On Expectations

Regardless of where you end up going to school, college will not be exactly what you expect it to be. We’ve all seen the films Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, or viewed one of the many shows that MTV has played over the years to suggest to our young minds what our lives at university will be. You’ve invariably built up some notion of wild parties, free-flowing alcohol, and unforgettable antics that somehow combine to form this four-year extravaganza. While I promise you that this does exist somewhat at every school I have visited; this is not college. If you go in only expecting this, you’re in for a wake-up call.

College is better. For a very short four years of our lives we are given the chance to use the amenities of giant institutions across the nation. The amount of resources that school’s put at a student’s fingertips is absolutely astounding. From endless library access, to a whole host of professors and classes conveying light on every imaginable subject; the chance to gain knowledge is easily there.

I’m sure this does not impress many of you. You’re thinking something along the lines of “I’m going for the college experience, not just to learn! I don’t care about libraries!” Sure, I firmly believe that the importance of college is not academic learning. But ignoring the academics all together has gotten many of my fellow students in heaps of trouble, so I thought I’d try to get you to realize the value of some of the resources before you forget to utilize them. The faculty and staff are literally there to help you, don’t be afraid to ask them any question.

But back to expectations, it’s probably safer to lower your own. That isn’t to say that college won’t be a life-altering experience, but it is simply your own journey. For the next few short years of your life, you’ll be able to completely redefine yourself and fully grow in to what you want to be. You’ll get to meet people from all around the world and try out a myriad of different activities with little to no real world consequences. You want to play a unique sport? You want to try your hand at being a painter? You want to become a published physicist? Then do it! College not only allows for this, but also encourages it.

The main thing to take away is that everyone’s college experience is unique. With such an opportunity ahead of you, its important to utilize all of the benefits of being a student. You don’t have to be a character out of some party movie, but you also don’t have to be so studious that you have no life. Your education is not only about the grades your earn, but also about the life lessons your learn.  Live a little, learn a little, grow a little and simply enjoy it.

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.