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Time between the end of high school and the beginning of college

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There is a usually a gap of about three months between the end of high school and the beginning of college (this is assuming that you are not taking a gap year).

Alternate sources

General sources

Source Best links
Quora What are some good ways for a just graduated high schooler to spend the summer before college?

Ways that this time is unusual

  • This is a unique life stage transition between two very different modes of life: high school, where you are (typically) living with your parents and following a relatively rigid and well-defined curriculum, and college, where you are (typically) living in a college dorm or apartment with other similarly aged people and have considerable flexibility in both academic and life matters. There are only a few other such major transitions: when you start a full time job, when you get married, when you have children.
  • The time period of three months is fairly substantial. It's rare to get such a long time period in life where you aren't required or socially expected to do any specific piece of work, accrue credentials, or signal anything specific. You've already gotten into college, you're done with your high school work, and it's too early to start accruing college credit (though that might be possible, as discussed in the suggestions below). Also, since you are likely to still be living with your parents or others who are supporting your basic living costs, you probably don't have the stress of meeting finances (though you may still wish to take on jobs for other reasons).

Possible categories of activities to engage in

  • Get a head start on college (academically and otherwise) by physically going to a college campus, enrolling in summer preparatory programs, learning more about the college life and classes online, or preparing for placement tests or the first year of college courses.
  • Use the time to learn about a range of topics of general value, including some that may not be directly relevant to college academics.
  • Use the time to start building your online presence: See more at maintaining your online presence, join Quora, and using Facebook effectively.
  • Engage in a side project that benefits from a few months of concentrated effort -- effort you may be unlikely to make later. Some examples might be extensive travel, writing a book, designing a website, and creating physical gadgets.

Getting a head start on college

Moving in to your college campus early

Some colleges offer summer programs for incoming undergraduates, and you may stay on campus while you partake of these programs. Attending these programs can help you acclimatize to some aspects of college life early on, get to know older students and professors before the other undergraduates arrive, and brush up your academic skills.

Some points to note:

  • The particular college you're joining may not have any summer programs that meet your needs. Perhaps they have summer programs, but these are meant more as remedial programs rather than for people who want to accelerate further.
  • The summer programs may not be free.
  • College campuses have a relatively low general level of activity in the summer, and many people aren't around on campus. This could be good (because you get to interact with graduate students and professors without a crowd distracting you) or bad (many of the people you want to interact with aren't around).

If the college you're attending happens to be within commuting distance of your residence, you may consider visiting it occasionally over the summer to get to know the campus, older students, and professors more. If you have interest in and advanced knowledge of particular subjects, you may be able to connect with people studying that subject.

Experiencing another college campus

If you are within commuting distance of a college campus, or are visiting a friend or relative who is at or close to a college campus, you might want to experience that, even if it's different from the college that you'll go to. This gives you a better sense of what college is like in general. Further, you might be able to make connections with students and professors in another college. For the same reasons as above, don't get your hopes high.

Studying for college classes and placement tests

Further information: College placement tests, College course dependencies

Some colleges accept credit for Advanced Placement (AP) and IB tests you took at the end of your school year. Others, however, require you to take on-campus placement tests in order to get credit for material you already know or to place into honors courses. In some cases, colleges allow a combination: you can get some credit from AP or IB scores, but taking placement tests can improve your chances.

A relatively small fraction of students study hard for the placement tests (compared to how hard they study for AP and IB tests). Thus, even studying a bit may give you an advantage on these tests. It's worth noting that the format and question types on the placement tests could be quite different from the AP and IB tests. It's therefore advisable that you closely read the syllabus and guidelines for the placement test.

In general, the best way to prepare for the placement tests is to master the material in the college classes that the test allows you to place out of. You can do this by self-studying the material. For instance, consider our single-variable calculus learning recommendations for acquiring a thorough knowledge of single-variable calculus. Combine that with a quick reading of the syllabus for the test to make sure you've covered all topics, and you're probably well-prepared. (If you still don't get through, it probably means you'd benefit from taking the class).

Learning topics of general value

See our learning portal page for information in this realm.