Monday, August 11, 2014

6 Real Tips to Surviving College that No One has Bothered to Tell You: From someone who has attended THREE colleges!

College. It can be both the best and worst experience all at the same time for many different reasons. With school starting back for a lot of us, I'm going to share a couple of tips that might make your experience a little bit better for when you start college or for those of us already there. 

1. Your advisor is the ONLY person who knows what is really going on. Befriend them. Love them. Bring them cookies. Know that this person holds the key to you advancing to the next stage of your education. A past advisor of mine had a funny plaque in her office that said, "I don't care what 'they said', I care what 'I said'." And it's true. Other department advisors/teachers/custodians might have an idea of what to tell you about classes or pre-req's but your personal advisor knows the most and is the only opinion that will count at the end of the semester. 

2. Perform regular check-ins about your classes. Drafted up your schedule for every semester until you graduate? Great. But things change. Things ALWAYS change. Each semester, it's a good idea to check that your classes are still the ones you should be taking with your advisor midway through and at the end of the semester. I didn't do this my freshman year and ended up with 18 credit hours of social sciences that have served no purpose other than draining my HOPE account. Do this every semester until you have a diploma in your withered hands. 

3. Know your pre-requisites. This is kind of a no brainer but still, it gets overlooked so often in the heat of signing up for courses the day registration opens. Most, if not all, upper-level courses require other classes to be taken before you can take them. Don't plan on getting into these courses only to find that a pre-req is holding you back. This can royally screw up any perfect schedule. Pre-req's are listed online under the upper level course you're wanting to take. 

4. Know WHEN classes are offered. Many of us have gotten excited at the prospect of graduating early. You know you can split the hours you have left over three semesters and you'll finally be done! However, college is always there to suck the joy out of your logical plans. Certain classes are only offered during certain semesters. Because you need to take them in a certain order. Because every student started college at the right time, in the right order, and has no deviation from the student sitting next to them, whatsoever. Makes sense right? No. It doesn't. Neither do the programs that only accept students once a year but such is life. This means you have to be careful mapping out future schedules. Make sure you know when your classes are offered so you don't get to senior year and find yourself needing one more summer class to graduate. 

5. Check your work. No, this never goes away. I've seen several students sit back and let their advisors plan their whole college career and never look twice at their schedules or paperwork, only to find halfway through that their beloved advisor made a boo-boo, paradigm shifting their entire schedule for semesters to come. Muah ha ha. Yes, I know I said to listen exclusively to the all powerful advisor, but listen up. They are BUSY people. They are also shockingly human, so they will make mistakes. And it is up to you to catch those mistakes after you walk out of their office. 

6. Update your contacts. Save every number to every important person in your phone. That way, you can contact said people anywhere at anytime if you have questions or your roommate scares the bejeezus out of you by telling you you've missed registration by twenty-minutes (true story). Just remember these people have lives and the best time to contact them is early in the week (so you have more consecutive business days to handle your problem) and before or after lunch (yes, they need to eat unfortunately). Emails work wonders too. Be very descriptive in them so as to lessen back and forth correspondence, wasting precious time. 

Bonus! Records. Please, for the love of Christmas break, buy yourself a bunch of folders or binders or trash bags, just SOMETHING to store every important and relevant school paper that comes under your nose. Later I'll be doing a post of how to organize for school including important paperwork. Having all of this organized at your fingertips means you can easily give info to advisors/registration/bursar's office/teachers/financial aid or anyone else without a problem. It's your arsenal of proof. For now, some things to keep and not toss are all of your receipts (tuition payment/fees/books/online courses/programs), registration cards from advising, a current copy of your transcript, a current copy of your program's advising worksheet, etc. Take it from someone who has changed colleges THREE TIMES, yes three. It makes any transition a whole lot easier when you know your stuff better than your advisors do, which unfortunately happens quite often. 

There are many tips out there to surviving college and all that comes with it but these are the behind-the-scenes bull-honky that I've personally dealt with and come to find most helpful. Random students and faculty will tell you all kinds of things that aren't actually true. More than once a thousand times you'll have to rework your schedule. But if you try to stay flexible and contact the appropriate people, you shouldn't have all that horrible of a time. Enjoy college while you're still in it. :) 

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