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The Summer Before College Checklist

Last updated July 10, 2024

After committing to a college at the end of your senior year, there are still a few important tasks to take care of during the summer to ensure that you have a smooth transition to school in the fall. It’s important to understand that throughout your time in college, you will need to take initiative and advocate for yourself frequently, and the summer before starting is a great time to build those skills while making sure everything is in place to start school. This may sound intimidating, but with the right support and guidance, you can check these items off your list with confidence and peace of mind!

In this article, we break down the things you’ll need to complete this summer and help you work through any obstacles that may come up to ensure you’re on the right track. Follow the steps below!

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Access your online student portal

Think of your college’s online portal as the control center of your college career. This portal allows you to do many essential things as a college student– like access your email, register for classes, pay your tuition bill, check in on the progress of your credits and degree, and so much more.

After enrolling in your college, you will be emailed specific instructions on how to set up your student portal. Be sure to take some time to click around the portal, familiarizing yourself with each of the resources and how to access them when needed.

If you didn’t receive an email about how to access your student portal, check your spam folder for any emails you might have missed from your college. If you still can’t find any information, contact your college’s IT department (they should have an email and phone number designated for student questions) and ask about your login credentials to your student portal.

Set up your college email

In college, email will be your primary form of communication. Over email, you will receive things like updates from professors, campus-wide updates, appointment confirmations with your academic advisor, the academic success center, or the career center, invitations to study groups from your classmates, and so much more.

After setting up your student portal, you’ll be able to set up your college email account. While your email address will be assigned to you by your college, you will be able to update your password. When you set up your account, be sure to read the emails that are waiting for you in your inbox. They’ll most likely just be welcome emails from your new college, but as the start of the school year approaches, you will begin receiving emails about registering for and attending orientation, registering for classes, meeting with your academic advisor, and moving into your dorm (if you plan to live on campus). Be sure to check your college email frequently during the summer so you don’t miss anything!

If you’re having trouble accessing or getting your email set up, check the spam folder on your personal email for any messages you might have missed from your college. If you still can’t find any information, contact your college’s IT department and ask about your login credentials to your new email.

Take care of financial aid action items


To make sure you’re receiving all the financial aid available to you, make sure that your FAFSA has been completed and processed, and that your school has sent you your financial aid award letter, which breaks down all of your college expenses for the upcoming year and details the types of financial aid you're eligible to receive.

Still haven’t completed the FAFSA? It’s not too late!

Change in financial circumstances appeal form

If you didn't receive enough financial aid from your college, or if your family’s financial situation has changed within the last two years, you can request another review of your financial aid offer by completing a change in financial circumstances appeal form. We recommend completing this as soon as possible before starting your first term of college.

Tuition payment

In your student portal, you will likely be able to see when your first tuition payment is due. If you are receiving financial aid (like grants, loans, and scholarships), it will be credited directly to your student account. You will be responsible for paying any remaining balance. Any money left over after your tuition and fees have been accounted for will be given to you as a refund. This leftover money can be used for school-related expenses like books, transportation, or housing. Some schools may not let you register for classes or orientation until you’ve paid your tuition, so be sure to take care of this as soon as possible.

If you need support or have any questions about taking care of your financial aid, call or email an advisor at your college's financial aid office. They can help you understand the aid that's been awarded to you, identify what your gaps in aid are (if any), and connect you to resources that may be able to help. 

Register for orientation

You’ll most likely receive information about orientation in your new college email, so be sure to check your inbox frequently over the summer. Orientation is an important element of transitioning to college. During this time, you’ll become familiar with your campus and surrounding community, learn about important on-campus resources, make friends, and possibly even register for classes.

If you don’t receive any information about orientation, be sure to check the spam folder of both your personal and college emails. If you still can’t find anything, you can either Google “your school + new student orientation” or call someone in the admissions office to learn more about registering.

If you’re unable to make it to orientation, be sure to reach out to your college to let them know. While orientation is mandatory for most colleges, many of them understand that some students may not be able to make it and may have alternative options available (like virtual or make-up orientation). Make sure to let your college know as soon as possible, since things like placement tests, getting your school ID, and registering for classes typically happen during orientation.

Finalize your housing

Whether you plan to live on or off-campus, summer is the time to finalize your housing plans for the upcoming school year. While there are a few different types of housing options available to college students, be sure you're aware of your school’s housing requirements for first-year students. Many schools will require students to live in dorms if they are under 18 or 19 or are attending school from out of state. Make sure you understand what your options are before researching and finalizing your plans.

If you plan to live on campus, you will likely need to submit a few things:

  • A survey about your lifestyle preferences (e.g. if you’re an early riser or night owl or whether you're strict about keeping your space tidy or don’t mind a bit of mess) so you can be placed in an appropriate dorm with a roommate who shares your preferences.
  • A deposit that locks down your spot in your new dorm.
  • Waiver(s)/contract(s) you must sign before moving in.

Different schools will require you to complete and submit different types of materials, so be sure to check your student portal to learn more about what you’ll need.

If you lock down a spot in a house or apartment off-campus, you will likely need to take care of a few things:

  • Sign your lease or sublease.
  • Make your arrangements to move in: who will help you, what you’ll need to move in, how long you expect it to take, etc.
  • Calculate your total cost of living (rent, groceries, utilities, etc.) to ensure you’ll be able to consistently afford it for the year.
  • Talk with your new roommate(s) about things like chores, paying bills on time, lifestyle expectations, or house rules to make sure you're on the same page.

If your off-campus housing plans fall through during the summer, we recommend acting quickly to find a new living situation, as apartments and spaces in houses can fill up fast. Many colleges have student-run Facebook groups where students and alumni can look for a place to live and post any open spots in their house or apartment. Be sure to start your search in these types of groups. 

A woman wearing a black backpack stands outside and looks down at her phone - The Summer Before College Checklist

Complete your placement tests

Some colleges may require incoming students to take placement tests before registering for classes. These tests, which are usually divided into math, reading, and writing sections, are used to determine which classes you will be placed into during your first term or year of college. If you have AP exam credit or received a particular score on the SAT or ACT, you may be able to place out of certain classes in college. Be sure to talk to your academic advisor about how to submit your proof of AP credit or SAT and ACT scores to your school.

If you can’t find any information about taking placement tests, or are having trouble registering for them, be sure to talk to your academic advisor as soon as possible. These tests are meant to be completed before the start of the school year, so it’s important to take them ASAP.

Check your college's healthcare policy

Most schools or states require students to have healthcare while enrolled in college. Some states, on the other hand, like Washington, do not require students to have healthcare, but highly recommend it. Check in with your school’s admissions office to learn if having insurance is a requirement to be enrolled. If you’re on your family’s health insurance plan, you can stay on it until you’re 26.

If you don’t have health insurance, your school might have a campus plan that you can purchase, or can help you explore coverage offered in local state Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces or through Medicaid. Talk to a parent or guardian, as well as your school’s admissions office and health services center, to explore your options so you can make the best decision for your situation.

Submit any other necessary documents

Be sure to submit any and all other required paperwork and documentation to your college, like your final high school transcript and proof of immunizations. These forms are usually mandatory to submit before you register for or start classes, so try to take care of this as soon as possible. If you’re unsure of what else you need, ask someone in your college's admissions office. 

Request accommodations

College students with disabilities are entitled by law to access reasonable accommodations. If you need accommodations in college, it's essential to know that you must take the initiative to request them yourself. This can usually be done through your college's disability resource center, an office dedicated to supporting students in accessing accommodations and advocating for them to ensure those accommodations are implemented in academic settings. Before starting classes, check in with your school’s disability resource center to learn the specific process of requesting accommodations and start early, as it can sometimes take up to a month for them to be approved.

If your accommodations are denied, speak to someone in the disability resource center as soon as possible with your academic advisor looped in. You can have a conversation about your non-negotiable needs and find a solution that works best for you.

Contact your new college counselor or advisor

Summer is a great time to introduce yourself to your college counselor or advisor; they’re usually assigned to you the summer before starting college and are there to support your throughout your entire college career! They can help support you as you register for orientation and classes, point you in the direction of important campus resources, and answer any questions that come up along the way. It can feel a bit intimidating to reach out to them at first, but remember that their job is to support you and they want to get to know you! If you are unsure of who your academic advisor is, send an email to the general academic advising center of your college and let them know you'd like to request an appointment with your academic advisor. They will point you in the right direction.

Have any questions or need any support as you make your way through the summer before college checklist? Text #College to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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