Top Ten Tips to Make the Most of your College Experience

20160701_183002You’ve graduated high school and have moved on to the big world of college. The following are tips on how to make your freshman year productive and less expensive so your college experience is both memorable and doesn’t leave you in a massive pool of debt.

  1. Remember you are paying for this experience and act accordingly- do not justify the fact that you’re already in the red for just the tuition by adding to your debt with credit card bills for clothes you are convinced you need or using your loans to pay your non college bills. I understand that you are free to use your loan however you want but remember it’s a loan and you’re going to have to pay that thing off eventually so why add to the pain of repayment later? Get a job on campus or get a part time job that works with your school schedule. The less debt you walk away with after you leave school, the less you have to pay back when you’re working an entry level job that pays less per year than what you spent on a single semester in school.

  2. Avoid withdrawing classes like your life depends on it- Why? Because you’re going to most likely have to take this class all over again and now you’re paying for one class twice and not moving any closer to meeting your required credits. If you need to drop it because of the professor, be sure to research if this class is taught by another professor and that your dreaded class isn’t a required pre-requisite class for the other classes you want to take instead.  If you’re wanting to withdraw due to being bad at the subject, try and find help with student resources or hire a tutor. I had to pay a math tutor $20 an hour for a few hours to help me from failing a logistics math class which is still cheaper than paying $600 to take that class all over again.

  3. If you’re on a food plan, know how much you can spend per day- College freshmen especially are known for blowing through their meal plans well before the end of the semester and are then forced to call their parents for more money or are on their own if their parents can’t/won’t pay for bad planning on the student’s part. If you have $20 a day to spend on food, don’t expect to spend $1 on lunch and $10 dinner and then somehow still have a decent sized breakfast . Going over even just $2 a day adds up to $10 a week and $40 a month. I know it’s tempting to get all the extras like pop and candy to go with your meals but you don’t need the extra calories or the extra expense. If you want the extras, buy them at a grocery store in bulk to save money or try to limit how often you get them so they’re a treat and not the norm.

  4. Your dorm room doesn’t need a refrigerator and probably a microwave- Yes, they’re nice and everything but college students tend to eat on the run anyways so why pay the expense and have a bulky mini fridge/microwave taking up space in an already small room if you don’t have to? Most colleges give you your new roommate’s contact information before school starts so you can see if your roomie is hard set on having these and if they’d be willing to pay half for everything used by both of you. You can try going that first week of school without any of the larger appliances and see if you really do need them with your lifestyle and then buy them if you do end up having to have them.Mini fridges and microwaves are the two things I saw the most of in the college dumpsters at the end of the semesters so consider getting these used if you can or try to live without them. Stores will have them on sale during the weeks before school so watch the sales for the best prices.

  5. You can avoid the freshman 15-Most colleges are aware of this phenomenon and take steps to provide healthy options for their students. If your college insists on only serving unhealthy food, make a trip to the grocery store every week and load up on non perishable foods like canned tuna, peanut butter and whole wheat bread. A lot of colleges have a registered dietician on staff who can work with you to figure out a healthy eating plan. Check the college’s website since it should have a link to their food services department listing the daily food menu and calorie counts for the foods being served.  Most schools let non-athletes use the workout facilities as well though sometimes they’ll have limited hours of availability.
  6. All nighters are not a good idea- What is a good idea? Studying on a consistent basis instead of trying to cram everything the night before a big test. Yes, it’s hard to study every night but set aside half an hour for each class you’re taking and this will help you retain the information better.  Even if you don’t end up needing a full half hour for each class every night, avoid ignoring any of your classes even if you do feel like you are an expert on the subject.

  7. When you get an assignment for a big project, start immediately- this goes with the above tip since it’ll help you avoid last minute crisis mode if you put it off and also you’ll have more time to devote to getting the project done at a quality level rather than a it’s done level.  Having all semester is an easy trap to fall into when you’re given a big project but that semester is going to go by way faster than you’re going to believe. You’ll have the satisfaction at the end of the semester knowing you didn’t have to go to any extremes to get your work done and it was done to the best of your abilities.

  8. Pick the major that’s best for you- Yes, you can major in business but if you’re better at art classes then that major isn’t going to work out once you start taking all of the classes that go with the business major.  There are majors that are better received by future employers but ultimately pick the major you will do well in and will be able to graduate with rather than a major you will hate and fail all of your classes in your attempt to appear better on your future resume.  The degree itself is the main thing human resources will be looking for and the major is just icing on the cake.

  9.  Try to go to as many events as you can- You need to get out there to not only meet potential new friends but to also feel like you’re really a part of your college community. The way colleges are going to handle student events is way different this year with COVID but they will most likely still be having things to keep students engaged so take part of them or at least do as much as you safely can to make this year as close to normal in terms of participating in student life as you can. Even if you don’t make any friends or have any fun, it’s still better than being cooped up in your dorm room. Stay for twenty minutes and if you hate it then feel free to leave. You gave it a try and you’ll eventually find something you will want to stay at.

  10. Be mindful of your safety even when on campus- With recent college shootings and rapes on campuses across the country, college campuses are not immune to violence. If you’re a woman, try to avoid walking at night by yourself and bring a small flashlight with you to both make your path easier to see and to use as a weapon if needed. If a student is talking about doing something violent, tell a professor or staff member immediately. Don’t drink more than you can handle at parties and leave with your friends when you’re ready to go home versus going by yourself. Practice social distancing and wash your hands like your life depends on it because it just may. Don’t forget there’s a pandemic going on but don’t let that scare you into avoiding having a good experience while you’re in school. This pandemic will change your experience but you can keep it from ruining it if you take the right precautions.
The Freshman Survival Guide $11.40 @




For ideas on where to get the best pizza in Des Moines for your study sessions, click here. For the best libraries in Des Moines, click here



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