Going to college this fall? Nervous? Don’t be. This post is for you.
The idea of college is terrifying. Big parties, huge campuses that are impossible to navigate, term papers, all night study sessions, 20-page research papers, finals week, hell week, freshman fifteen, freshmeat.
Keep in mind that I said the idea of college is terrifying. Most of these things are not true, not if you don’t want them to be. Okay, the research papers, term papers, finals week, and hell week (crunch time before the end of semester) are all true. But they’re not impossible. Not at all. They’re entirely navigable.
Much like everything else in life, college is not like the movies unless you search it out. You can find a party like in American Pie, but it takes some work and it will probably be shut down by campus PD before midnight and you might lose your academic scholarship. Casual sex? Sure, if you go looking for it. I never even dated anyone from my college. Most people there are just like you. You might get asked out for coffee, but not dragged into the closest supply closet for dirty times. And no one knows you’re a freshman unless you offer that information. Classes aren’t organized that way. Lots of seniors take 101 classes they forgot to take or put off for years. No one knows who you are or when you’re graduating.
Your campus is huge? Okay. It’s also full of maps. Keep an eye out, I promise there are mall-like directories all over the place. And you can ask. Look out for people in your class and trail them there. You actually only need to know of a few places. As a senior, someone would mention a certain building and I’d have no idea what they were talking about because I never needed to be there. Super secret extra special tip for those who are paranoid? Colleges are usually open all summer for summer classes or cleaning. You can usually go into the buildings, if not the classrooms themselves, to check out where you need to go. Keep staircases, bathroom, and elevators in mind.
- This isn’t high school, carrying a backpack doesn’t make you a loser. The majority of students carry them, even the super hot guys. Want a cute, sustainable, cheap bag? Go here!
- Fine, you really don’t want to carry one? This is what you need in your purse:
- A makeup case for pens, at least four. One will run out of ink, one will get loaned out to a hot guy or new friend, and one will inexplicably go flying across the room and end up under the chair of that weird kid you planned on avoiding all semester. A makeup case is cute, small, and will stop you from getting ink all over your new Coach bag.
- A calculator. I know, I know, you have one on your phone. Most professors will not let you use your cell phone for that.
- Water and little snacks. A sugar kick will get you through that long, boring lecture.
- Your student ID. You’d be surprised how often you need it.
- Learn that your ass looks cute in sweats. You have an 8am class. Don’t waste your sleep to do your makeup. I promise most people there will be in sweats and t-shirts.
- Sneakers and flip-flops are life savers. You won’t make it across campus in stilettos. Save them for when you have a presentation. If you dorm there, pack one nice outfit. Lot’s of classes require ‘proper dress’ for oral reports.
- Ratemyprofessor.com. This isn’t just to find ‘this teacher sucks’ comments. Keep in mind the course number and name. Pretty often the people bashing are taking a 101 they don’t want to be, and people praising are taking a 500 level for their major. What you want to look for is people who mention whether class roll is taken every class and counted for credit, if they let late/early classes out early because they don’t want to be there either, if tests are mostly multiple choice or essay based, how many papers/projects will be needed, what they emphasize their grading on, and whether or not you actually need the book. This has saved my ass a million times. Realizing most tests come from the footnotes, or that they keep in mind who is awake in class, can pull your grade right up.
- Credits. Keep an eye on them. Your advisor will not do it for you. Say you need 120 credits. If you graduate on time, that means taking 5 three credit classes each semester - 15 credits per semester. Factor in that labs are usually four credits but take more time of your day, so you’ll be tempted to take only four classes and a lab which leaves you with 12 credits, and now you’re short. You can finish every single requirement, but if you’re short on credits, you won’t graduate.
- Don’t shrug off your joke class. It’s a joke. It’s 101 music. It’s just for credit. Cool. Take those classes! But take them seriously. Don’t tank a class that doesn’t even count for your major. It’s an easy-A. Take it.
- Learn that a B- is a shitty grade. Not horrible, but not great. If you plan on going to grad school or having a GPA in the high 3’s, aim for all A and the occasional B+.
- Make a backup schedule or two. Unless you are a senior, honors, or athlete, you’re probably not getting your first pick of classes. If a class caps at 15 students, you aren’t likely to get it. Make an entire backup schedule so you aren’t panicking at midnight while registering, trying to get anything that counts for your major and ending up with a terrible schedule.
- Let’s talk text books.
As a freshman, you can easily make the mistake of doling out 500 bucks at the school store. Avoid the school store except for sweats, t-shirts, and last minute holiday presents for your family.
The best thing you can do, even better than amazon, is use isbns.net. This is a site that compares all textbook prices and gives it to you in a list. When you get your syllabus, or even beforehand you can check the school bookstore to see which books are needed for what class (though I suggest waiting until the first day of class, because some of those books might be ‘optional’) and type the isbsn number or author name into the search bar. You get a lovely little list in seconds that shows the cheapest place comparing hundreds of sites.
Seriously, rent your books! Especially if your class requires the brand new edition from the current year so you can’t buy used. I use sites like collegebookrenter.com or bookrenter.com.Lots of times you can’t sell your books back or you’re going to get pennies on the dollar for it. These sites offer options of 5 weeks (summer classes) or 13 weeks (regular semesters) and even a little longer. It’s significantly less expensive to rent your books! I’ve paid 1/4 of what the book is worth. At the end of the semester, print out the label emailed to you and ship it back.