Archive by Author | Ethan

On Where to Live While in College

Going away to college can be significantly more expensive than living at home. The main reason for this is the cost of rent for an apartment or dorm. Some students are fortunate enough to be awarded scholarships that pay for housing, but unless your grades are among the top percentage in the country, you’ll be paying for it on your own.

When deciding on where to live, you must first consider everything you will be paying for while living off-campus that would otherwise be part of your housing payment in the dorms. The money you pay towards on-campus housing usually covers air-conditioning and heating, water, electricity, internet, and cable (Research the college you might attend to see what they provide). Make sure to take every expense into account to make sure one is more financially viable than the other.

From my experience, and what I’ve heard from others, on-campus housing is a lot more expensive than living off-campus. Apartment prices will vary depending on what part of the country or state you are in, but if you split the rent with one or more roommates, you’ll most likely be paying less than you would in dorms. If you are lucky enough to go to college with a friend you can split rent and utilities with — that will probably be your best bet — but if not, you might find it worthwhile to live on campus to make friends and possibly move out with them the following year.

Also, If you plan on living far enough from campus that would require a significant commute, be sure to think about the price of a parking pass or bus pass and the time it will take to get to class. A friend of mine thought to ask the manager of a restaurant near campus if he could park behind their establishment; his request was accepted and now parks there for free and makes the short walk to campus. Be aware of agreements like this that could save you time and money.

Remember, with off-campus living comes the chance of you becoming lazy and blowing off school because of you don’t feel like making the commute. So if you are the type of person who might fall into that sort of mindset fairly easily, I would suggest living closer to, or even on-campus to avoid this behavior and possibly flunking out.

On Organization

If you ever plan on graduating in a timely manner, you’ll have to be organized. Luckily for you, I have my fair share of time-tested organizational tips that will make you a more efficient student and help you graduate on time.

Growing up, my mom often had a daily planner to keep all her appointments and events in one place and boy did I think that was nerdy. I couldn’t have been more surprised my freshman year when I was given a free one in an orientation goodie bag and decided to fill it up with the information in my syllabi; like due dates of assignments, tests, quizzes and papers. It wasn’t long until I found myself going back to it regularly to check things off that I had finished and to make sure I was on-track in each class. I kid you not, getting — and properly utilizing — a daily planner will greatly increase your likelihood of passing classes and graduating on time.

On almost the same level as daily planners, accordion file folders are well worth the few bucks you’ll spend on them, considering the amount of time and frustration they’ll save you later in the semester. These things are pretty self-explanatory, it’s a binder that folds out like an accordion to let you easily store papers from multiple classes into their own slots so they don’t get mixed together. They also come with little tags you can put class names on to be better organized. Much like an accordion, it folds back up nicely and conveniently so you can take all your papers to campus while keeping them neatly organized.

Finally, and what I think should be the base of your organizational system to success(™ coming soon), is the arrangement of your main study area. It’s important to have a desk dedicated solely to your school work. Make sure it’s always mess free to avoid distraction, and in a place where you can completely drown out all other stimuli to focus on your work. Facing a wall is an easy way to get rid of visual distractions, but sometimes drowning out the noises of your house, apartment or dorm can be slightly more challenging. For that, I would plug my headphones into my laptop and go to Simply Noise, select a tone and volume I liked, and go to work. With this noise generator, I often found myself taking fewer breaks and feeling my thoughts flow more smoothly, ultimately finishing my papers faster than I would otherwise. I tried listening to my own music library, but quickly found myself jamming out to the music and not doing any work. Everybody sings alone in their cars, so sitting alone at a desk will probably yield the same result. Good luck.

On Time Management

In case you feel as though you’ll be overwhelmed by college, relax; it’s easier than you think.

Most colleges require around 15 units a semester (or 12 units a quarter) to graduate in four years. Units can typically be understood as the number of hours a week you will be in class. If you compare that to the 30-35 hours a week spent in high school, there should be no reason you shouldn’t graduate in a timely manner. Yes, classes are harder than those you took in high school and will require more time for homework, but given the amount of free time you get, it’s more than reasonable.

Accordingly, if there’s one thing you will need to get used to in college, it is the amount of free time you’ll have. Getting a job will help offset the free time and besides; there are few things better than a steady paycheck, whatever the size.

One of the main problems I saw in college, was the ways in which students abused their free time. As soon as classes got out for the day or for the week, my classmates would immediately immerse themselves in partying or video games that would last until hours before class began again, leaving little to no time for studying or homework. I’ve witnessed numerous people fail classes because they were not able to find time to put in the work, despite the substantial amount of time they were given.

When I would get out of class, I would head back to my apartment and finish most of the homework assigned to me that day, and only after that I would feel ready to begin socializing with friends. This routine worked well for my first year, then I began giving myself a little more leeway as I became more comfortable with it and because my work hours didn’t always allow me to do so. Regardless, I still completed assignments and papers as soon as I could. I would suggest you try this first semester to avoid being overwhelmed by deadlines and due dates, instead of waiting until it’s too late. After you get used to this system, try adjusting it to see what works best for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, partying and hanging out with friends is great, but there is a happy medium between socializing and studying. Though it may vary from person to person, it is out there, and finding it for yourself is well worth the satisfaction.

On Getting Books

It doesn’t matter which college you go to, you’ll usually always be left penniless by the prices of books offered at your campus bookstore. What’s more, some professors insist on using the latest editions, which most of the time are a waste of the little money you already have.

When a class requires expensive books with many editions, it may be better to contact the professor before the first day of class and ask if it would be all right if an earlier edition could be used instead, this will save you a lot of money over your college career.

One motto to live by when searching for books, is “never settle.” If you settle with the first price you see, especially those from the campus bookstore, chances are you’ll be paying too much. Whenever the list of books for the next semester came up, I’d find its ISBN (the multi-digit number above the barcode) and search different sites for the best deal. The best deal you’ll probably find are from rental sites — sites that lend you the book for the semester or longer, and will be only a fraction of the cost. Then again, it may be better to buy a book that you may use again within your major, just be sure to make the best choice either way.

Though they do not rent books, I have known Amazon to have books for sale cheaper than rentals, but as most used book sales are done by everyday people and not by Amazon itself, I have heard stories of people having problems, like getting the wrong book. It can be a gamble, but usually it pays off nicely. Then there’s Chegg. Probably my favorite and go-to book-rental site. According to the ticker on my Chegg account, I’ve saved a couple hundred dollars and that’s always a plus. There are many other book-rental sites, like AbeBooks and BookRenter that I’ve heard great things about, but have never had the pleasure of using. In the end, it all comes down to how well you search for the best deals, and who knows, maybe you’ll find prices better than any of these; just don’t settle.

On Registering for Classes

Registering for classes had to be my least favorite part of college. During the last month of the semester, when registration for the next term became available, worried students could only talk about the lack of seats in a needed class and how their registration time was inconvenient. For freshmen and sophomores, it is typically the worst. Since they’re farthest away from graduation, they typically get the scraps after the upper class-men have taken all the better classes; but that’s just the way it goes, it gets easier.

If you’re new to registering for classes; don’t worry, there are a couple of ways in which you can optimize your schedule for your benefit and make the whole process a little easier.

A website that I’m sure is mentioned by students on every campus, is Rate My Professors. Here students rate professors from easy to difficult, comment on the best or worst classes of theirs, as well as rate their attractiveness. Though I have used this site before, I often found that students would live by it and not enroll in a class they needed because of information they found. I figured that if I went to classes and did my work, it wouldn’t really matter what professor it was and it worked just fine for me.

Another thing to consider is what time you should schedule your classes. I’ve taken classes that started at seven in the morning, and some that got out around 10 at night; it all depends on what works for you. For most of my semesters, starting from my very first, I decided to schedule my classes for almost every day and during the time I was used to attending school. I had just graduated high school a few months earlier, and figured that it would make for an easy transition to have classes from 8 or 9 a.m. until just before three o’clock. This was great for me, because when I got out, I was done for the day and didn’t have to sit around on campus and do nothing, as many students do.

Also, you must think about your job (if you are lucky enough to have one) and make sure to schedule classes at times that don’t conflict with your job hours (or potential job hours). I would usually draw out a mock planner to see when my best times for class and work would be and go from there.

Now for my last bit of advice for this post, which will probably be told to you at orientation. Your first two years should be focused on GE (General Education), the easy classes that are required for all students. They’re easy and easy to get into, so it should make your first few registration days a little less stressful.

Congratulations, you made it to college! Now don’t screw it up.

Teach Me How to College is here to help you have a successful college career and help you not screw up this great opportunity. Best of luck, students.