If you’re preparing for that first semester away from home, I’m sure you’ve been asked countless times “Are you packed?” or “Are you ready for school?” You know, the usual questions you get hounded with by well meaning onlookers. And, of course, more often than not, you’re not sure how to answer those questions. Finding myself in a similar situation, I never knew what else to say other than, “I think so….” So having just graduated from college myself, shiny new degree plaque on the shelf, I’d like to save you all the trouble of trying to figure this stuff out by yourself. Here’s a few tips for avoiding some of the bigger headaches of going to college.
1. Don’t pack too much. Though this list is not in any particular order, this bit of advice is first in order and priority. Do yourself a huge favor, and pack perhaps…half of what you think you need. When it comes to clothes, you really need about two weeks worth of everything. Dress clothes, maybe three or four things for special occasions, but don’t go crazy. Essentially, look at your room at home. Now think of a room half that size. This is what you’ll have to work with. I made the mistake of bringing far too much with me my first semester in school, and it took me about 2 and a half years to get it right. Three suitcases and three rubbermaid boxes. Clothes for two weeks, my suit, a few dress shirts and khakis, first aid kit, TV, computer, bedding, toiletries for the shower, and a couple lamps. Done.
2. Make peace with your roomie. Whether you’re rooming with your best friend from high school or a complete stranger, talk to them about the living arrangements early and often. It may seem odd (especially if it’s a friend) but lay down some rules…expectations for what is and is not okay in your space. Misunderstandings about everything from cleanliness and schedules to whether or not you leave the door open can become major sticking points half way through the year. Plus, if you have made clear to your roommate what you expect, it’s all the easier for you to hold them accountable when they don’t respect your wishes. They can not read your mind any better than you can read theirs.
3. “Eat like a peasant.” This may sound strange, but one of my best friends gave me this advice and once I learned to apply it, it became the thing that singularly saved me more money in school than anything else. Here’s a perfect example. My school had a classic school cafeteria and in addition, a “snack bar.” At the snack bar you could use either school issued points or your own money to order anything from sandwiches and burgers to pizza and hot wings. But there was a certain…price disparity between items. For instance, a burger and fries with a drink would cost me roughly eight or nine dollars. A slice of pizza a cup of soup and a drink? Four dollars. I just saved myself five bucks. If I do this a few times a week, by the end of the month I may have saved a hundred bucks or more that I can put into a decent night out, or clothes or, call me crazy, my savings account.
4. Take notes. So at the risk of sounding parental for a minute, I cannot tell you how important this bit of advice is. If I had spent the time to take notes in all my classes, even cramming for tests would have been a hundred times easier. By copying it down in class, it’s like you’ve already studied over it once and so every time you look at it thereafter is just a bonus. Plus, you take the notes in class, you’ve got a copy for that cute guy/girl you’ve been eyeing for three weeks. Honestly, the benefits of this little bit of preparedness are immeasurable. It will make classes go by faster, make your life outside class easier, and make your academic career glide along so much smoother. Trust. Me.
5.Get involved with on-campus events. This is another bit of advice to basically make everything run a little bit better for you. By attending on campus events, you meet plenty of new people, make new friends, learn new things, so on and so forth. But more important than anything else, being involved on-campus will get you familiar with the residential assistants and residential staff. They are an invaluable resource if you’re on their good side. They can help get you out of tight spots on campus and can answer most if not all of your questions about how to survive at school. They can help mediate relations with your roommates, help vouch for you to professors when need be, and if anything else just generally keep you out of too much trouble due to sheer ignorance. Adjusting to campus life takes a lot of doing, but if you use your resources you can make the transition so much easier.
So that’s it. That’s all I have. Five tips to try and keep you from pulling your hair out this first year. It may not sound like a whole lot but if you stick with these bits of advice, I can offer you a couple things. Firstly, when everyone else is complaining about not having enough space, you’ll be able to stretch out in your room without bumping in to anything or anybody. Secondly, when everyone else is arguing and screaming at their roommates about how they don’t take out the trash enough, you and your roomie will be laughing and bonding over your favorite B-movies (for some reason, the first year of college–for guys at least–is all about Bad Boyz 2 and Pulp Fiction). Thirdly, you WILL avoid the freshman fifteen and you’ll have plenty of extra money saved up to have a decent night out once in a while. Next, you’ll be pulling half as many all nighters as everyone else. Finally, when the guy down the hall gets written up for a noise violation, you will find yourself with a quick talking to and a chance to turn the music down. Of course there are always exceptions to these rules but if you start out with these things in mind, you’ll know what does and does not work for you 6 months before everyone else does. Until next time, cheers.