Heard On Campus – Your Questions About Campus Life Answered
As you think ahead to college you probably have a million questions not just about classes and professors but also about dorm life student activities and managing your money. To help you answer these important questions, My College Guide talked to college students around the country. Read on to get the inside scoop on college life.
Living on Campus
Your choice of college takes into account lots of different factors: size location urban vs. rural setting financial aid packages and extracurricular activities among others. Still the decision ultimately depends on where you feel most comfortable.
Jessica Stock, a junior at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin says that the college’s small size and friendly atmosphere made her feel immediately at home. She gives tours to prospective students and tells them to “pick somewhere that you feel like you belong. I knew it was St. Norbert right away.”
Even when you choose a school you love there’s often an adjustment period as you learn your way around campus.
“There was definitely a culture shock,” says Asher Perzigian, a recent graduate of the University of Rochester. “In terms of diversity it’s always an interesting change when I go home. I’m talking about racial political socioeconomic … Rochester excels at diversity and encouraging conversations between many different people with many different backgrounds. That’s enabled me to learn and think creatively.”
According to Michael Schneider, a senior at Michigan State University “adjusting to the size of Michigan State was not too difficult a challenge although I remember feeling overwhelmed at times. My high school in Houston was pretty decent in size about 4000 students but still nothing compared to Michigan State at 45000.” He adds that being in a smaller college within the university and joining a fraternity helped him find his niche.
Many freshmen have a roommate for the first time which usually requires another adjustment. For Shelby Lewis, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University things started out well with her roommate. Lewis majored in acting while her roommate majored in architecture so Lewis saw it as an “opportunity to live with someone and learn about something completely different.”
Unfortunately a breakdown in communication caused tension later in the year: Lewis made plans to move in with someone new the following year and her roommate assumed they would continue living together. The incident created “an awkward silence [which] didn’t feel like a home,” explains Lewis. Her advice is to “keep communication open and don’t run away from challenges.”
While roommates offer a potential social outlet there are many other places to make friends starting with orientation and freshman welcome weekend. Stock says she met people through a freshman community service project and activities in her dorm. “My whole residence hall did powder-puff football and it was great bonding,” she remembers.
Jared Ferenczy, a sophomore at American University says he’s met other students by “going to club meetings talking with people [and] seeing what you like. The other thing is attending events with your floor. They’re your neighbors so it’s nice to know who they are.”
Many colleges organize an activities fair in the fall so you can chat with current members and learn about music groups sports teams volunteer opportunities and other ways to get involved.
Perzigian joined Rochester’s all-male a Cappella group the Midnight Ramblers and says the 12 members are close friends. “We’re completely student-run and student-directed,” he says. “Every spring break we travel. Freshman year we went to San Francisco sophomore year we went to London … Last spring we opened for Ben Folds.”
In addition to joining clubs and meeting your floor-mates you can also expand your social circle through your classes. Lan Ha, a recent graduate of Oregon State University says she befriended many of the students in her business courses as they worked together on group projects. “[On] pretty much all my senior projects we worked with lots of people and they’re all interactive so it also gets us to work on our social skills,” she explains. “You are able to … make connections with people who have the same interests.”
Schneider agrees saying “It is important to have friends in all your classes to study with and to be able to call if you missed anything that went on in class.”
Making the Grade
Since colleges offer many more course options than high schools choosing courses is another important consideration. In most cases you’ll have a freshman advisor to make sure that you meet your requirements but as Schneider points out that’s just one piece of the puzzle.
“Personal qualities … need to be seriously considered when choosing your classes,” Schneider says. “Personally I would rather have all my classes back-to-back in one day twice a week instead of two classes every day. I like having days off and I don’t mind getting up early.”
According to Ha “my first year I would heavily rely on my advisor to show me the courses I needed to take but as the years passed my friends would be the ones showing me how to use the online resources to map out the courses ahead of time.”
Many freshmen find that college can be an adjustment academically. When he first started college Schneider says he “still had a high school mentality about work thinking I could get by with minimum effort. To my astonishment I found that when I started putting the work in I started getting great grades.” He has been on the Dean’s List since second semester of freshman year.
The student-professor dynamic is also very different from high school which can be a great advantage. “I feel like the teachers understand you much better here,” says Stock. “I’ve never been so willing to go talk to a teacher before. They’re very open for students who want to meet with them.”
Office hours are your chance to ask questions and get to know your professors. “You don’t always have to get excellent grades to impress your professors but what they really enjoy is getting to know you,” says Ha. She notes that visiting professors during their office hours allows them “to connect a face with a name.”
With the freedom of college also comes responsibility. Many students get work-study jobs to gain experience and cover some of their expenses but it can take some juggling to fit everything in.
“I did not work my first few years,” says Ha “but I started to work on campus at a catering company [that] had flexible working hours. For me I needed to work to help finance living expenses and spending money. But I decided to work only after I realized that I was able to manage my time efficiently.”
College is also a time when many students have to think about credit cards and a budget for the first time. “Think about what you’re spending,” Perzigian advises. “If you have a meal plan you don’t need to go out to eat twice a week. People are most negatively affected when they don’t keep track of what they spend and buy.”
Perzigian uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his expenses but other students use online tools like Mint.com, a good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Lewis has found that “the ultimate money saver is cooking. Or if you go out a lot then it’s really great to split an entrée with friends.” Clipping coupons and seeking out student deals can also help you stretch your budget.
Buying used textbooks either at your campus bookstore or on websites like Amazon and Half.com can actually save you a few hundred dollars (students can spend up to $600 on textbooks for just one semester!). One website Chegg.com even allows you to rent your books cutting your costs by 50 or 60 percent.
Whatever happens keep an open mind and savor every experience good or bad. It will be over before you know it!