College Advice From a College Senior
By Carissa Mathena
College is probably one of the most terrifying ideas for someone in the later years of high school. It can seem overwhelming to have to have your life figured out at 18. It definitely was for me, but there are some tips or advice that I can now share as a college senior graduating in December. First thing’s first, do not feel like you have to go into college with a declared major. If you don’t know what you want to be yet, that is completely normal. Don’t claim a major if you’re unsure because at the end of the day your first year to two years of college are all general education classes that don’t specify a major. You can take a variety of gen-eds so that you can explore what you personally are interested in and then choose from there.
Next, you are going to want to apply for as many scholarships as humanly possible. Grants, scholarships, and any kind of federal aid are going to take the pressure off of you immensely. If possible, it would be a good idea to work the summer before your first year and save money so that if you wanted to, you could go without a job your first semester of college. College is a big transition from high-school and the workload can be immense at times, so having that freedom and financial stability can help you solely focus on your class work.
Another piece of advice is to get involved in something on campus. This could be anything from working on campus (they cater to your school schedule better than any place off campus), joining a club, getting involved with your dorm, or a sorority/fraternity. This concept can also seem scary as an incoming freshman but making friends and having that social interaction will help you on the hard days. Getting involved could even be as small as making friends with your roommates. It doesn’t have to be huge but not having friends in college can make your transition into adult life more difficult. Some of the friends you make can even become lifelong friends.
PLEASE get a calendar or some type of planner. Homework and tests can sneak up on you faster than you think. It’s also easier to visualize how much free time you’ll have that week or how early you need to start studying for your next exam. Studying is important in college, especially studying early. I always start a week before. This doesn’t mean it has to be hardcore studying for that week. I usually start with making flashcards, then studying those, then looking back into the book on what I don’t understand, then rewriting the information. Quizlet might just save you a few times. They have so many options on studying the information including making a multiple choice test from the flashcards, matching games, and more. There have been multiple times when the test flash cards were already made by someone else, so you can use those to your benefit. If you know how you study best always use that method and if you don’t, find out. Try out different methods until you find yours. There will also be multiple on campus options to help you study or learn your material. On my campus they offer free tutoring and academic coaching.
Going to class is one of those things that is up in the air. I personally can go to some classes and benefit and then not go to some and benefit. I’m going to be honest here. Make sure you know the attendance policies of all your professors from the start and follow them, especially if they don’t take doctor’s notes. If they don’t make sure you save your absences for when you truly need them. There are some people who don’t have to go to class to learn the material. This goes back to your specific learning style. Make sure you know yourself and the best way you work and then base your decisions from that. I’ve taken classes where I’ve never missed, and then I’ve taken some where my absences exceeded my attendance and I came out with good grades in both classes. If you do skip, make sure to understand you might have to work harder than the other students, but again make the decisions that work the best for your life.
Make sure you are making choices that benefit your financial future. College cannot last forever. Once you graduate you are expected to be a full blown adult. Keep that in the back of your mind and make choices that benefit the future you; you will thank yourself later. These things include, learning how to do your taxes, opening a savings account, making sure you grow and have good credit. These things are crucial in making it after you graduate. Credit cards are a scary concept, but if you use them right they can build your credit.
Textbooks are extremely overpriced. Wait to buy your books. Sometimes your professor will tell you what not to buy or even where you can get it cheaper. I am an English major and all of the novels I have to read are so much cheaper on kindle or thriftbooks. You can also rent them on amazon for cheap and then send them back at the end of the semester. Remember this, you can always put your books on your bursar and if you get enough scholarships, loans, and/or grants they will pay for them then you can sell them back to the school at the end of the year for profit. Make sure you know which books they take and which ones they don’t. Loose-leaf textbooks and textbooks with an online access codes typically do not get bought back from the school.
Make sure you stay on track for the time when you want to graduate. Keep a copy of your major degree requirements in your dorm. This can help you not take the wrong classes by mistake. If you only take one thing from this article let it be that. I’ve personally done this two-three times and it is not fun making that up the next semester by taking on more hours. Get to know your advisor and always go to them with questions you have before you make a decision you are unsure of. Summer classes aren’t as easy as you think. If you do have to take them, take them in your early years that way your last summers can be celebratory and fun.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is have fun while you can. Make these years in college some of your best, but also remember that this isn’t your whole life and if college isn’t for you that’s okay. As I’ve said before, make the choices that benefit you and the life you want to live. At the end of the day you’re the one living with them, so don’t do things to please anyone else.