Live off campus with friends. Living on campus is a great way to make friends your first year at school and eases the transition from home. You don’t have to clean your bathroom or make your own meals and you get to live with your classmates. However, as a third or fourth year, living in a house with friends sounds ideal. I can imagine cooking dinner at night and sitting on the porch in the evenings doing readings together; it would be lovely.
Study abroad. Between high school and college I took a gap year through Global Citizen Year and lived in Senegal for eight months. The program was oriented towards cultural immersion rather than education per se. Since then I’ve been itching to go abroad again. I would love to spend my third year in another country studying.
Be an SA. Getting involved is important in high school, but somehow feels more significant in college. SA stands for Student Advisor at Grinnell. They are the two 4th years assigned to each dorm floor who are in charge of the residents on that floor. But unlike other schools, they’re not disciplinary. They’re just there to help in any way you need and make you pancakes on Sunday mornings.
Have a meaningful summer internship. Internships allow you to experience the work market in an impermanent, less scary way than your first post-graduation job. You get to test out what you might be interested in pursuing down the line, but whether you like it or not, it only lasts a few months.
Visit a friend at his/her school. Why not visit your friends where they go to school? Colleges are not all the same. It will help you to understand what environment they’re experiencing and for you to put your perspective on your school into context.
Play a sport. I miss playing tennis. I played in high school and then didn’t play over my gap year because, well, Senegal doesn’t have many tennis courts. I then decided to ease into college by not committing 3 hours a day away to tennis in the fall and spring. While I think it was a wise decision for my first year, I cannot wait to play next year. Athletes do an amazing job balancing academics and their sport. I want to see if I can do it too.