Things I Wish I Knew Before College
By Tysonn McKinnon
College. It’s as consistent and expected as the changing of the seasons. One constant in an otherwise unsettling time in life. It’s where we meet many of our friends, discover who we truly are and perhaps learn a thing or two.
In some respects, college is a caring parent, teaching us what we need to know, challenging us to make the right decisions and allowing us to learn from mistakes. From this perspective, final exams are no longer the only comprehensive tests in college.
As my college career draws to a close, I began compiling a list of things I wish I had known when I started my journey-- things that I can’t believe I didn’t realize earlier. Things that would have made the path a lot less bumpy.
1. You can write in your textbooks.
Knowing this my freshman year would have saved me a ton of time and paper. I was unaware that I could write, highlight and even doodle in the margins of my textbooks, since that was a major violation in high school. I’d seen others do it but wasn’t sure if the bookstore would take them back at the end of the semester. Every note I needed to take, every detail that I thought might come in handy later, I typed up on my laptop. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but it takes a long time to type out calculus equations on Microsoft Word.
2. There are cheaper options than the campus bookstore.
If time is on your side, the Internet can be your best friend when it comes to textbook shopping. I’ve found perfectly good books online that, in some cases, cost three times less than those on campus (even with rush delivery). Consider using Amazon.com and Half.com to begin the search for deals.
3. Don’t pull an all-nighter the night before the actual exam.
Imagine this. You’ve stayed up all night cramming for a midterm. You’re ready. You go in to take the test and start marking answers like crazy. Ten minutes later, you’re staring blankly at your paper, unable to focus on any words in front of you. Maybe if you rest your eyes for a minute you’ll.............you know the rest. Test is over. Professor is gone. Needless to say, it’s not an ideal situation. If you must pull an all-nighter, I suggest doing so a few days before the test to save yourself some embarrassment and panic.
4. Anything worth doing, having or going to is worth getting to early.
Whether registering for classes, buying football tickets or getting free donuts on the concourse, good things go fast. Especially in a world so connected that one tweet or Facebook status can bring people out of the woodwork. If you want it, go get it, and get it early.
5. Professors don’t hold office hours just for their health.
If you need help in a class, the best person to talk to first is the one who will be testing you on the material. There’s no reason to sit and struggle when professors are more than willing to explain things to you. Keep in mind college isn’t cheap, so before you shell out the money for a tutor (who may explain it differently than your professor’s teaching), seek help from the person being paid to teach you in the first place. Office hours are designed so students have a guaranteed time when professors are readily available to help.
6. Summer classes move fast.
It’s common sense that if you’re taking a summer class, you’d expect things to be accelerated. However, what you may not know is that mini-mesters often gloss over details and have higher expectations for what you should already know. My advice for summer classes is to stick with what you know you’re good at. If you were abysmal in pre-calculus, you probably shouldn’t try to master Calculus I in eight weeks. Trust me.
7. Do your homework, even if it doesn’t count for a grade.
Believe it or not, not all professors collect homework. They’ll assign it, but many won’t collect it. Weird, right? If you find yourself in one of these classes, you could take this to mean you don’t have to do it. Unfortunately, taking this approach is also the quickest way to not grasp the material. Ever heard the phrase, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail?” There are the select few people who can watch a professor work one or two problems and then have it stored for life. Don’t err on the chance of being one of these people. Do the homework. You’ll be glad you did.
8. The best time to do laundry is anytime before you absolutely have to.
This one applies especially to students living in dorms. Rest assured that by the time you get down to your last clean outfit and are scurrying to gather enough quarters for a load, all of the washing machines will be in use. It never fails. In my experience, the worst times to attempt doing laundry are nights and weekends, so plan ahead.
9. Learn to love writing essays.
This is a secret advantage when applying for scholarships. A lot of money goes unclaimed every year because people are too lazy to write the required essays. Don’t be one of them.
10. Naps . are . awesome.
Remember the horrendous ordeal known as nap time? Well, naps make a major comeback in college. Only this time, they’re voluntary. One day may include classes, homework, work, exercise, social functions, meals and so on, leaving you exhausted. Enter the nap: quick, efficient and effective. You may not have much time, but in a pinch, a 20 or 30-minute power nap makes a world of difference. Just beware of sleeping too long, causing less productivity and making you more tired than you were to begin with.
Had I known all of these things from day one, I would have had a more productive and financially successful college experience. Whether you’re a soon-to-be freshman, seasoned pro or grad-school bound, I encourage you to keep this list handy. Cut it out. Tape it to your desk. Share it with friends. And feel free to thank me later. Good luck!