Prepare Over the Summer to Attend an American College

Keep practicing English and talk to other international students the summer before you get to campus.

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International students should brush up on English language skills and study a campus map before coming to the U.S.
International students should brush up on English language skills and study a campus map before coming to the U.S.

Many of you may have already received admissions decisions from the colleges where you applied. After months of anticipation, your American dream is no longer far away.

You now want to rest, yet still be productive during this time – the period after the application process but before your actual flight. Consider taking the following steps so you don't waste this golden opportunity to get yourself ready for a bright adventure as an international student.

1. Keep practicing English: An acceptance to an American school does not mean that you can be satisfied with your current English level. You will soon realize that the English you learn to score well on the TOEFL and SAT tests is not enough to help you get involved comfortably in American social and academic life.

The good news is that after TOEFL and SAT prep courses or long days doing practice tests are over, you can take this time to learn English in your own way.

Challenge yourself to watch your favorite American movies or TV shows without subtitles, remember the lyrics of a different English song every day or every week, translate a beloved poem or start reading the daily news in English. More than learning the language, you will also get a sense of the culture and have some cool things to share with your future friends in the U.S.

[Learn ways to help yourself adjust to U.S. college life.]

2. Reach out to your new fellow students: Who isn't excited to be moving into a dorm room and be independent of parents? To make sure you will have a great first year, get to know your future roommates as soon as you are notified about room assignments. You can start sharing information about yourself and your study plans and make plans for your dorm room.

Usually you are provided with the name and email addresses of your roommates so that everyone can contact each other. Otherwise, you can try to find them on Facebook or join the Facebook pages of your dorm or of the freshman class.

There might also be some other students from your country going to the same school – try to find them, maybe through the admissions office, online forums or Facebook groups. If you find international students who are upperclassmen you can ask about their experiences.

Your fellow students might be the closest thing to your country and your home that you'll have for a while, and you'll be able to share your travel information. A friend of mine actually booked airplane tickets with other international students, so they won't be alone at the airport before stepping into the states.

[Discover how U.S., international students can make friends.]

3. Explore your campus map and the surrounding area: It will take you quite some time to get used to the new school environment, so if you have not already done so, go take a good look at the campus map. If possible, take a virtual tour of the campus, which could be available on the college's website.

Doing so will help you become familiar with the surroundings, and help you plan routes to classes or around campus. Moreover, that might turn your excitement about going to this new place into something useful.

If you are a fan of tea or book shops, you can start looking online for some potential destinations for your free time. On a larger scale, you can even start to think about taking trips to nearby tourist attractions.

[Get tips on exploring the U.S. as an international student.]

4. Explore your hometown or native country before you regret not doing so: Going to college means you will spend at least four years – give or take – away from your country. You might have some vacations and come back to visit, but most of the time you will be far away from where you grew up.

Before you head to the U.S., take some time to explore your own town or country and see what you may have missed during your first 18 years of life. You might be surprised by the many great things around you waiting to be discovered.

One way to do this is to simply take a road trip around the region or country in which you live with friends or family members. Any time or along the way take a lot of photos of you enjoying your life back at home – those might be a great source for creative dorm wall decorations!

5. Don't let your mom pack your suitcase: You can listen to her advice, but learn to pack suitcases by yourself. Not only will you learn to decide what to bring and not to bring, but you also will gradually feel the excitement of preparing for a big adventure abroad. Your mother may know best, but you will not be with her all the time, so be prepared.

You can start this packing process by creating your own checklist. A little research on YouTube and Google will help you figure out what you should bring and how to pack those things wisely. Listening to advice from other students from your country who study abroad is also a wise idea.

Mai-Linh Bui, from Vietnam, is a junior at Drexel University, studying Communications, French and International Area Studies.