Ever wondered what they don’t tell you in the college catalogs? Hint: It’s more than just all-night study sessions and falling in love. Try dealing with your problem-child roommate and packing on the “freshman 15.”
Don’t worry though. To help you learn the ropes, we put together a list of things to keep in mind, along with confessions from my first year at Xavier University.
1. Staying Healthy
Ah, the freshman 15. Or was it 20? Maybe 30? It’s very possible that you’ll gain weight your first semester of college. (Pizza and Buffalo wings are everywhere.) One easy way to build exercise into your schedule is to take a P.E. class.
My experience: I gained a few pounds since coming to college, so I enrolled in a step aerobic course. I found that staying physically healthy helps me mentally. (You try staying alert during a 75-minute lecture on the Chinese government.)
2. Boyfriends & Girlfriends
Who would have known your first college crush would love everything about you? So much for studying, right? Not so fast. Think twice before you jump into a relationship right when you get to college, especially if your grades are a little shaky. Both require a lot of attention, and school’s top priority.
My experience: There were so many cute guys on campus — which was such a distraction. When I’m involved with someone though, I spend time worrying about my relationship and getting good grades. So to keep it simple, just staying friends is a good idea.
3. Meeting the VIPs
There are some very important people at your college (like your professors, the dean and the university president). And you can meet them. Learn their names and drop by their office hours. They might just help you with your next job interview.
My experience: I took a “University 1010″ course and got to meet the dean of academic affairs and the vice president of student services. They answered all my questions about academic and extracurricular activities.
4. Balancing Your Life
Mom’s not around to crack the whip anymore, so it’s up to you to find the balance between studying habits and social habits. Yes, there’ll be lots of late nights hanging out and chatting, but there’ll be lots of early morning classes, too.
My experience: One night I decided to talk on the phone until 2 a.m. When I went to my 9 a.m. class the next day, I fell asleep and missed everything. It’s so tempting to just take off and have fun, but I’m learning to focus on the school stuff first.
5. Asking For Advice
So you got into college — great! Just know that it can be very frustrating once you’re there if you don’t have a clue about what you’re going to do after you graduate. Not sure? Ask the academic advisors for help. They’ll even help you plan your classes to prep you for your chosen career.
My experience: To find out more about careers that fit my personality, I check out the websites of businesses I think I might like to work for in the future. Since I love business so much, I researched Proctor and Gamble, Pfizer and UPS.
6. The Roommate Reality Check
You’ve probably already heard stories about nightmare roommates. Well, I’m here to say that they do exist, but actually talking instead of stewing can help ease the situation. By opening the lines of communication, you and your roommate will understand (and hopefully respect) each other better.
My experience: My roommate Casey and I compromise on everything from turning on the air conditioner to cranking up Usher. We’re in the same speech class and help each other with the work. She’s really a great person!
7. Sneaky Hidden Costs
Paying for college includes more than just tuition, room and board and books. You’ll be shelling out cash on mandatory orientation events, extra lab fees and even books that can’t be bought in the university bookstore. When in doubt about your financial aid, always ask about what “other” costs you’ll have to pay.
My experience: I was bombarded with “small” extra fees that added up quickly, like the $20 that came out of my pocket for a physical education booklet and a mandatory University event. So much for the money I’d saved for shopping that weekend!