So you’re fresh out of high school. You’re at your university of choice now, far enough away from home to be out of your parents sphere of influence, and now you have no idea what to do. There are possibilities everywhere, but none of them seem to be exactly what it is that they say makes college the best years of your life. We’ve all been in this boat at some time or another, and I hope to share my experiences on making college the time of your life that you look back on and think “yeah, that was awesome.”
First off, you need friends. There are no two ways about this. You can’t very well hold yourself in your room for 4 years and expect to have the time of your life. It just doesn’t work. So get out there and make some friends. But that can be hard, right? No problem! If you have any people you were friends with before college, then you can hang out with them obviously. But if not, then some of the best ways to meet people are the university cafeteria (sit alone and SOMEONE will come sit beside you almost every time), clubs and organizations you’re interested in (these are really the BEST ways, in my opinion), and fraternities and sororities which are self-explanitory. You can even make friends in class (GASP) if you’re open and talkative. Academics is what college is there for, and you can find many people with the same interests and mindests as you just by participating in discussions in classes. Main point: you can’t just sit back and be quiet anymore; put yourself out there. A large friend-base is the number one way you will enjoy college (and the years after, too!).
Once you have your friends pretty well established, you’ll be thinking about classes. Unfortunately classes cost money because of the books, but there ARE ways around this depending on your major. No matter what your major is, books online will inevitably be cheapter than at the campus bookstore (or the random textbook store in town, too), so make use of online marketplaces such as eBay.com and Amazon.com. You’ll get out HUNDREDS of dollars cheaper. Also, once you’ve got some friends, you can share books. Taking classes with your friends allows for you to share textbooks during the semester and effectively split the cost in half to 1/3 by use of study-buddies. Then there is the buying of books off of a friend who has already taken the course and wanted to get some money out of the book when the bookstore won’t give squat. It helps you both out. You get your book cheaper than you would otherwise, and your best friends have extra spending cash.
Then you have to worry about the actual classwork that’s assigned. Never fear! They say that you should study for 3 hours outside of class for every hour you spend in-class. This is certainly not true for the majority of classes, though some (such as organic chemistry and physics may require more than that to get highest marks). I am graduating with an English major and heading into graduate school to become a professor, so the majority of my knowledge is how to cut corners from a major reading load, but it can also help with rote memorization classes and whatnot as well.
If you are assigned a 2-6 page paper, don’t fret. This can be finished in 3 hours or less the night before the assignment is due, even if it requires sources. You can write the paper and then get on the internet and find as many sources as are required (even journals and newspapers, using certain websites such as jstor.com and your university’s online electronic databases) and finding something that you can quote a single sentence that supports your paper and inserting it where applicable. Papers are nothing as long as your grammar is fine, so proofread for comma-splices and other common mistakes, and your content is generally fine if you have found your own sources and written the paper yourself.
As far as reading goes, the internet is your friend. I suggest reading part of everything assigned. Maybe the first quarter and last quarter of every novel assigned. The middle is generally able to be skimmed through by reading every other chapter OR getting online notes from places such as pinkmonkey.com and sparknotes.com. There is no true replacement for reading what is assigned, so if you have the time, I truly suggest doing it, but if you don’t have time, check the internet for summaries that can carry you through the class discussions and short papers that are assigned.
For the rote memorization classes, then you will want to find out how the professor weighs his or her grades. If it is a test heavy class, then cram hardcore the night before and make our B on it and be happy. If it is a quiz laden class, then your weeknights should generally be split reading parts of the material on the quiz. Quizes are generally failed by cramming the night-before. Remember that, especially if the material is cumulitive. And if they assign and take up homework, then I’m sorry, but you have a nightly core. No way around it.
The most important rule about surviving classes is this: GO TO CLASS. Your professors know you are adults now, and they do not care what you do. They are not going to hold your hand and be like your high-school teachers were and coddle you when you miss. They will give you a certain number of absences (generally) that you can do with what you will, and after that you will suffer the consequences they tell you about at the beginning of the semester. Though, I heartily suggest attending class and actively listening, as there is no better way to learn in my opinion. If you listen to the lectures every day that a professor gives, you will be cutting your out of class work by half to 3/4. Why? Because they know what they are talking about, and if you can take from them what you would have gotten cramming, you will have more free time to do with what you want.
Then there’s free-time. You have your friends, you have your hobbies, but now you’re bored. You’re in a college town, but maybe it’s a small one like the school I went to. There may not be a lot to do, but there ARE things to do. First of all, college is NOT one big crazy drinking party. There are parties and I heartily suggest that you partake in them and become social. Your friends and you can throw one if you live off campus. Just put up flyers and tell people that you know. You WILL get people there, and most of them you WILL NOT know. Have fun with it. I always do. Then there are movies. Each week, new movies come out. Make a night a week (most theaters in college towns have a discount night for students) where you and your closest buddies go out to see whatever came out that week. It’s a good way to waste a night, be entertained, and not spend more than you would have renting a couple. Then there is my favorite thing to do. Go places. If you’re town is small like mine, then the nearest mall could be up to an hour away or more. Get a group together on afternoons after class, and you all go shopping and have a nice dinner together (I suggest sushi or Italian, personally). It builds comraderie and you’ll not regret the time spent just wallowing around watching another episode of Room Raiders on MTV. Another personal favorite is “Bad Movie Night” where once a week you all gather at someone’s place and one person brings the WORST movie they can find and everyone watches it and laughs at how bad it is. You will be amazed at just how little talent it takes to make a movie sometimes. I suggest NINJA VENGEANCE if you can find it. It is the BEST of the WORST movies I have ever seen. You will love it.
If you’re trying to save money, there are a few things you can do. Avoid ramen if you can. Yes, it’s cheap, but you WILL be hungry after eating it. McDonald’s and most fast-food restaurants have new value menus you can take advantage of and eat like a king for under 3 dollars. Learn these menus and use them to your advantage. Eat out only once a day if you can, and stick around where you live (or eat in the campus cafeteria) for at least one meal. Invite friends over to cook a dinner together. That way it’s fun and frolick with a good home-cooked meal to boot. And finally to save money, you can always bum off of people you know, but this will get you alienated and probablt hated by those you call friend because we’ve had a couple of people like that over the last 4-5 years, and they’re the butt of many jokes.
This is just the basics to suriviing college and making it the best time of your life. There are differences with every university and campus, but these tips should help you out. I know that’s how I survived my first little while in college, and now I am graduating in May, and I truly feel these WERE the best days of my life. I look back with a heavy heart that I am leaving them behind, but I know that because of me making so many good friends and doing well in my classes that I will be having just as much fun in graduate school as I did in undergrad. Live a little, and don’t let these days pass you by. College is what you make it, so make it your golden time.