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Five Things Students Wish They’d Known Before Going to University

Regardless of what you may have seen in “Back to School,” college isn’t just one big wild party. While there’s plenty of fun to be had in the hallowed halls of academia, there’s also a significant amount of preparation and hard work involved -- all of which can help you reach your life goals. Wondering where to begin? Let’s count down five things many students which they’d known before setting foot on a college campus.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
Five Things Students Wish They’d Known Before Going to University

Regardless of what you may have seen in “Back to School,” college isn’t just one big wild party. While there’s plenty of fun to be had in the hallowed halls of academia, there’s also a significant amount of preparation and hard work involved -- all of which can help you reach your life goals. Wondering where to begin? Let’s count down five things many students which they’d known before setting foot on a college campus.

1. Money Matters

Whether you’ve been working and managing your own money since your 15th birthday or your parents are still handling the bills, adjusting to the financial responsibilities of college life can be daunting. It may seem easy to buy everything -- after all, what’s a few dollars here and a few dollars there, particularly if you’ve got a shiny new credit card. Unfortunately, these little expenses add up and can wreak havoc on your bank account -- and credit -- if you let it.

First and foremost, set and stick with a budget. Second, use your spending money wisely. One area where potential savings abound? Course materials. Review course syllabi before investing in everything on your book list. In some cases, you may be assigned just a chapter or two from a single book. With price tags running as high as $200 a book, using a reference book, checking out a library copy, or borrowing from a friend can be a useful money-saving tool.

One last thing to keep in mind whether or not to buy a book: Will you use it in other college classes and/or during your prospective profession? If so, it’s a worthwhile investment.

2. Get Out Ahead With Organization

Gruppo di studenti in biblioteca

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many exciting things happening on and around campus. If you haven’t yet set a plan for how you’ll manage all of your many university activities, getting a handle on it when you’re in the thick of the action can be difficult. Instead, make an action plan in advance for how you’ll manage academic and personal commitments.

Plan to attend all mandatory lectures and to turn in all work -- even if its weight is negligible in terms of your final grade. Not only will attending class and completing all assignments help you keep up in class, but they can also give your GPA a boost if you end up straddling the line between two grades.

In addition to attending classes and turning in work, make sure to include ample time for reading. And speaking of reading, expect a lot of it during college. Consider what time of day you work best -- are you an early bird or a night owl? -- and make studying during those hours part of your routine.

Another essential thing to build into your schedule? Sleep! College student are notoriously sleep-deprived which can compromise your grades as well as your health. Resist falling into this trap by making sleep a priority.

3. Think Internships

Businessman Working On Laptop In Busy Office

It’s never too early to start padding your resume with work experience. While it’s possible to find a paid internship, don’t underestimate the value of unpaid work, as well, which pays off in other dividends: sought-after hard and soft skills and invaluable networking connections.

Still undecided about a career? Exploring internship opportunities can help you get a better understanding of what’s out there and where you shine. Schedule a visit to your university career advising office to learn about potential opportunities.

4.(Free) Time Is On Your Side

Smiling hipster man reading book at cafe

College may not be all play, but it doesn’t have to be all work either. When determining your schedule, make sure to acknowledge the value of free time and to use it wisely. Exercise, meditation, hanging out with friends, or catching up with a good book can help you relax and recharge in order to keep pace with the demands of college life. Without building in some “me time,” you risk burning out when mid-terms and finals roll around.

5. Reach Out

Three attractive girlfriends enjoying cocktails and using wireless connection on digital tablet

As with most things in life, there will be highs and lows. During particularly stressful times, you may look around and feel like everyone else is having more fun. The truth is that college is a major adjustment and you’re likely to experience the full spectrum of emotions.

Reaching out to others can mean all the difference. Join a club, invite a classmate to be your study partner, or simply leave your dorm room door open to create a welcoming vibe. Be patient: Finding your “tribe” may take some time, but college is one of the best environments for making lifelong friends.

If you find yourself feeling down, reach out to a friend or family member and share you feelings. Most universities also offer services aimed at helping students cope with the change.

Of course, you can’t predict every twist and turn which will happen along your academic adventure, but these five tips can help you plan ahead in order to make well-informed choices while navigating the challenges -- and opportunities! -- of college life.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.