Right now, thousands of almost-freshmen are preparing to attend college. While it is is tempting to buy a bunch of decor and try to spruce things up in your dorm room or apartment, it might not be the best idea. As you get ready to head out to college, here are 7 helpful tips to get you through — and keep you from going broke:
1. Bring a Laptop or a Tablet
Your portable computing device can help you in so many ways. And you don’t need an expensive one, either. Figure out your needs, and get a laptop or tablet that matches them. Your portable device is great for taking notes, and it can double as a private screen for movies and TV shows. Most dorms have common areas with TVs, and many apartments are similar. Great for the social experience of viewing parties, and there is no real need for a TV in your room.
You don’t need a smartphone, either. Thanks to Skype, you can make all the calls you want for cheap. Forget about the expensive voice/text/data plan that comes with a smartphone, and make use of a laptop or tablet hooked in, usually as part of your student benefits, to the school’s network.
2. Get a Job
Seriously, get a job. An on-campus job is the best choice if you have the option. Hopefully, when you filled out your FAFSA, you included work-study as an option. If you qualify for work-study, they pretty much have to give you preference for some on-campus jobs. Even if you aren’t using work-study, you can get an on-campus job.
This will help you earn money, and avoid as much college debt. A job is a good idea for many reasons. You can start setting aside money for retirement, and you can even pay for fun things. You don’t have to work full-time, either. A part-time job can help take some of the edge off, without ruining your grades.
3. Be Involved
Part of college is the experience. Don’t forget to get involved. Whether you join a club, an honor society, or participate in student government, there are a number of ways to get involved — and you should. Not only can being involved help you make the most of college, but it can also help you in the future.
Your club involvement, student government position, or internship looks great on a resume. Get involved, get some leadership experience, and hone your networking skills. Your future self will thank you.
4. Don’t Buy New Textbooks from the Bookstore
This cannot be underscored enough. In some cases it is unavoidable, since there are those who order “special editions” or professors who require you to buy their textbook, or specially prepared excerpt collections, from the bookstore. However, whenever possible, get used textbooks. You can save money by buying them on Amazon.com (and sending them back for credit at the end of the semester). It’s also possible to rent textbooks. You can save a ton of money by being careful about where you buy your textbooks.
5. Pay Attention to General Education Classes
We all have to take generals. And while generals like math and English are widely dreaded, generals also provide you a chance to do a little exploring. When I first went to college, I had a completely different major in mind. However, I took a Communications class, and it was more interesting and fun than I thought it would be. I changed my major, and started down the path that has led to a home business as a writer.
Also, consider taking something “fun”. It doesn’t have to be all dedication to your major. Go off the beaten path a little, and branch out. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself.
6. Don’t Try To Do Too Much
I ambitiously tried to take 18 credits my first semester. By the time the drop date rolled around, I was down to 14. It’s tempting to cram in the credits, since you get more bang for your buck the more classes you take. However, it’s probably an unsustainable pace for most people. On top of that, it’s hard to hold a part-time job and earn a little extra money if you are taking a ton of credits. Besides, part of college is having some fun, and meeting people. You can’t do that if you never make it out of the classroom or your dorm room.
7. The Private Room is Totally Worth the Money
One of the things that I don’t feel bad about spending extra on at college was the private dorm room. My parents paid for my housing, but expected me to pay the difference between the shared room and the private room. It was totally worth it to have the privacy and the space. Sometimes, you just need to be able to retreat and get things done.
I also lived on campus, except for one year. I liked living on campus, where everything I needed was close, and I could walk. Saved money on transportation costs. Living on campus as a freshman is great because you can really get involved with campus life and meet people.
What are your best tips for college freshmen?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.