31 Things You Need To Know About College
It's All About the Money
1. Student loan interest rates are set every July 1st, but your college's financial aid office usually gets the scoop a few weeks earlier. Place a call in June and find out what the rate will be for you. If it's going up, you can lock in the current, lower rate on your student loan, saving you thousands over the years.
2. You're going to run into someone on campus trying to sign you up for a credit card. Even though it seems like a good deal, realize the responsibilities. Many students charge irresponsibly, then spend years paying back what they borrowed. You may be safer asking your bank about a debit or check card. It works like cash -- if you don't have it, you can't spend it.
3. If you need some quick cash, head to the campus bookstore. The beginning and end of each semester -- when students are buying and selling back books -- are busiest. You may be able to pick up a few hours of work and earn a couple of bucks without a huge commitment; you sometimes even get discounts on your own books.
4. Need a computer but tight on dough? Forget eBay -- check your campus computer center instead. Colleges and universities are always upgrading their labs and need to do something with old machines. They'll usually work out deals so that students can get decent computers for cheap prices.
5. Here's another tech-tip: Consider not purchasing a printer. Your school will have a fully equipped computer lab you can use. Or if you'd rather have something closer, split the cost and share one with your roommate.
Don't Always Do Things By the Book
7. You're going to get a lot of mail about student loan consolidation. While this seems like junk mail, it's really important. By consolidating, you combine all of your loans into one bill each month. Read the fine print to be sure it's the right option for you.
8. Face it, books are going to cost a lot. But you may be able to skip a few. "You don't always have to buy all your books," says Connecticut College (New London, CT) senior, Richard Kappler. Pick them up as you need them, share with someone in your class, or take out the library's copy.
9. When it comes to textbooks, a new edition sometimes means nothing more than a new cover or a few extra examples. So before you drop $75 on a spanking new read, check with your professor and see if you can get away with the old edition. Then go to www.ecampus.com or www.classbook.com and pick up a used copy.
10. Just because your campus bookstore doesn't want your used books, doesn't mean they're worthless. Those textbook Web sites will buy your used books too, so check them out and compare deals.
11. Make the move to meet your professors. Whether it's asking questions in class, a quick hello afterward, or an office visit, you're better off if they know who you are. "It's important, especially in larger classes," says Dr. Stacey Connaughton, a communications professor at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ). "Let the professor get a sense of who you are."
12. Take advantage of office hours. It's a prime time to gather tips for an upcoming exam or have your professor review a term paper before you hand it in.
13. As tempting as it is to skip those first few classes, don't! They're the most important. You'll get a class syllabus and find out everything you need to know for the entire semester. Besides, most professors start teaching from day one.
14. Don't be surprised when you look at your syllabus and see there are only a couple of tests and a paper. That's how college works, which means those few tests are a huge part of your final grade. Bomb one, and you'll be sitting in that class again next semester.
15. Pick a major wisely. It's the academic path you'll be following for the next four years, so be sure it's something you enjoy. And, if you must, test the waters first. "Your first year at the university should be a chance to explore," says Connaughton.
16. Study a little at a time throughout the semester. A trick: "Take 15 minutes a week to look over your notes, and you won't have to study as much during exams," reveals Chris McCants, a junior at Northeastern University (Boston, MA).
17. Piling all of your classes into a few days and taking the rest of the week off may sound like a great idea, but it's not. You'll most likely be in class all day, with barely any time to even grab a bite to eat. And if you miss one day, you'll be way behind.
18. Check in with an academic advisor every so often to make sure you're on the right track. It's worth popping into their office, or shooting a quick e-mail to ensure you're enrolled in the right classes and are meeting the requirements for graduation.
19. If you're going to work part-time during the semester, try to schedule your classes in blocks. If you scatter them throughout the day, you may not have enough time to go to work. You can still hit the books every day, just shoot for either morning or evening blocks.
20. Professors have optional review sessions for a reason. "They're not a waste of time," says Connaughton. "Something may come up that's important for the exam." Even if you think you know everything, showing up will often score you points with the instructor. "Plus, it gives you the opportunity to have more face-time with the teaching assistant (TA) or professor," adds Connaughton.
21. Make as many connections as possible. You're going to meet a multitude of people during your college career; it's a great time to build relationships and create a social and professional network. You never know when you'll need help or a reference down the road.
22. Do at least one or two internships. Not only will you get some real work experience, you'll also build up your resume for when it comes time to find a job. "Future employers expect students to have done internships," says Connaughton.
23. Meet people in your classes. "It makes things so much easier," says Chris. Pals can be a back-up in case you miss anything, not to mention when preparing for exams or sitting through a boring lecture.
Life Around Campus
24. Dorm mattresses are usually longer than normal, so chances are the Superman sheets you grew up with won't fit your new bed. "Extra-long, twin sheets are pretty much the standard at most schools," says Pat Quinn, publications and training coordinator of university housing at Rutgers.
25. Remember, you may be sharing a shower with a dorm floor's worth of people so shower shoes are a must. With a little searching, you can pick up a pair of flip-flops for under five dollars. Your feet will thank you.
26. Even with a lot of choices you're bound to become tired of the dining hall, so make sure you're not chained to it. "All cafeteria food is the same no matter how old you get," explains Chris. Try picking a smaller meal plan with more spending money (most schools offer accounts that work like debit cards to use on campus).
27. With your busy schedule, the dining hall might not always be open when you need it. Keep your dorm room stocked with easy-to-prepare food in case you don't make it to meals on time. It's also great for late-night snacks and study session munchies. Pizza delivery can get expensive.
28. If you plan on calling home a lot, pick up a long-distance calling card or bring a cell phone with an unlimited long-distance plan. Unlike your school's long-distance plan, you can use just what you've paid for so you won't get slammed with a huge bill at the end of the month.
Last But Not Least
29. Talk to your roommate(s) before you move in to figure out who's bringing what. You'll save room, money, and a lot of aggravation if you coordinate beforehand. Two microwaves, three VCRs, and four hampers don't make for a spacious living situation.
30. Think you'll bring everything you'll need when you're away from home? Trust us, you'll forget something unless you do some good mental preparation: "Go around for a few days keeping a list of everything you use during the day," suggests Quinn. That's the only way you'll know exactly what you're going to need.
31. Even if you get along great with your roommate, you're bound to get under one another's skin living in such close quarters. "Dorm rooms are too small for people to live," says Richard. "You have to get out once in a while." Time apart is good. Learn to study in a student center or library, or type papers at the computer lab.