Whether you’re a high school graduate making the transition to a new collegiate lifestyle or a current college student adjusting to a new chapter of your life, college can be confusing and in some cases, challenging when you don’t know what to expect or how to navigate all of the new experiences being thrown your way. Now having graduated, I often look back and wonder what tips and advice I would have loved to know while I was still in school. Below, I compiled some of the best advice from my experience that can make your time spent in college go easily and smoothly:
- Don’t buy your textbooks from your school bookstore – typically buying books from your school’s bookstore will be significantly more expensive than buying them from online retailers or marketplaces. Instead, check out online sites such as chegg, amazon, and half.com. Another tip is to rent and not buy your books. You’re typically not going to need those textbooks after the semester is over and by renting textbooks you can de-clutter your dorm room and save some money at the same time.
- Start paying back your student loans while you’re in school – If you didn’t know, your student loans are continually accruing interest as they remain unpaid. Essentially, this means you’ll end up having to pay more than what you borrowed by the time you graduate. If you can, try setting aside a small affordable amount each semester that you can use to start paying back those student loans before you graduate. Another tip, stay in touch with your school’s financial aid office to discover any additional advice they may have that fits your student aid needs.
- Avoid late-night snacking – we’ve all heard of the freshman 15 and yes, it’s real. One thing I noticed is how easy it is to overeat or eat the wrong things when you’re up late pulling an “all nighter” for that big exam tomorrow. To cut late-night snacking, I would often keep my snacks out of sight while I was studying. That way, when my eyes would begin to wander, they wouldn’t be enticed by those tempting treats sitting beside my bed. But, if you still feel yourself craving a snack, try keeping healthy options at your disposal. Options like fruit or granola bars make for a great alternative.
- Cut costs by choosing the right meal plan for you – maybe in high school you ate three square meals a day with small snacks in between, so that expensive, “gold” package meal plan seems like the perfect one for you. My answer: not quite. Your eating habits in college are likely to change and you’ll probably often find yourself eating less than what you used to (largely due to the fact that the time you have available in your day to eat will dwindle). So instead of that large meal plan, try cutting costs by going one step down. You may find that even that is too much. Plus, at most schools, you can adjust your meal plan if you find that the one you chose is not fitting your needs.
- Get involved on campus as soon as possible – we’ve all heard that saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. A lot of the networking and skill-building you’ll do in college starts with getting involved on campus. The great thing is, most colleges/universities have a ton of options from you to choose from. Set a goal from your freshman to senior year to try different organizations each semester. Also, make sure you’re not just sticking to orgs that are centered around the things you know you like. Try something new! You never know, you may find something different to fall in love with.
- Take advantage of your career center/professors – this is something you won’t have at your disposal when you graduate. Your professors and your campus career center are the greatest resources you may have while you’re in school. They can give you professional career advice, help you network with people and opportunities in your field of interest, and help prepare you for what to expect after graduation. So, while you can, set some time aside to step in and say “hi”. A simple conversation is always a great first step to making a lasting connection.
- Become a “dorm chef” – a “dorm chef” is someone who lives on campus with minimal cooking resources but still manages to make delicious meals! One thing you’ll realize is that campus food gets boring very quickly. If you can, invest in a small blender, microwave oven, and/or crockpot. These tools will allow you to make smoothies, soups, and pastas right in your dorm room. Not only will you cut costs by not spending money on campus food, but, these meals will last you more than one day.
- Avoid homesickness by making your space yours – my last and most valuable piece of advice is something that hits everybody at some point – feeling homesick. You start to reminisce about your family and friends back home and you may even begin to feel like you chose the wrong school. One thing I did while I was in school was making the space in my room feel like back at home. From pictures of my loved ones to decorations and colors I handpicked, it really helped to curb some of the homesickness I felt after moving on to campus.
Hopefully these tips will help you as you make your journey through college. Let me know your thoughts and if you have any other advice to share below!