This is the second part of a series on things to know before going to college. The first part dealt with some pretty broad topics. This part starts to deal with some more specific matters.
6. Rock that GPA!
Colleges often require that their students maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) at or above a certain level in order to stay enrolled. Usually, the minimum GPA is something like 2.0. Therefore, the higher your GPA, the better off you are.
What’s more, colleges have a different standard for a passing grade. While high schools generally consider a D- (60%) a passing grade, colleges generally consider a C (72%) a passing grade. A C- would not be a passing grade!
Oftentimes, students start out the semester by taking it relatively easy, thinking that they don’t have to work really hard until later, or that they’ll make up for it later. Don’t fall into that trap!
Instead, the beginning of the semester is an excellent time to put in a lot of effort. This is because semesters usually begin with easier material in classes. This makes it much easier to get As on those assignments and tests earlier on. So go for those easy As and rock that GPA!
There is an added benefit in that the early material in classes is foundational material, an understanding of which would make it easier to succeed later in the semester. All the more reason to go for it early on.
7. Don’t game the system as a “career student”.
While I’ve seen the term “career student” used in different contexts, what I’m referring to here is also called a “perpetual student”. A career student is one who games the system and puts off graduation so they can kick it up as a student for as long as they can get away with it, effectively putting off having to make payments on a massive debt that they accumulate as time goes on.
Their objective is to hang around, eat the food, and not worry about rent. To this end, they usually withdraw from courses as the deadline approaches so they can re-enroll the next year.
These students are despised by pretty much everyone else. The professors don’t like them because they know what they’re doing, students don’t like them because they’re an insult to those of us who are out to better ourselves, and both groups don’t like them because the seat that they’re taking up could instead be used by someone who is serious about what they’re doing.
Eventually, their game catches up to them. In time, they’re going to have to graduate, at which point they’ll have a huge debt to deal with, and they’ll have to explain to curious potential employers why it took them 4 years to earn a 2 year degree.
Don’t let it be you.
8. Textbooks are ridiculously expensive.
There are numerous jokes about how expensive textbooks are. For example, here’s one:
Did you hear about the thief who made off with over $500 in merchandise from the book store? He stole a college textbook and a bottle of water.
Those jokes will seem less hyperbolic once you see the prices on these textbooks. They are ridiculous. And sometimes, I suspect that they are as pricey as they are because students pretty much have to buy them. Goes to show what can happen without a free market.
For my first semester in college, six textbooks were required. The least expensive one went for around $30, while the most expensive went for around $200. Altogether, the bill for books came to around $500. And from what I hear, that’s not even as bad as it gets.
For how expensive these books are, you might think that they are of paramount importance, and that we use them in nearly every class session. Not really. Some of my textbooks were barely opened at all.
As you go to school, it’s a good idea to find out what programs exist to help you afford your textbooks. Some colleges have programs that hook new students up with former students so they can buy the books directly from each other. There are also colleges that offer a program where the books can be rented, or even borrowed at no charge.
Some schools have their textbook in their libraries. Don’t count on them to allow you to continually borrow them to meet class requirements, however. My previous school discouraged this.
One time, someone stole my video games. Not all of them, just the ones they wanted. They could have stolen my textbooks and come away with a pretty penny, but they didn’t touch them, even though my books were the most expensive things I owned at the time. Perhaps the thief wasn’t so much interested in electronic engineering as they were in electronic consumerism.
9. Don’t neglect your health.
College is one place where you want your brain to behave optimally. In people who are physically healthy, the brain tends to have what it needs to work well. Therefore, don’t neglect your health when in college.
Generally, you’re better off making better dietary choices where possible. Not only that, it’s a pretty good idea to stay physically active.
It’s tempting to go for plenty of desserts just because they’re offered by the dining hall, and to load up your plate because they don’t limit your portion sizes. But it’s a good idea to mind what you eat. The dining hall offers fruits and vegetables, so it’s on you to choose to eat them. Also, the dining hall isn’t at fault for offering plenty of pudding, it’s on you to not have too much. Also, eat some meat and dairy products. The human body doesn’t synthesize B vitamins, and they’re not in vegan sources. Your brain needs that, so don’t ignore it.
Eating wrong results in stomachaches and other problems that make it hard to do things like sleep. Functioning optimally is better than being a human dumpster.
Also, go out for a walk from time to time. It’s actually a good study habit, as after about 20 minutes of focused studying, a person retains the information better if they spend about the same amount of time walking about trying to recall what they just studied. Not only will you be in better health, you’ll also be a better student. It’s win-win.
Here’s another story. One time, after a long day, I arrived back on campus, only to find that the dining hall was already closed. So I went to the dormitory lounge rooms and checked under cushions for the change needed to buy some instant ramen. Afterwards, I barely had enough to do it. So I bought it, cooked it in a microwave, and ate it. Afterwards, I felt sick to my stomach. That wasn’t what my body wanted. That night, I still felt hungry as I went to bed, and the dining hall wouldn’t open again until 10:30am the next day.
What did I learn? It’s a good idea to get a stash going that has something besides ramen. Or at least some emergency cash.
10. Don’t forget to bring what you need.
Before you go to college, you might want to make a checklist of things that you’ll need when you’re there. This is especially true if your college is located a substantial distance from home. After all, once you’re there, it might be really hard to procure what you forgot.
Colleges usually have a recommended list of items for students planning on moving into dormitories. If you can find and print out such a list, that makes a good starting point. They usually also mention a list of prohibited items, which can help to know.
Here is a list of items I recommend, based on my experience:
- Quarters – Find out whether you’ll need these to do laundry. If so, try to bring a lot of them. Those M&Ms Minis tubes are just the right size for storing them. Also, keep to yourself that you have them. Otherwise, you’ll see your collection diminish as people hit you up for them.
- A calendar – Helps you keep track of due dates and important dates, such as for tests.
- Laundry detergent and dryer sheets – You’ll likely have to bring your own.
- A locking filing cabinet – Sometimes, people try to steal stuff.
- A broom and dustpan – Keeps the dorm tidy.
- Power strip with surge protector – The few outlets you’re given don’t seem to be enough. Bring a power strip. Or two.
- Extra blankets – You’ll be glad you have these when it slips the staff’s mind that it gets cold during the weekend, and they forget to turn the heat up.
- Electric fan – Same principle as the blanket, except for when the weather is warmer.
- A mug – Coffee? Tea? It helps to have something to drink out of.
- Index cards – Super helpful for many reasons. They make great bookmarks. You can copy your schedule onto a couple and keep it on you for easy reference. You can also keep one on you to keep track of pending due dates. They can be used as flash cards for studying. It’s surprising how useful these things can be.
- Some tea or something – because water gets boring.
- A coat and warm clothes – It might be warm when you move in, but winter will come shortly.
- Paper towels – Accidents happen. Better safe than sorry.
- Posters or flags – Covers those boring walls. Besides, anime posters rock.
- A printer – This might appear on your recommended list anyway, but it’s so important that I decided to include it. You’ll have assignments to print up, so this serves you well. Also, remember to bring a stapler.
There might be more, but this is based on my experience. I left some common sense items off because you probably thought of them anyway, as well as items you’d find on a list of recommendations to begin with.
There’s a lot more to know about before going to college. More to come.