College Tips for High School Graduates
Congratulations, you made it through high school! Here are some tips from a recent college graduate to help get you through college.
Check your email constantly.
You need to check your email multiple times every day. You should check during the day, before you go to bed each night, and before you leave for class each morning. Why? Sometimes professors will cancel class last-minute (if they’re sick or if the weather’s bad, etc.) and it sucks to have to trek across campus just to find a sign on the door that says, “Class Canceled.” (A lesson I learned the hard way!) Also, there may be last-minute deadline extensions.
Have a roommate contract.
Your R.A. may require you to do this, but if not I highly recommend you do it anyway. This is where, in the first week, you and your roommate have a formal discussion about the rules of the room. Do you always want the door locked when you’re both gone, or only at night? Are you okay with them drinking/smoking in your room? Can girlfriends or boyfriends sleep over? Trust me, you want to lay down some ground rules.
Post your schedule and your roommate’s schedule on the wall.
This will be very helpful for both of you to know when to nap, when to shower, and when to lock the door and when not to lock it.
Don’t Rely on Your Advisor to Know Everything.
My first semester at college, I signed up for a class on The Iliad. I arrived early on the first day, grabbed a copy of the syllabus, and began reading: “In this class, we will read The Iliad in its entirety in the original Greek…”
It turns out, classes offered by the Classics department are in English, but classes offered by the Greek department are in Greek. My advisor failed to mention this, or ask if I know any Greek. I do not. So, on my very first day of college, I got to be that awkward freshman ducking out of an advanced Greek seminar in front of a dozen upperclassmen. Moral of the story: don’t assume your advisor will catch your mistakes in signing up for classes or fulfilling graduation requirements. Read the course descriptions carefully, and look up graduation and class requirements yourself.
Never buy your textbooks.
Always rent them. At the end of the rental you’ll have the option to buy them. This is much easier than buying textbooks and then trying to sell them when you realize you don’t want them. Also, always comparison shop online for books. Sometimes the exact same textbook will be $30 cheaper on one site versus another. I recommend checking Amazon, Chegg, Barnes & Noble, and your local college bookstore. (Depending on the school, the official bookstore may be owned by Barnes & Noble). If the book’s price is the same everywhere, get it from Chegg. Sometimes they give you free samples of stuff in addition to the books. Also, if you get your textbooks online, save the box they came in all semester. Then when you have to return them, you don’t have to buy a new box.
Lock your bike.
It will be that one time you leave your bike unlocked outside the library for ten minutes that it gets stolen. Take it from the girl who had two bikes stolen. LOCK. YOUR. BIKE. (I eventually located one of the bikes, five months later.) Also, don’t bring a fancy bike to school. A professional thief will search out expensive bikes to resell, and they will bring a lock cutter. It’s better to bring a rusty old bike that no one would want to steal. If you do bring a shiny new bike, get a lock that can withstand a lock cutter.
Do laundry on a weekday.
Don’t be part of the mad Sunday-dash to do laundry. If you do, you will likely have to wait on line for a washer to open up. Do your laundry Monday through Friday, either in the morning or at night, to avoid a line.
Save money with rewards programs.
College has a magical way of making the number on your scale go up while the number in your bank account goes down. See if any of the stores you shop at offer a free rewards program. My favorite in college was the CVS Extracare card. It’s completely free and you get tons of coupons. You should also check out free cash-back apps like Drop and Ibotta, which give you points for certain purchases that can be exchanged for cash or gift cards.
Check for Student Discounts.
Following the last tip, take advantage of student discounts to online services like Amazon Prime and Spotify, electronics like Apple computers, and haircuts. Some barbershops and salons give a discount to students who show their ID. Check the websites of the local salons before you pick one to see if any have a student discount deal. Also, see if local places like museums or concert venues have discounted student entry fees.
The decision to study abroad is possibly the best decision I’ve ever made. I had a blast and didn’t have to be as stressed about grades for one semester. If cost is an issue, know that, depending on the program, any merit or financial aid scholarships you have may be applied to your study abroad semester as well. You can also look into study abroad programs that offer their own merit or financial aid scholarships, in addition to ones offered by your school. If you aren’t confident in a foreign language, you can always go to Canada, Australia, or England. Just go somewhere!