Summer Before College a Summer of Decisions: Academic Decisions

This is the first of three posts about decisions new college students may face during the summer before freshman year.  As a college parent, you can help your student consider some of these important issues.  This post looks at some academic decisions students may face.  The next two posts will discuss student life decisions and financial decisions.


Your student has been accepted to college and made the choice of which college to attend.  You’ve paid the deposit and your student is now happily, if somewhat nervously, connecting with new friends on Facebook as she prepares to head off to college at the end of the summer.  You may be feeling relief that the decisions are over and you can all settle in for the ride.

It may not be that easy.  The summer before freshman year of college is still a time of many decisions for both you and your soon-to-be college student.  Some of the decisions will be easy, some may have been discussed previously, and some may take you by surprise.  Being prepared for making some of these decisions will help both you and your student anticipate some of the issues that might arise.

It is natural for both you and your student to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the number of things that you need to think about and prepare during this busy summer.  You don’t need to tackle everything all at once.  But starting now, and making some decisions early, will help both you and your student feel more in control of this transition process.

We hope that you and your student will think about some of these issues — and follow the links for further reading.

Some early academic decisions your student may face

  • One of the first decisions you may need to consider is whether or not your student (and you) will attend a Summer Orientation.  Some schools hold Orientation sessions throughout the summer and others hold Orientation closer to the beginning of the school year.  Some schools require students to attend and other schools may simply recommend attendance.  If it is optional, you and your student will need to consider whether or not they (and you) will attend.  (Read more about Summer Orientation)
  • Your student may have the opportunity to sign-up for a Learning Community at their school.  Learning Communities may vary by school, but are often linked classes with a particular theme.  Some schools have created Living/Learning Communities, where all of the students taking a particular set of classes also live together in the same Residence Hall.  Learning Communities provide interesting, themed, academic approaches, but they aren’t for everyone.  (Read more about Learning Communities)
  • Your student may need to think about whether or not to declare a major as they enter college.  Some schools require students to declare a major at the time that they apply, and other schools may allow students in some majors to wait until the end of sophomore year before declaring their major.  There are advantages to getting started in a major early and there are advantages for some students in waiting to investigate before committing. (Read more about declaring a major.)
  • As the reality of heading off to college draws closer, many students have second thoughts.  It is a natural reaction to facing a new life and new challenges.  For some students, however, for personal, family, or financial reasons, the idea of waiting a year to begin college may make sense.  Your student may need to face a decision of whether or not to defer enrollment.  It is an important decision, and your student may need to weigh the options.  (Read more about deferred enrollment.)
  • If your student decides to defer enrollment, the year between high school and college becomes a gap year.  Your student will need to decide what to do with this extra year.  Your student may choose to travel, enroll in a formal gap year program, do community service or work at a job to save money for tuition.  (Read more about a gap year.)
  • Your student may have the option of participating in a Summer Bridge Program to strengthen some academic skills and prepare for the freshman year transition.  (Read more about Bridge programs.)
  • Your student will probably have the opportunity over the summer to choose a schedule of classes for fall semester.  They may receive guidance from an academic advisor, or may be on their own to understand the curriculum and make wise decisions about appropriate courses.  (Read more about course schedules.)

As your student prepares to head off to college, they have several important decisions to make that will affect their experiences during the freshman year.  As a college parent, this may be a good time to remind yourself that these decisions will need to be your student’s, since they will need to live with the consequences.  Your student will still need your input and advice, but try to let your student make the final decisions.  This may be the first of many, many opportunities you will have in the next few years to coach your student from the sidelines.


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