6 Ways to Prepare for College

There are different types of people who go to college. There’s the uber-in-control type, who’s super competitive and stresses out easily. Then there’s the type who is a little more mellow, take things in stride, and finds creative ways to make the most of every situation. Finally, there’s the type who throws caution completely to the wind; just doesn’t care. This type is very care-free and takes it all in as it comes.

No matter which type you are, there are certain things no one ever tells you about college that you probably want to be aware of:

1. You will be miserable at some point.

Very true. Whether it’s because you are home-sick, your roommate completely sucks, you broke up with your significant other, you partied so hard you missed all of your 8am classes so you’ve failed…whatever the reason, you will most likely feel like the world and everyone in it sucks at some point.

Don’t fret, though. It’ll pass, like everything else does. It’ll either get better, or it won’t, but you’ll get over it at some point. Find someone you can talk to because chances are more than half the people in your classes, dorm, or sorority/fraternity have been in the same boat.

2. Your dream school is not worth living in debt for the rest of your life

You may have heard this already, especially in the midst of the economic crisis we’re enduring, but deeply consider how much your school will cost you per year.

Then, consider how much it will cost you when you grab that diploma and step into the world. Don’t forget to calculate what the interest on those loans will be, and how much your cost of living will equal.

Will you have the job to pay for it within 10 years? 15? 20? Are you sure of what you want your major to be?

No matter how confident you are that you’ll be graduating with an amazing degree and will have no trouble paying back your loan, think twice about a state school or a community college to complete your general ed requirements. After two years, you can transfer to that dream school.

3. Pick the right school for you

When you’re 17 or 18 and applying for colleges, the hormones are raging, you’re bright-eyed and ready to start a new adventure in your life, and more than likely ready to move out of that nest your parent(s) built for you.

Before you make your decision and send in your acceptance, visit the campus. Believe it or not, many people go to college without having roamed the school and its general vicinity. This is a big no-no. Remember point number one? You might be asking for it, depending on which type you are.

Go to the school and take a look for yourself. Does the size seem right? Does it meet your values? Is it liberally or conservatively based, or somewhere in between-and are you OK with that? Are the class sizes small or do they focus on large lecture halls? Which do you think you would excel in?

Talk to the counselors. Can you see them helping you while you’re enrolled? Ask them what they think is the biggest attribute of the school and where they think it needs improvements. Most of the time they will be honest with you.

Take a good look at the people around you. Take a look at the community around the school. Are you comfortable? Would you rather be in a relatively homogeneous student body, or do you want to be around a mix of personalities?

If you have no idea what you will be studying, consider a school that meets many of your interests. Regardless of whether you’ve declared a major, you may be one of the 25 to 30 percent of students who change their major.

How far do you want to be away from home? If you’re across the country, more than likely you will only be visiting during the major holidays. This may sound very appealing at first, but think about how you might feel in the long run.

Perhaps you want to be close enough to visit if there are any problems you want your family’s support for, but not close enough that you’ll be visiting every weekend. Think about it.

4. Books are expensive, be ready for it

If you’re lucky, a lot of your professors will have e-books you can download. But, this is rarely the case, especially when working on your general ed requirements. Books are very important, but they can be incredibly expensive. Think $300/class expensive in some cases.

Don’t feel you need to buy them new. Have a list of your books and purchase or rent them used in plenty of time to receive them. Do some price-comparisons for various sites or stores.

You can find the best deals if you take the time to look around a little. Used books aren’t as pretty as new ones, but they serve their purpose. Then, you can sell them back or return them to the rental agency.

6. Networking is your biggest asset

No matter how independent you may be, or think you are, build your network in school. Go out when you can and meet new people. This is extremely important when you don’t live in the dorms, don’t belong to the Greek system, or don’t belong to any other clubs on campus.

Not only can you build your network of friends, but you can build your network of future colleagues. Keep tabs on people to see where you might have an intersection of interests in the future.

Got any more expert tips or personal experiences? Please add them in the comments below!

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