Back to school is here! Even though I graduated many years ago, I still get excited when I see all the bright and shiny school supplies lining store shelves. I have a weird obsession with organizing and as a result I tend to drool over notebooks, binders, highlighters, and backpacks with lots of pockets. August also reminds me of the jittery feelings I used to have this time of year wondering what excitement and opportunities the new school year would bring.
I used to get so anxious about which courses I was going to take too as I took a ton of credits each semester. The system my school used to have for class registration was ancient and it took forever waiting for our turn to use these dusty old computers from the 90’s that used to take forever to load. I remember creating multiple matrices with my Plan A, B, and C wishlists of class combinations since sometimes the courses I really wanted were already full when my turn came. Because I was taking so many classes, my schedule had to fit together just right for everything to work. Yes I know, I was (and still am) a total nerd.
Back To School Tips For College
Even though I’m happy to be done with college, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. It was a period in my life when I really started to grow up, took risks, planned for my future, and dreamt of breaking out on my own. I know college can be a scary time as well, especially if you’re leaving home for the first time, figuring out what you want to do with your life, and building a brand new circle of friends.
So here are a few of my back to school tips for college that will hopefully make the transition a little easier for you!
Clubs & Extra Curricular Activities
The fabulous thing about college is there are countless clubs and extra curricular activities to get involved in. Be sure to go to the open house events and check out all the different groups on campus. Getting involved in extra curricular activities is a great way to meet people and discover your passions in life. And if you can’t find a club that you like, create your own! Seriously, I’m not kidding. You’ll develop leadership skills and experience a taste of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
And if you join some clubs and find yourself getting bored or not clicking well with the people in a certain group, drop it and find something else. I did this a few times when I felt the people in a few of my clubs were too weird, the activities simply didn’t interest me, or the group was too disorganized. I stuck with the groups I cared about the most, and eventually got elected for leadership roles. This came in very handy when it came time to create my resume, and start interviewing for jobs.
You Don’t Have To Go Greek To Have An Incredible Time
I went to a school that had a large Greek presence, but I could have cared less! Some people love the bonds they built in their sorority or fraternity, and that’s great for them. It just wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to have to pay dues, I hated the concept of rush, and the Greek party scene was too immature for my taste.
I found incredible friends on my own, developed my own identity, and I liked being independent, and not having to wear those incredibly ugly poofy sorority letter shirts so many of the girls had.
Get Digital Books
I am jealous that eTextbooks didn’t exist when I was in college. I was in love with my laptop (even though it weighed a ton) and it would have been nice to read my textbooks on it. I wrote about The Benefits of eTextbooks earlier this year and love how they are a great way to save some money compared to traditional textbooks.
You can highlight sections just like you would with a regular highlighter, and not having to lug around a 20 pound backpack is a nice perk, especially on a large campus.
Don’t Waste Your Money On Junk
I wasn’t that knowledgeable of personal finance when I was in college, which was a shame. I had a credit card for the first time, and even though I didn’t rack up thousands in debt on it, I definitely took it for granted. I wasted a lot of money on stupid things that ultimately became clutter, which is a real problem when you live in a dorm room the size of a closet.
So spend your money wisely because it also disappears very quickly in college. And it’s never too early to start learning about personal finance and being responsible with your money. The sooner you start paying attention to what you’re spending, the more options you’ll have in life, and the brighter your future will become.
Get to Know Your Professors
Take as many small size classes as you can. The classes I loved the most were the ones that had only 10-15 people in them. It’s so much easier to interact with the professors and your classmates, and really delve into the material. Lecture classes are usually unavoidable in your freshman and sophomore years, but don’t use them as an excuse to tune out.
I developed a really bad habit of falling asleep in lecture classes, and my grades suffered as a result. You can still make an impression on professors in large classroom settings, so get active and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I wish I spent more time participating in classes and getting to know my professors. So take advantage of your opportunities!
Even if you choose to earn your degree online, which an increasing number of students are doing, you can get to know your professors. Most online universities provide a direct link to their faculty via email or the program’s online message board, so you can still get involved in discussions and ask questions whenever necessary. In fact, it is sometimes easier to get involved in discussions online, since they can last for days and are not a spur of the moment type of interaction. Online classes also make it easier to make an impression on your professor, since you do not have to compete with louder or more vocal students during class time.
Don’t Buy The Biggest Meal Plan
It’s crazy how much of my college experience revolved around eating. I made a big mistake of getting the biggest meal plan. I don’t even remember what made me think I needed that plan either. Not only was it a waste of money, I also totally fell victim to the Freshman 15. Thank goodness I was able to lose it all though!
My advice is to pay attention to nutrition early on and don’t develop bad eating habits in college or you will pay the price. I developed a really bad habit of eating super fast and it still gets the better of me now. I was always in a rush trying to get from one class to the next, or to the library to go study, that I felt I had no choice but to shovel my food down in literally 5 minutes or less. I never took the time to chew my food well enough, didn’t drink enough fluids while I ate, and made bad meal choices. Bad, bad habits that are tough to unlearn. Please don’t underestimate the importance of taking care of your health!
Know Exactly How Much Each Of Your Courses Costs
Another mistake I made in college was not realizing how much each course I took actually cost. I didn’t fail any classes, nor was I a super senior, but I took my professors and my opportunity to learn for granted a lot of times. I skipped classes when I felt lazy, I dozed off in lectures
now and then frequently, and procrastinated a lot.
Even though I worked during college and also paid half of all my tuition, plus room and board, I was oblivious to the actual cost of everything involved. I knew it was expensive to go to school, but that wasn’t enough information for me to really feel the impact at the time. If I had known exactly how much money I was wasting by falling asleep or ditching a class however, I would have probably started crying on the spot and asked my parents to forgive me for being so selfish.
It is ridiculous how much college costs, so please don’t take your time there for granted! Respect your professors, care about your education, and get passionate about learning!
Refinance Your Student Loan With SoFi
SoFi is a fantastic social lending company that provides rates as low as 2.6% variable with auto pay and 3.4% fixed with auto pay. The reason why they can offer lower rates than the rest is because they analyze you based on merit, quality of employment, and education besides just a credit score and financials. There are zero origination and prepayment fees. Offer terms are from 5, 10, 15, 20 years in both fixed and variable. Both private and public student loans can be refinanced.
Besides low rates, one of their best features is their unemployment benefits. If you lose your job while repaying your loans, you don’t have to pay your loan for up to 12 months while you look for a new job! Interest will still accrue, but having this cash flow break is a huge benefit. They also provide job assistance guidance as well. Over 500,000 users have refinanced with SoFi for an average $15,767 in lifetime savings.
Learn more and refinance or apply for a new student loan here.
Updated for 2018 and beyond
My Money Design says
College will be coming back around for me in about 9 years with my daughter! I hate back to school time because I know it just KILLS the kids to have to go back. I love the advice to take small classes. The people I got the closest too and the classes I enjoyed the most were the small classes – and surprisingly during the Summer time! I met my wife during Summer classes!
I can’t imagine how emotional it must be as a parent preparing to send your kid to college. And a major crunch on the bank too, yikes.
I love that you met your wife in summer classes! Nice story 🙂
Bethany Bracken says
Great tips and advice! I agree with everything you said, my college experience was helped along by remembering each of these things! And I know what you mean about loving to organizing things. This time of year I always get excited for new school supplies and even though I am not there anymore, I am always tempted to buy a new college backpack every autumn!
I know! I’ve been thinking about getting a new backback but I’d be using it for travel mostly instead of carrying books. 🙂
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland says
Good job on 100 articles! These are great tips, though, most college students don’t take advice from nobody! 😉
Thanks! Didn’t realize I reached 100! 🙂
Yeah I wish I had someone giving me advice before I went off to college. Fortunately I got through it and didn’t make any giant mistakes.
I remember the Multi level meal plans!
Surest way to the freshman 15 pounds ever!
I got the lowest meal plan after putting on the weight. It’s amazing to see so many of us get so heavy the first two years of college!
It definitely takes an adjustment having to eat cafeteria food 24/7. Even though there are healthy options it’s hard to resist the pizzas and milkshakes that are right there just asking to be eaten!