What Every New College Student Should Know

Being an only child, I never had the benefit of an older sibling having gone before me.  Someone who charted new territory and could report back to me with tips, tricks and warnings.  When I went to college (the first time), everything was a new experience and I had no idea what to expect.  And no, this isn't a blog lamenting the mistakes of my youth as I went wild when I arrived on campus.  (That was one of my suite mates who busted her chin open the first weekend of freshman year because she was drunk and fell off the curb.  Ahem.)  This is just a short list of things I think every new college student should know.  Things I wish I had known.  Things I'm going to make sure my own children know, even though I know they won't actually listen to me :-)
  • If you aren't a morning person, don't take early morning classes.  If you are a morning person, might as well take early classes and get things out of the way before lunch.  I am a morning person and always have been.  Many of my friends were not, but they signed up for early morning classes anyway.  And they missed them.  A lot.
  • Try to schedule all classes for the same days.  This may sound strange, but you'd be amazed how nice it can be to only have classes two (Tuesday, Thursday) or three (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) days a week.  On the off days, you have an entire day to do whatever needs to be done without rushing around to another class or cramming for a forgotten exam.
  • Take advantage of local community colleges.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking courses at a local community college.  Many of them transfer to the University system.  And you can save a ton of money.  This can be a great option if you want to take a few summer courses while you are home.
  • Distance Education is not easy by default.  A lot of students assume that taking an online course is super simple.  While this can be true for some courses, it is NOT true for all courses.  If you don't have self-discipline, stick with face-to-face courses.  Otherwise, you may be in for a rough semester.  Online courses require a lot of self-discipline.  And, some professors go to great lengths to ensure the online course is extra challenging.
  • Don't rush into your major.  I can remember going into the Scholars program at NC State and there was a huge push to declare a major.  Huge.  I think it is ok to declare, but keep your mind open.  You may stumble across something in your first year or two that holds infinite possibilities, something you never considered before.  Be open to those opportunities and embrace them.
  • Get the hard stuff out of the way first.  Many people will tell you that at some point during college, they felt burnt out.  Realizing that will probably happen at some point, I highly suggest getting some of the harder things out of the way early on, if you can.  For example, if math is difficult for you, try taking your math courses as soon as you can.  First, you're more likely to be able to recall at least something from high school.  Second, when you get to your latter years of college, you won't be dreading taking a math course.
  • Take a few classes for fun.  When choosing your electives, choose some that you want to take just for the fun of it. 
  • Don't borrow more than you have to.  With the rising costs of a college education, many students are forced to obtain student loans.  While it might be tempting to borrow more than you absolutely need, don't succumb to that temptation.  More than likely, you will regret it for years and year and years to come.  Just ask anyone who is still paying off student loans a decade later.
  • Don't quit.  This is the most important thing.  Don't give up, no matter how difficult things get.  Even if you only take one course per semester.  Don't quit.  Even if you have to transfer to another school that offers a similar program at a significantly lower price.  Finishing college as a young twenty-something is so much easier than trying to finish as an older thirty or forty-something with a family and/or a job and/or endless responsibilities (mortgage, car payment, insurance, utilities, etc.).
Truth be told, I realize that everything I've mentioned may not be relevant for today's college student.  I'm "old" as college students go, but I've lived each one of these to some degree and I know what I'm talking about.

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