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Your End-of-Semester Checklist

Hard to believe it’s already May, and this semester is history. Here are 8 to-do’s you’ll want to take care of before switching into vacation mode.

The time since spring break flew by, and now you’re packing up for the semester after a (hopefully) great school year. Whether you’re off to do an internship, have a few months of travel, or graduate to a job in the real world, there are a few loose ends you’ll need to tie up before summer break. Consider this your official end-of-semester to-do list.

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1. Unload your textbooks

sell your textbooks at the end of the semesterSelling your textbooks sooner rather than later will get you the most cash back, says Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. Find out what your college bookstore is offering, but also check out online sites such as SellBackYourBook.com and cash4books.net. Enter the ISBN to get an instant quote and, if the price sounds right, print out a pre-paid mailing slip and ship your books for free.

In addition to textbooks, some sites take books that may have been required reading in your classes. The finance site Moneypeach has a list of additional sites you can sell to.

Online bookstores Barnes & Noble and Amazon are also great resources—and they also do buy-backs. If you decide to sell there, Smallin Kuper suggests setting the price a little lower than other sellers to move your merch faster.

Don’t forget to do some reconnaissance before going online. Check for books that may be hiding in your car, under your bed, in the back of your closet, or in any old backpacks and totes. Brian, a 19-year-old commuting freshman at Ramapo University, cleans out his car at the end of each semester to make sure there are no textbooks stowed away.

2. Get rid of stuff you no longer need

get rid of stuffWhether you’re graduating and heading to a new job or moving to a furnished apartment when you return to school in the fall, you may have unwanted items such as furniture or even electronics to dispose of. A great way to get the word out is by posting them on your school’s Facebook page, says Courtney, a 20-year-old junior at Quinnipiac University. “State whether you’re selling or giving things away; include photos and a thorough description of each item for potential buyers to view.”

Smallin Kuper has had great luck using the OfferUp app to sell things. “You just snap some photos of your item, write a title and description, and name your price. Your posted item appears immediately in the newsfeed of OfferUp users in your local area,” she says. (LetGo is a similar app.) “Messages between parties are handled in the app, so potential buyers never have your cell number unless you give it to them.” Whichever app or site you use, always play it safe and meet people in a public place to exchange goods for cash.

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Ebay, Facebook, OfferUp … wherever you decide to sell, include lots of pictures. Post multiple angles of an item, if possible. It’s OK to have other items in the picture, as they’ll give an idea of the true size of the item. (Or borrow a tip from the meme banana for scale, and place a familiar object nearby to show its relative size.)

When writing up the description, start with a clear title. Be sure the title includes words that a potential buyer might search for—for instance, “Coach bag” vs. “cutest purse ever,” says Smallin Kuper. When it makes sense, she says, include a link to the product manufacturer’s website product page or to another site where the item is sold so a buyer can get a complete picture, including the current retail value. Be honest about flaws or wear and tear. (That’s where your creative writing class can pay off. Is there a laugh-out-loud backstory that goes along with the flaw? If so, be sure to include.)

Another way to unload items is through a reseller. “Sell gently used clothing, footwear, and accessories to a store like Buffalo Exchange or Plato’s Closet that will pay you cash on the spot. Or you can opt for store credit and get a little more,” suggests Smallin Kuper.

When all else fails, you can donate items to Goodwill. Or leave them curbside with a “for free” sign. Contact your town’s sanitation department or check out your campus rules first to be sure there are no restrictions on that practice.

3. Pick up free stuff you do need

pick up free stuffSpeaking of curbside giveaways: If you see something you think you can use next semester, “Go for it, as long as it doesn’t gross you out! There are no hard-and-fast rules,” says Smallin Kuper. “But use caution and carefully inspect upholstered items,” she says. In fact, you might want to take a pass on soft items, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, to avoid the risk of bringing home bedbugs. But if you’re the gambling type, inspect any find for evidence of bedbugs. Look for small black or brown dots that look like ink marks; those are the little bugger’s droppings.

There are other options than curb alerts. “You can also use the OfferUp app to find things you need,” says Smallin Kuper. And people often post items they’re looking to unload on social networks such as Nextdoor, Facebook pages (check out local groups and university pages), and the Freecycle listserv.

4. Store things you’ll need next semester

“My first summer, I had stuff in three places—a few bins in a friend’s attic, a few bins in someone else’s basement, and a backpack full of stuff was sent home with my roommate. Last summer, I decided to splurge and split a storage unit, which was a great decision, because Uber-ing to a million places to pick it all up was awful!”

— Jesse, a 21-year-old junior at Ohio State University

“If you have things you want to keep for next year, it may be worth renting storage space for the few months you’ll be away,” says Smallin Kuper. Jesse, a 21-year-old junior at Ohio State University, split a storage unit last year with his roommates to reduce the cost. “My first summer, I had stuff in three places—a few bins in a friend’s attic, a few bins in someone else’s basement, and a backpack full of stuff was sent home with my roommate. Last summer, I decided to splurge and split a storage unit, which was a great decision, because Uber-ing to a million places to pick it all up was awful!”

5. … Or send stuff home

send stuff homeLainey, an 18-year-old freshman at San Diego State University who lives in Seattle, uses the Busfreighter service at the end of the year to ship her clothes and personal items home. “It cost about $150 to ship five huge boxes, and I got them in five days. I was able to fly home instead of having my mom drive down to pick me and my stuff up.”

If you live within a few hours of school and return home on some weekends, break it up into small trips. “Throughout the semester, I pack things I no longer need—winter coats, boots, blankets—and place them under my bed,” says Juliana, a 20-year-old junior at Quinnipiac University. “They are out of the way and I just grab them to take with me the next time I go home.”

6. Clean up your computer and back up your files

Declutter e-clutter by responding to or following up with any school emails regarding the next semester, like payments, registration for classes, etc. Delete or respond to any emails that pertain to the current semester.

Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule: Create at least 3 copies of your data (including the original); store the copies on 2 different media (for example, a flash drive and an external hard drive); and keep 1 copy offsite (for instance, on your parents’ computer, or back up to the cloud).

As for notebooks and other study materials? Chances are, you’re not going to look at them again. However, if you take comprehensive notes, consider uploading them to Course Hero to share with other students.

7. Update your LinkedIn profile

linkedinAre there new skills you’ve developed over the last year? Try to add five new ones that your connections can endorse. What about new accomplishments from this past semester or school year (that high GPA, making the dean’s list, being president of a campus club, crushing an internship) that you can add?

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on how you’ve grown academically, and LinkedIn makes it easy to share those experiences with your connections. Expand your network by connecting to your school’s alumni page as well as your professors from this past year or semester. Engage your network by requesting a recommendation from your professors or reaching out to alumni in cities you may be traveling to over the summer.

8. Thank your teachers

thank you note for college professorsLast but not least, thank your professors for your learning experience. Carla, a graduate student at Marshall University, sends short sweet notes to teachers who have made a difference in her education.

In her book Write the Right Words, author Sandra E. Lamb says there are 3 steps to writing a thank-you note: (1) Focus on the giver, (2) name the gift or kindness, and (3) convey your gratitude for the gift. Use that formula to craft a quick, personal note to an inspirational teacher who taught you to expand your horizons, which you will forever be grateful for.

Jesse from Ohio State takes a different tack and thanks teachers often—and in person. “I am a big fan of trying to build relationships with professors. Going up to them a few times throughout the semester and at the end of the semester is very important,” he says. “You never know if you will have them for another class or need a reference. But, mostly they’re just great people to chat with.”

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