What I Wish I Had Known About College
I’ve never come across an academic who didn’t admit college was one of the best times of their life. The knowledge, relationships and experiences gained while at a higher education institution are priceless.
And as eager as I was to graduate from high school and begin my undergraduate (and, now, graduate school) studies, there were a few things I would have benefitted from knowing before the first day of class.
Learn to Manage Finances
Being financially unstable is common problem for undergraduate and graduate students, and working while going to school can be difficult. Some students are able to work or have been awarded funding for their studies (see below), but most live on a shoestring budget.
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I wish I had been more mindful of my spending. It’s important to create a monthly budget and balance wants with necessities.
Apply for Funding Early
Let’s face it, paying for college is expensive. The ideal situation is to get someone else to pay for it through scholarships and fellowships. There are thousands of funding opportunities for every kind of student, but it takes work to find and apply for them.
Additionally, each January incoming and current students are expected to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The sooner you apply, the better your chances for getting the funding you need.
For some, going to college is the first time you’re away from home. You’re forced to face the world on your own. Necessities like paying a phone bill, doing laundry and grocery shopping are now your responsibility.
It pays to be a people person. If there is a professor on campus you truly enjoy, go to their office hours and invite them for coffee. They can become your mentors or connect you to people in your field of study.
Engage with your classmates outside of class. These are your peers and if they like you, they’ll remind you about that exam on Tuesday you forgot to study for. Also, you might want to work in the same office as one of them one day, find out early what it’s like to do a group project with them.
College is a lot of fun. New people, professors and classes will greet you at every turn. Take advantage of all new things and in a cliché manner of speaking, the world is literally your oyster.
There is no need to silo yourself into one role on campus or hang with one group of friends. Take this time to be adventurous and explore what the world has to offer. Travel abroad, live in a co-op, join the debate team, be single — just do something you wouldn’t normally do.