Are you going to attend university next fall? You probably have many things in mind to do before you go. But there are some major things to do that many college students don't even think of:
1. Master the academic calendar. Most colleges have their academic calendar online, and it's worth checking out when classes start and end and when finals start and end-along with the dates of those all-important vacations. And now's the time to make sure Mom and Dad don't schedule the big family reunion （or trip or wedding） smack in the middle of finals. In fact, don't plan for any extra activities the last month of the semester, when the workload really piles up.
Extra pointer: Now would be a really good time to familiarize yourself with calendar software for your PC or Mac. Keeping an electronic calendar is enormously helpful in remembering test dates, due dates for papers, appointments with professors-not to mention frat parties. Some of the best programs include Google and Yahoo Calendar, AirSet, 30 Boxes, and Contactizer （for Mac）。 Also check out your cellphone or PDA-you'll never miss a deadline when your schedule is in your pocket or purse.
2. Get to orientation-and fast. Most colleges hold orientation sessions during the summer （sometimes as early as June）， and it behooves you to attend if at all possible. Orientation will help you avoid “disorientation” when you finally arrive, and you'll get a lot of bureaucratic formalities out of the way so you don't have to deal with them when classes start. At many colleges, orientation also includes registering for courses for the fall semester. If your school is one of these, make sure to get to the earliest session possible to avoid being “closed out” of the more desirable courses. Often there are slim pickings by the time that last orientation session rolls around.
3. Get a laptop. If you don't already have a computer, now's the time to get one to take with you to the big U. And to get it loaded up with all the software you will need at college-word processing, backup software, antivirus and antispyware software, as well as any specific programs you might need in the kinds of courses you're hoping to take （accounting, spreadsheets, Arabic or Chinese, or whatever）。 Note for artsy types: Many art-related fields require Mac platforms （on the other hand, it might not pay off to pretend to be artsy if you're going into a field that works entirely on PCs）。 And it's worth asking what particular software the school supports: Some colleges help you with Word but not WordPerfect; some with Adobe Creative Suites but not Quark Express.
Four-star tip: Don't buy from the campus computer store without considering all the alternatives. Sometimes colleges get bang-up educational discounts from major manufacturers, but sometimes better deals are available at big-box stores （Best Buy, Circuit City） or from online vendors （MacMall, Dell）。
4. Think about what courses to take. It's always a good idea to peruse the college website to see what subjects might interest you. Pay special attention to not only what you liked and did well at in high school but also new things you might want to learn about （at UCLA, for example, there are 346 departments and programs）。 And for a glimpse at what's actually being taught in the fall-not just what's been taught in the whole history of the university-be sure to consult the “schedule of classes” （rather than the university “course catalog”）。 And be forewarned of the “major trap”: Many schools try to shoehorn you into a major （rather than letting you remain “undeclared”） right when you come in. Unless you're 100 percent positively, absolutely, I'd-swear-on-my-mother's-grave certain of what you want to concentrate in, stick to a broad variety of courses that actually interest you.
5. Get on top of the requirements. Don't show up at college totally clueless about what you have to take-either for the core （or general education） requirements or for particular majors you might have in the back of your mind. All this info is usually readily available-often in incredible detail and with checklists, flowcharts, and other details-at the college website. And while you're at it, you might have a look at what the college considers its standard first-year program-including those “first-year （or freshman） experience” courses that colleges have just started to develop.
6. Research available resources. Colleges are rich places with many, many support services to help students flourish. These might include the writing center （to help with paper writing）； the learning center （to help you with analytic and study skills）； the tutoring center （for when you're one step from the abyss）； the center for students with disabilities; and the centers for nontraditional students, for returning students, for first-generation students, for international students, and for veterans. Whatever you need-or are-there's a place to go.
Five-star tip: Some colleges set up Web-based forums where incoming students can get to know one another before arriving. This is a very good thing to do-you arrive with friends already. You may also be able to get to know your roommate and coordinate who's bringing the stereo and who's going to sleep where. If there's no forum, the college may be able to give you your roommate's E-mail address （or name, which you may be able to use to find an E-mail address, perhaps on MySpace or Facebook）。
7. Read a book about college success. Of course, we're quite fond of our book, the Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College. Other good reads include Cal Newport's two books, How to Win at College and How to Become a Straight-A Student, and the Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen.
And finally, a tip about what not to do the summer before college.
8. Don't preread the reading. Many incoming students think they can get a leg up by doing the reading in advance of the semester. This usually isn't too good an idea. Typically, professors don't assign all the book. Often the professor expects that the reading will be integrated with the lectures and discussion sections-you're supposed to read small chunks of the text in conjunction with what the prof or TA explains. But most important-if you do all the reading the summer before college, you'll be so burned out by the time you get to the semester that you won't have the strength to really go to college. Give it a rest.