Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So You're Going to College

In a past life I spent three years as an Admissions Counselor.  From June till the following year's August I would work with students and their families on choosing where to go to college, how to finance it, which major to choose, how will credits transfer, etc. 

I loved every moment of it.

Well, the school I worked for rubbed me the wrong way sometimes but the actual job itself was something I found enriching.

So with these three years of knowledge I though I'd share some tips that I learned on how to kick off your college career with a bang! (And share some of my freshman in college pictures).

~College packing list.  I tried to find one that it only the basics but I couldnt.  So I made one myself.

Some highlights from the packing list:
Lap Desk: This may seem unnecessary however you will be spending a lot of time studying and if you're like me, the library was really more of a social gathering place than a study area.  With a lap desk you can study from the comfort of your own bed.  (Just be weary of naps).

Stapler: Who would think this would be such a highlight but it is.  So many times I would print off my paper (of course last minute) and the computer lab wouldnt have a stapler.  Professors dont like paper clips.  Staplers are the way to go.

Desk Lamp: Dorm lighting is the worst.  Get a nice soft lamp and it will make for much nicer days!

Computer / iPad : in today's day and age, computers for school are a must.  However, if it fits in the budget, I would highly suggest an iPad as well.  So many useful apps for school as well as you can rent a lot of your school books (at a lower cost!).

Mini Fridge: For me, this is a must.  No matter how nice people are on your campus, if you put something in the community fridge, 75% of the time it wont be there next time you look.

Pictures: there will be a moment in which you will get homesick.  Surrounding yourself with pictures of your family and friends not with you will help cure this.

Plant: why not?

~ Your Academic Advisor is your best friend.  Most programs are strictly set in their curriculum.  By working with an academic advisor from the beginning, you can ensure that you wont take any useless classes and you will graduate on time (or even sooner...my advisor helped me graduate in three years!)

~Everyone can get a student work job...but they go fast!  Some people qualify for student work jobs based on aid.  If you do not qualify, this does not mean you cannot get a job.  And if you do qualify, it does not mean you are guaranteed a job.  If you would like to have a job on campus (which I always highly suggest), be the first in line at the student job fair.  Or, be an over achiever and contact the head of the department you would like a job in (such as bookstore, mail-room, etc) before the school year beings.

~Be picky about joining clubs.  Everyone wants you to join their club.  Pick two or three and stick with it; possibly even pick one that would be a stretch for you.  Yes, it's tempting to join every single club.  But work on getting yourself settled before you sign up.  Unless there is free pizza...then this rule can be ignored.   

~The freshman 15 (or 10 or 20) are very likely.  Make room to work-out.  Its a great way to meet people!

~You can usually request a roommate...but I dont suggest it.  I've seen many best friends come to college together and be roommates only to last a semester before breaking up.  It's best to room with someone who is compatible with you but that isnt your best friend (to start).  That gives you room to grow a friendship. 

~Keep your grades up.  A lot of colleges and universities offer Returning Student Scholarships based on GPA's, majors, ect.  Contact the financial aid department for more information early so you can prepare.

~Buy everything prior to getting on campus.  Yes, there might be a target right down the street from the school where you can do all the shopping last minute.  Yes, the other 1589 people in your class are doing the same.  

~If you'd like to ship something to campus prior to starting, use the following sample address:
College Name
Student Name - New Student 2013
College Address

~Buy your books online.  Bookstores have a horrible mark-up on textbooks.  Save some money and purchase your books online and have them shipped to your school (see above).  Most colleges release their book list early August if not sooner.

~Finalize everything before getting on campus.  This will allow you to focus on making friends and learning the campus before classes start.  It also lowers your stress levels (and those of your parents!).

~Balance.  It will be so tempting those first few weeks to do everything and forget about the essentials ie sleep, studying, calling home.  Make sure to balance your days before your days catch up with you.

~Be friends with everyone.  Freshman first semester is the year to not be in a "group".  Dont limit yourself to a certain type of people to hang out with.  Be friends with everyone.  Eventually your friendships will become more established and you will have a group.  But live it up prior!

~Send in your final transcript.  This is required for any University to technically be enrolled.  If you have AP classes or college credits, make sure the final transcript of these is sent as well.

~Your admissions counselor is your friend.  I traveled a lot with a group of Admissions Counselors from Universities all over the country during recruiting season.  One thing we all shared: our love for students.  If you dont know what to do, where to go, who to talk to, stop by the Admissions Office.  The slowest time of the year are the last few weeks of August.  We'd be happy to see your smiling face!   

There is never going to be a more exciting or terrifying time than your first few days of as a freshman in college.  Live it up.  Take it in.  Smile.  Have fun!