Soaking Up the Summer Before College

May 20, 2024
Jasmine Hao

Now that school is starting to wrap up for many high school students, I wanted to share some tips for enjoying your summer which are especially relevant to incoming first years, who we also refer to as pre-frosh.


If I had to summarize my first year at Princeton in one phrase, it would be, time flies! It can be hard to enjoy the stage of life you’re currently in, especially as you anticipate the next step in your life, but remember that you will never be exactly where you are right now again. Whether you are in the summer before Grade 12, the summer before a gap year or the summer before college, try to soak it all in for what it is. I remember feeling a mix of nervousness and anticipation about heading to Princeton in the fall and most of all, not knowing what to expect. If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to admissions bloggers (I am always an email away!), your summer engagement coordinator, who you will hear from in June, or any friends, alumni from your high school, or students from your hometown who attended Princeton. I know I had many questions about travel, logistics and packing, but I also found it exciting to wait and find out for myself what Princeton was like academically and socially.


The sun setting over a field of yellow canola flowers with grass in the foreground and trees in the distance
Dusk by a canola field, taken during a bonfire with young adults from my home church


Enjoy your time at home without the pressure of school. It may be a long time before most of your friends and potentially all your siblings are in the same place again, so hang out with your friends at your favorite places, take fun pictures to put on your dorm wall, and enjoy some quality time and your favorite home-cooked meals with your family. It’s hard to maintain regular contact with more than a few people once everyone goes separate ways, so I always enjoy spending time with friends from junior high and high school when I go home.


Myself, my dad and my sister standing on rocks at the edge of a lake with snowy mountains in the background
(From left to right) Myself, my dad and my sister in front of the always-stunning Lake Louise in my home province of Alberta, Canada


Photos and postcards on two white walls
The photos in my first year dorm. If you look at the top right hand corner, you’ll see the previous photo!


It can be very exciting to begin preparing for college by buying a lot of new things, but speaking from experience, you will accumulate a lot more than you would expect over the course of one year here! I arrived with two suitcases and a backpack, and I now have an additional six bags and eight boxes of varying sizes as well as some loose ends like a fan and drying rack in my possession (in my defense, a lot of it is bedding, textbooks and cooking utensils). It is stressful and time-consuming to pack and store all of your belongings for the summer, and you would be surprised how much you can buy from students and sales once you get here. Do your best to limit how many new things you buy and bring with you—your future self will thank you!

Consider writing a letter to your future self! This is something I wanted but forgot to do the summer before starting college and now it’s a little difficult to remember exactly how I was feeling (see #1). I wrote a letter to myself as part of the orientation activities at my United World College, a two-year international boarding school, and it was interesting to see how my experience differed from my expectations and realize how much I had learned and grown over the course of just one year. You could open the letter after your first year or at graduation by having someone hold onto it for you, putting it in a specific place and putting a reminder in your calendar to open it at a certain time, or having it emailed to you using a website like FutureMe.

Read for pleasure. The summer is a great time to get a lot of reading in, especially if there are books you have been wanting to read for a long time or if you just want to expand your horizons. I love reading, so it was something I missed once I began college and it was much harder to find the time. Thankfully, I read at least one book a month during my first year as a member of the Asian American Student Association’s book club. My favorite out of the books we read was Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. Hannah Lee, one of my Community Action leaders and my PUMP mentor, recommended that I read Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, and I read it in one day when I came back to Princeton at the end of winter break. I highly recommend reading it after spending some time in Princeton because you will recognize the buildings and some of the traditions mentioned!


Covers of five books: Crying in H Mart, A Place for Us, Minor Feelings, Afterparties, Skinship
The books we read in the Asian American Student Association Book Club during my first year


On a similar note, do the things you love! Whether that is running, dancing, crocheting, cooking, playing an instrument, or something else entirely, it might be difficult to engage in your hobbies as frequently at college. That said, I have managed to do all of those activities and more through Princeton’s over 400 student groups, my co-op2D, and awesome Wintersession offerings.


Me, a girl wearing a black sweater and black pants, standing on a mountain looking out at a lake and mountain range
Enjoying one of my favorite activities, hiking, at Lake Louise


Me, a girl wearing a black tank top and black leggings, doing a split jump in a sunroom
Dancing on a summer evening


I hope your school year ends on a good note, and congratulations to graduating high school students! We cannot wait to see you in the fall, and in the meantime, I hope you have a restful summer. I am always available at the email in my blogger bio to answer questions or if you have any blog topic requests.