What You Should Do the Summer Before College

Resources to help you pay for college.

You’ve received your offer of admission from colleges and universities where you’ve applied. You’ve completed the FAFSA® and any other financial aid forms, applied for financial aid, and received financial aid offers. So now you’re wondering: What happens the summer before college begins? There are a few additional steps you need to complete over the summer to ensure you’re ready for college in the fall.

We’ve put together this summer checklist to help you get started.

First-Year Students

If this is your first year in college, you’ll need to complete a few additional steps.

Review Financial Aid Offers and Make a Decision

You may have already tenatively chosen a college, but make sure you’ve factoring  cost, academics, and school culture, among other factors. An important first step is reviewing your financial aid offers and comparing all options before deciding where to go.

Once you’ve decided on a college, you may need to pay an admission deposit to secure your place in the incoming freshmen class. Many colleges consider the amount and type of financial aid you may receive when determining if an admission deposit is required and may waive this fee. Tuition deposits apply toward your tuition and fee bill. Your admission office can provide more information about admission deposits and any steps you may need to take to secure your offer of admission. National College Decision Day is typically May 1, a date when most colleges require students to commit to attending their institution. Deadlines may vary based on your admission application plan and the college or university’s policies.

Student IDs and Student Portals

Once you’ve decided where to enroll, it’s important to ensure you understand the primary way your college or university will communicate with you. Most colleges provide you with a student ID or student account, a university email address, and access to a student portal. Colleges use student portals to give you essential information in one place—including financial aid, transcripts, tuition/fee bills, and even registration for classes. Typically, your admission office will provide you with instructions about your student ID and how to access your student portal. Make sure your contact information is up to date since your college will communicate with you there. You should review your college’s online student portal frequently and complete any required actions.

Register and Attend Orientation

Colleges typically host an orientation in the summer for all incoming students. Orientation supports new students in the transition to college, providing opportunities to connect with the campus, faculty, staff, and fellow students. You may also be introduced to your academic advisor and complete the registration process during this campus visit. Check with your college to see when your orientation will be and what materials you’ll need to bring.

Prepare to Pay Your College Tuition Bill 

The tuition bill shows all the expenses a college charges each term, including things like tuition and fees, housing, and a meal plan (if you're going to live on campus). You should review your financial aid offer and cost of attendance and familiarize yourself with which charges are paid directly to the college. You should also check to see if there are any costs that can be waived, such as health insurance provided by the college. Many personal health insurance plans can be used instead of the college’s health insurance.

There are other costs you should consider in addition to those your college will bill you for directly. These costs are often called indirect expenses. Indirect expenses can include textbooks, a computer, transportation, supplies, off-campus food, and entertainment. These expenses can add up, so it’s important to create a budget when preparing to pay for college.

Accept Financial Aid and Complete Loan Requirements

Your college may require you to accept or decline certain financial aid such as loans. This is typically done on the student portal, so be sure to check for any required actions. If you’re accepting loans for the first time, you’ll be required to complete entrance counseling and submit a Master Promissory Note (sometimes referred to as MPN).

Loan counseling is an online course provided by Federal Student Aid that helps students understand the implications of borrowing loans. The Master Promissory Note is a legally binding document where you, the borrower, agree to repay your student loans. If you receive and accept a loan, your college will provide more details about how to secure these funds.

Pay Remaining Balance

If you still owe the college a balance after all financial aid has been applied to your bill, your college will provide payment details for this balance. It’s important to pay close attention to payment due dates and deadlines. There are a few ways you can cover a remaining balance.

One option may be a payment plan, an interest-free plan that splits the remaining bill into monthly payments. Many colleges offer payment plans through the bursar’s office, student accounts, or student financial services office.

A Direct PLUS Loan (commonly referred to as a Parent PLUS Loan) may be another option. Repaying this loan is the parents’ sole responsibility, and they must apply to be approved for the PLUS loan.

Contact your financial aid office to ensure you’ve maximized your financial aid options and to discuss ways to cover your remaining balance.