1. NEVER TAKE 8:30AM'sGiphy
Unless you are a freak of nature and enjoy early mornings, I recommend avoiding 8:30 AM classes at all costs.
Even if you are a morning person, starting that early can mean very, VERY long days and over time you will completely wear yourself thin.
When in college, many plans and events are later on in the day. Most school clubs have later meetings, often starting sometime between 5 and 8PM because they don't want to have meeting during popular class times. Parties often don't start until 10 or 11, so when you're taking 8:30 AM classes, there's just no way you're going to have energy for such long days and often times, you won't have the time or the peace and quiet to take a nap.
2. Advisors Don't Actually Do Very Much Advising
I was lucky enough to have very supportive and driven advisors in high school. This may have been because it was a small private Catholic school, but still, I would think that an advisor should advise.
This was not so much the case when I got to college. My assumption is that they just have too many students, too much paperwork and work and too much going on to take the time to personally get to know their advisees and their individual situations.
This has made for quite a few stressful and frustrating advisor meetings.
I have found that instead of asking my advisor for advice (oh the irony) I get better information from other classmates, maybe a teacher or leader in the thing I want to ask about, etc.
Long story short, just don't hold high expectations for the advice or effort your advisor is going to give you.
You're on your own.
3. Meal Plans are a JokeGiphy
I am a commuting college student and I have never had a meal plan. I have had "declining dollars" which basically means I added $100 or so bucks to my student ID card for chips, water, granola bars, etc. to grab in an emergency and to do so without paying tax (my school has this perk - not sure if everyone does).
I do not need to have had a meal plan to tell you that no matter what school you go to, unless probably culinary school, that the meal plan is a joke and the school wants you to spend the most money possible.
Instead of spending thousands on a meal plan that you won't use the entirety of, I definitely recommend investing the money into something like a meal subscription kit, bulk shopping at Costco for snacks and essentials or even just budgeting for normal groceries.
Every single person I know that has had a meal plan has been left at the end of a semester or year with hundreds of swipes and dollars in credit left and no idea how to spend it. It's a gimmick!
4. Rate My Professor / Word of Mouth is Your Best FriendGiphy
NEVER register for a class without first asking around about them or going on Rate My Professor.
I made this mistake my first semester freshman year and my grades definitely suffered because of it.
Rate my Professor is a wonderful website that will give you information about professors, like their level of difficulty, what grades other students got in their class, actual reviews from other peers, etc. This information is a MUST READ before signing up for anything. I promise you it is worth the time to research.
5. Three Hour Long Classes (also referred to as Turbos) - Hidden BlessingGiphy
I am a huge fan of three hour long classes because it is just one block of time a week that you need to worry about a class. This then means less scheduling, less planning and scheduling homework and just overall less stress.
I had no idea three hour long classes that met once a week were a thing until my sophomore year of college. Since this discovery, I have taken numerous courses like this and have absolutely loved it.
Another perk of taking three hour classes is that you will rarely be kept for the entire three hours! I have had a few professors that have kept us, but it's very rare!
However, do not be mistaken. There is much more homework due at once because you are only meeting once a week and those three hours can feel like an eternity. However, taking three hour classes often means you will have a day or two free for work or internships.
6. Less is MoreGiphy
When it comes to carrying around notebooks, textbooks, laptops, etc. less is more.
I rarely bring textbooks or notebooks to class, unless it is required. For me, this means a day free of back pain and sweating. Maybe you don't mind a heavy bag but on long days it can just be the thing that completely pushes you over the edge.
Most classes do not use the textbooks or workbooks in class as they are for reading assignments for homework. That being said, always ask the teacher and check on their technology policy. It sucks to not have a notebook and not be allowed to use your laptop - trust me I've been there!
7. DO NOT BUY FULL PRICE TEXTBOOKSGiphy
I'm not sure about your school's bookstore, but mine SUCKS! The staff is incredibly rude and they up-charge a FORTUNE on books. I made the mistake my first two or so semesters of buying new books from the school bookstore. I later tried to sell some of the books back to the bookstore, some even still in the packaging, and they offered me $4 for $40 books.
Since then, I have learned about much better options. I now rent used books from Amazon and if that's not possible, I purchase used books from other websites and then try to find friends to sell or gift the books to. I took a math class where the bookstore textbook would have cost me $150 dollars and of course they only had new textbooks available. I rented the exact same, but used, textbook from Amazon for $21 dollars.
I am begging you, do the research before spending insane amounts of money on textbooks. It is SO worth it. I have saved literally hundreds of dollars by doing the research for the best deal!
8. You Can Reserve Private Rooms at the Library
Reserving a room at the library for myself or a few friends has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion. Although you would think the library would be a quiet place to be productive and cram out a lot of work, sometimes they can be noisy and distracting so reserving a private space to yourself makes all the difference when you're in a time crunch on assignments.
The key to doing this is to plan ahead, especially around midterms and finals because the rooms go quick!
9. Take Easy Electives
Many, if not most, colleges require some form of elective classes, which can range from theology courses, art history courses or they may just leave it up to you to figure out what to take!
I definitely recommend taking electives that are easy, but still look good on your transcript. Before I knew that you could do this, I took European History and completely suffered for it! Definitely make your work load easier when you can, college is hard enough!
10. Summer Classes
Summer classes do cost extra and you should check with your college to see if they accept credits from other places, like your local community college.
Summer classes are great for if you have a really difficult class that you might not be able to handle on top of 3/4 other classes. In my case, taking two summer classes helped me graduate a semester early which is saving me a semester's tuition so in the long run I am saving money and time. Summer classes might not be feasible for everyone, but depending on your circumstances it may be beneficial to look into it!
11. Tests are most often based on what the teacher says, not what's in the textbook
My school is rather small and the average number of students in my classes are around 30. However, I know plenty of colleges that have 300+ students in lecture halls at one time. In that case, it's probably way harder to motivate yourself to go to class because it's unlikely that the professor will take the time to do attendance on that many students.
I've always been one to go to class, probably because of my Catholic education. However, I know the feeling when you're just completely overwhelmed and the last place you want to be is class. That being said, going to class helps your grade astronomically as not going means you're missing out on the comments your teachers will be including on their tests as well as participation credit. These kinds of things can make or break your grade, so I can't emphasize enough the importance of going to class.
12. Some Teachers Are Out To See The World BurnRelaxed Mad Men GIF Giphy
Some teachers are truly out to see the world burn and don't care about your GPA or how their grading affects your life. That being said, there are for sure teachers who deserve awards and are angelic.
The key to balancing this and staying away from destructive teachers is to use what is called ratemyprofessor. I say this again to really emphasize the importance of using this resource. This beautiful website, seriously thank you to whoever created this website, lets you read what other students have to say about teachers and gives them an overall rating out of five as well as a rating of overall difficulty out of five. This website has saved my life on more than one occasion and I can give credit to this website for my GPA not being in the gutter.
Seriously, use this website when registering for classes. It will save you.
13. Self Care is So Important
College is tough. There's definitely no avoiding that. However, what makes the difference between tough and unbearable is not taking care of yourself. When at college, it seems like people forget to sleep, eat, do proper skincare, etc. Specifically the American college life has been idolized as some beautiful combination of partying and just barely making it through when it comes to things like sleep, homework/classes, etc.
Please take care of yourself. Eat. Sleep. Hydrate. Take care of yourself or I promise you, you will burn out very quick and everything will suck. College is supposed to be one of the best times of your life, so don't miss out on enjoying it because you're being a nincompoop and not taking care of yourself.
14. Time Management is Keyillustration time GIF by Gabriella Sanchez Giphy
Time management is crucial to your success ... and survival in college. Allot time every day for homework and studying or trust me, life will overwhelm you and your grades will suffer.
An absolute lifesaver for me is having my class schedule printed out and hung over my desk. I then use this to fill in my work study hours, library hours, etc. I also have a planner that I carry with me everywhere and write homework assignments, paper deadlines and test dates. Having everything written down and planned out has helped me stay on top of things.
15. Mental Health is Just As Valid As Physical Healthmental health help GIF Giphy
Mental health, unfortunately, is an issue that many schools neglect. That being said, mental health is just as valid as physical health and to you personally, feeling depressed should be equal to having a fever. If you need to take a mental health day, take it. If you need to cancel plans because you're feeling anxiety, do it. Do whatever you need to for your mental health. College is an incredibly stressful and difficult time, so make sure you are taking care of yourself mentally.
16. The "Broke College Kid" Stereotype Doesn't Destine You To Be BrokeMoney Guardar GIF by Pepephone Giphy
College is ridiculously expensive, even with numerous scholarships and/or financial aid. However, there are ways to avoid living paycheck to paycheck. First and foremost, don't be an idiot when it comes to spending money. Set a mental limit for how much you will spend when going out to the bars, or even better, only bring a certain amount of cash and only use that. I've seen way too many people run hundred + dollar tabs and then wonder why they can't afford groceries.
I'm fortunate enough to have received a lot of college scholarship, so I won't be in very much debt when I graduate. That being said, life in general is expensive, especially living in New York. I am a firm believer in working hard, so I always have multiple jobs and therefore, multiple streams of income. This way, if one job gives me less hours one week, I can still thrive.
If the pandemic we are still in should have taught us anything, it's that we all need to be smarter with our money and have backup plans. I recommend having at least 2 jobs, which don't have to be a ridiculous amount of time either. One could be working 10 hours a week at the school library and the other could be bussing tables on the weekends. This way you can afford to have fun, but also make sure you're on top of your finances.
17. Office Hours = 'Brownie Points'
On every syllabus I've ever received, the Professor has listed office hours. These office hours are advertised as time that the Professor will be sitting in their office ready for students to come in with questions, concerns, or just to chat. In the beginning of my college life, I thought this seemed like a huge waste of time. However, I quickly began to realize that going to office hours often meant an opportunity for extra credit or a higher grade at the end of the semester, simply for showing face and showing the Professor I care about the class. This also helps you in the sense that when the Professor knows who you are and has a face to put to a name, they may be easier when grading your assignments as well as nicer when asking questions in class.
That being said, going to office hours when you are struggling is also a huge help. I am terrible with math and I went to office hours every single week for my statistics class and ended up doing very well in the class because of that.
18. Do Not Over-Depend on Caffeine
I am definitely a hypocrite by saying this, but be careful not to depend too heavily on caffeine to help get you through college. I am fortunate that my lowest point with caffeine has been drinking 2-3 cups a day, but I have friends that drink 1-2 energy drinks like Red Bull and it has no affect on them.
Caffeine can be great, but in moderation. Your body needs sleep, not more caffeine. Caffeine, specifically coffee and energy drinks, also come with bad crashes at the end of the high, so if you can go without it, try to.
Drinking coffee or energy drinks, especially multiple in a day, is also very unhealthy for you. You should be fueling your body with much nicer things, like smoothies or protein bars.
19. Join Clubs!
Especially going in freshman year, join as many clubs that interest you! This will help you make an array of friends and also keep you super busy with events! Even if you aren't entirely active in these clubs, you'll still get emails and notifications about events, parties, etc. so you'll have many opportunities to get involved!
20. INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO EVERYONE!
You don't have to be best friends with everyone and you certainly don't have to like everyone, but introducing yourself to everyone and making connections everywhere you go is very helpful. Especially when it comes to classes, you don't want to know no one when it comes time for projects and or collaborating on homework assignments.
What makes this easier is if you remind yourself that everyone is in the same boat and everyone is looking for new friends. College kids, for the most part, are the most open minded and friendly group of people I have ever encountered because everyone is in the mindset of finding their core friends who will be their friends for life. So don't be afraid to put yourself out there!
Enjoy Every Moment
College goes by faster than you can believe, so enjoy every moment of it. Pretty soon, you'll be a senior and wonder where all the time went. Make memories that will last you a lifetime!
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