Need to know tips for a great college life

The prospect of heading to college in the fall as a freshman is scary enough, but if you can prepare yourself just a little bit for what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll be much more relaxed. Read on to find out some things you need to know about college life!

A description of how college life is portrayed by different parties. (Credit: College Candy)

A description of how college life is portrayed by different parties. (Credit: College Candy)

Financial life

You’ve likely heard of FAFSA, but have you filled out your application? If you’ve missed your state’s deadline (check here for more information), you’ll want to be sure to prepare ahead of time for next school year. Forbes contributor, Alden Wicker, posted helpful tips in the March 24, 2014, post, “9 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About College Financial Aid,” that originally appeared on LifeVest, an investment adviser that provides financial plans for clients.  Wicker suggests, “the earlier you send in your FAFSA, the better.” Forms are available to fill out just after the first of the year, and you should consider filling them out sooner rather than later “so you can potentially get to the front of the line for nabbing a piece of the financial aid pie,” says the author.

What else does Wicker suggest?

  • Try to appeal your financial aid package with your college if you need more money. If they’re only going to award $10,000 per academic year, but you know you’ll need more for room and board as well, ask for more.
  • Only consider student loans as the last resort, after filling out grant and scholarship applications.
  • Private student loans have different terms than federal loans — be sure to check all the fine print (like repayment terms) before signing.

Personal life

Of course there are some lessons learned best by living them out, for example: how to deal with roommates — read my 2012 post, “How to handle the stress of college life and living with roommates,” but many other important aspects of being an independent adult are helpful when prepared for. Doing laundry (including ironing), cooking easy meals (spaghetti, eggs, etc.), buying toiletries, and handling a personal checking account are all practical life lessons one should be able to do on their own without consulting mom and dad. Majorie Hansen Shaevitz offers up “30 Practical Things Students Need to Know How to Do Before Heading Off to College,” in her June 3, 2013, post for The Huffington Post.

  • If you don’t have transportation and are moving to a city where there are plenty of public transportation options (Chicago, Boston), you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how to use all forms to get where you’re wanting to go.
  • If you have a vehicle, be sure to know where to go for maintenance issues — you can probably put air in your tires and buy windshield wipers without assistance, but may need to have someone else change the oil and rotate tires.
  • Make doctors and dentist appointments before you begin, but also be sure to make note of where the campus clinic is and if they accept your insurance. 

College academic life

Another one of those life experiences you’ll probably learn better by doing is how to be a good student. You’ll have to figure out how you best study (for me, it’s in a coffee shop with headphones on), how to cram for an exam (studying the night before as opposed to the morning of), and how to write a last-minute research paper (investing the time to really learn how to research online). But there are some lessons that can be learned from other people’s mistakes.

Southern Methodist University’s Student Affairs office has posted “Tips for Academic Success.” Here are a few things they suggest you learn now, before heading off to school in the fall.

1.  Go to class: A no-brainer but can become tempting once you get comfortable.

2.  Learn the campus: Explore the buildings and services in your spare time; see #7.

3.  Know the university probably has academic rules: Don’t get caught saying, “I didn’t know…”

4.  Realize that being a college student is a full-time job: Don’t over-book yourself.

5.  Be patient with yourself: You will make mistakes. It’s part of life.

6.  Learn to communicate in class: Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your professor.

7.  Locate and use all university services: Math and writing centers can be beneficial for your first year especially.

Above all else, enjoy your first year. Enjoy the fact that you’re on your own, maybe for the first time, and you’re going to make mistakes. But, if you’re patient and willing to learn from them, your mistakes will not define you.

Have any other good college advice you’d like to share? Post it in the comments below!

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