different form student to student.
Commit to a college and hold your place.
After you’ve carefully considered important factors like academics, financial aid, and campus culture, make your decision as to which college to attend in the fall. Send in your acceptance letter, deposit, and any other materials the college requires. This might include housing forms, a separate financial aid acceptance letter, or other materials to make sure you’ve got a spot in the fall.
After you’ve accepted a school’s offer, it’s also a good practice to let other colleges you’ve been accepted to know you won’t be attending. This helps out students are on the school’s waiting list, and allows a school to disperse your share of financial aid to other students.
Sign up for any special programs for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students in the summer.
Depending on your college, there may be special programs that allow first-gen, low-income and underrepresented students the opportunity to experience the campus and learn more about certain support systems the school offers. We highly recommend students who qualify for these programs to attend them, so check with your college to see if any are available. These are often free, and in some cases you’ll get to head to campus early or get preferential housing.
Familiarize yourself with the course catalog and create a list of classes you’re interested in.
Each college will have a course catalog, or list of courses that are offered each semester. Your first year, you may have a lot of required classes to take, but coming up with a strategy as to how to tackle them can help you out in the long run. Some students prefer taking all their hard classes early, while others prefer to ease into college and take just one or two difficult classes per semester.
Additionally, depending on the type of school you’ll be attending, the demand for popular classes or certain class times may cause them fill up quickly—come up with backup class lists so you’re not stuck with holes in your schedule.
Plan ahead for your transition to campus.
Whether you’re living on or off campus, or even if you’re staying at home, transitioning to college involves planning ahead. If you’ll be moving, prepare for any financial obligations involved such as transportation or stuff for your dorm or apartment. If you’ll be commuting from home, things like parking passes can be more expensive or difficult to get than you might expect.
Other than finances, figuring out when you’ll be able to move into your campus housing, what you’ll bring, and other logistics can help get you ready for your shift to from high school student to college student. If you’re living on-campus, ask your college’s housing offices for any packing checklists or other resources they may have for first-year students making the move from home for the first time.
Sign up for and attend first-year orientation.
Orientation is one of the most important—and usually required–steps to getting to college. When you sign up, you’ll usually get to choose from a few different dates and sometimes you’ll have to pay an orientation fee that covers the costs of meals and an overnight stay. For other schools, orientation coincides with on-campus move-in days.
At orientation, you will get a tour of campus, participate in social events, and meet other students as well as your advisors, staff and faculty. You’ll also do things like get your student ID, get financial aid office information, and learn more about the campus culture. What’s most important for many students, however, is that you’ll probably also sign up for classes at orientation.
Don’t “melt” this summer, get yourself to campus! Following these steps is just the beginning—make sure to check with your college and any counselors to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to successfully become a first-year college student in the fall!