College is great! You will meet new people, learn lots of things, get a taste of independence, and much, much more! Just look at all the studiously happy faces on these brochures! Yes—attending college is an exciting life experience that you will remember forever, but at the beginning of this new chapter of your life, it’s easy to forget that college isn’t just what they mention in the brochures. Here are a couple of things they don’t tell you:
Studying is an everyday task. In high school, you might be get away with studying for a test a week in advance, or, for expert-level procrastinators, maybe even the night before the exam. For the most part, studying is something you will have to do every day. You don’t necessarily have to set up camp in library with your nose buried in a book for hours at a time every day. Studying includes little things like reviewing your lecture notes after every class to make sure you really understand the lesson and doing your daily homework assignments. At least look over the material every day to keep the information fresh in your mind,” Teresa Rodriguez, 20, suggests. A day should never go by when you don’t at least review or read something for every class.
The Freshman 15 is real! Sometimes it can snowball into the Sophomore 20 and the Junior 30 if you’re not careful. If you go to a school with great dining halls that dish out meals chockfull of rich, grease-laden foods, it’s easy to get excited and go overboard. Plus, with the added stress of college and less time to exercise, the pounds are more likely to add on at this transitional time of your life. If you find that you are uncomfortable with the increasing number on the scale, adopt a healthier diet, make time for a work-out regimen and find ways to de-stress.
Prepare to be knocked down a few pegs. We all have a subject area in which we are better than in others. It’s important to remember that graduating to an institution of higher learning means that the material will be more challenging. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself struggling in a subject you used to conquer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, either from a TA (teacher’s assistant), professor or peer. It is a growing experience to realize you aren’t the know-it-all you thought you were, so there is no reason to be embarrassed about not understanding something right off the bat. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to humble yourself and acknowledge that even you can learn a thing or two.
The campus bookstore is usually a rip-off. Even after all the tuition students are expected to pay, universities continue to enjoy picking your pocket for additional cash through book sales. Rule of thumb: Always buy used. Don’t get suckered into thinking you have to have brand-spanking-new text books for every class. There are plenty of used books at the bookstore that are in excellent condition for up to half the price. You can also search for discounted books online at Websites like chegg.com, half.com, textbooks.com, or knetbooks.com. You also have the option of renting some books, both paper and electronic, from some of these sites. If you’re looking to save even more money, you can check your campus or local library for the books you need. Unlike the campus bookstore, the library is your friend, agrees Joe Depalma, blogger for readysetrise.com. The key is being able to hunt for alternative resources—a skill that will help you save money and dignity.
Being a teacher’s pet is cool. Getting to know your professors professionally as well as personally can go a long way to help you in your undergraduate years. Go to office hours. Whether or not you think you need the additional help, getting to know your professor outside of the lecture hall will help you stand out. If your professor is able to place a name to your face and sees that you make an earnest effort in the class, they are more likely to take an interest in helping you succeed. “When you’re in class, the professor will see you and pay more attention to you, and if you have an 89 and you need one point to get an A, the professor will remember you and will be more likely to give you that point,” Cynthia Amaya, 20, points out. Plus, professors love to write letters of recommendation to students with whom they are well acquainted.
You should still apply for scholarships. Although the bulk of scholarships out there are for high school students, there are still plenty of college level scholarships that are up for grabs. Websites like collegeboard.com, fastweb.com and scholarships.com are great scholarship generators.