Here you are, beginning your college career, hoping to develop skills that will give you an edge when joining the workforce. At the same time, you hope to explore and discover things about yourself and the world around you as find your way in life. However, it’s time to shatter some misconceptions you may have about college.
The biggest misconception is that college is a time for excess partying and experimentation. It’s not. While college is a time to figure out what you want to do with your life, you’re not paying thousands of dollars so you can just goof around. While mingling and getting to know your fellow students is a good thing, you have to remember that you are all there to study and learn. That’s an ideal to be respected.
The second misconception is that the classes are on a much harder tier than your classes in high school. This is also a myth that stems from the difficulty of college-preparatory courses certain high schools offer. While it’s true that the classes are moderately harder, the difficulty isn’t caused by the subject matter itself, but rather the level of responsibility that’s placed on the students.
Unlike classes in high school that will re-tread topics over and over again until the students get it, college classes adhere to the schedule established at the start of the semester. Simply put, it’s entirely up to YOU to keep up with your classes because they’ll simply soldier on without you.
I’m not saying that you can’t get help when you need it, but given that the professors are teaching several classes in any given day, they can’t really afford to delay a course for the benefit of a few students, especially if they are teaching multiple sections of the same course.
The most important aspect to remember when going to college is that it’s hard work. You have to be responsible for yourself. Your parents aren’t there to remind you about homework or assignments. There are no bells or morning announcements to remind you where you need to be and what you need to do. Finally, there’s no general end time where you can put down everything and stop for the day. Such a mentality will be your undoing when it comes to approaching the assignments and projects you will face over the course of your college experience.
With that out of the way, let’s begin with our first major section of this survival guide.
Part 1: Suggested Inventory
Many vendors will try to sell you gadgets and boondoggles touting that they are “vital” to your college experience. More often than not, they’re just trying to get money out of you. So instead of your typical product push, I’ve boiled it down to the bare essentials that can be acquired even if you’re on a tight budget.
1. A sturdy bag or backpack
Regardless of whether you get your textbooks via tablet or take only online classes, you will still have a great number of items to carry with you from place to place. This is especially applicable to those who take classes at different campuses and are at the mercy of the public transit system or the B-Line. A sturdy backpack is a definite life-saver.
While you may feel compelled to get a messenger bag or carry everything in your purse, a backpack is ideal as it distributes the weight of your items evenly when you’re wearing both straps, making it easier on your shoulders. It’s also a lot harder for people to swipe a backpack than it is for someone to take a purse.
You want a bag that can hold a lot of items without becoming too cumbersome when filled with your supplies. You want to make sure that you’re only carrying the items to which you actively need access, so that you don’t fill your backpack with unnecessary items.
Finally, you want it to be of good quality so that it will last a while. Always check to make sure that the stitching is strong enough to resist forceful pulling. That way you’ll know that even when the bag is filled to the brim, you won’t have the contents explode all over the sidewalk when you’re walking around on-campus.
As soon as you notice that a hole is starting to form, it’s time to replace your bag. If you’re strapped for cash, you can temporarily fix the holes by taping the inside your bag with duct tape, provided that the hole isn’t bigger than the width of your two fingers. If it’s bigger than that, you’re past the point of no return.
2. A laptop or off-campus personal computer
All Access is good and all, but I wouldn’t advise relying solely on that service as that places you at the mercy of having to access the computers on-campus. On top of that, if the Internet service is down, you’re out of luck when it comes to accessing the software needed to complete your assignment.
The type of specifications needed for your laptop or personal computer depends on what software you need to complete your assignments. I recommend checking shopping guides from sites like C-NET to learn the appropriate search criteria.
If most of your schoolwork is done in labs or doesn’t require much more than things like Word or PowerPoint, then you don’t need to shell out the arm and leg required for the latest, top-of-the-line computer. You don’t even need to shell out the money for Microsoft Office. The Open Office suite, while crude and basic when compared to its expensive counterparts, will provide the bare essentials needed to complete assignments.
If your area of study is heavily reliant on the use of certain software, such as video or image-editing software, then you may have to spend a pretty penny to get both the computer and software you need. Luckily, some of the software that’s required for the classes here at Salt Lake Community College offer either free or discounted versions for students.
On a final note, I must also stress the importance of external storage devices, such as flash drives and external hard drives. Computers are prone to hardware failure, viruses, and whole multitude of other problems. As such, it’s a good idea to back up your files on an external device should the worse happen. As many film teachers will tell you, if it doesn’t exist in two places, it doesn’t exist.
3. A mobile phone
This item is simply a suggestion brought about the fact that it’s become a necessary tool for everyday living. No, I’m not talking about owning a smartphone, but rather just a cell phone that allows you to make phone calls while on-the-go. Not only is it vital for contacting fellow students for group projects, but it’s also handy in the event of an emergency, such as needing to call and ambulance or the police.
4. A savings/checking account with a credit union
Now this may seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s important to remember that you will be managing the grant and loan money you receive to cover school expenses. It’s much safer to place it in an account that accrues interest rather than keeping it in a nest-egg at home.
Credit unions don’t charge membership fees from month-to-month, nor do they charge ATM fees, so long as you use an ATM that’s part of the CO-OP network.
5. A constructive hobby
College is tough. It’s only natural to get burned out after a while. It’s times like this where you need to give your brain a break from the rigors of study and homework. Spending too much time on your schoolwork will cause you to slowly go insane.
This is also something that gives you the opportunity to find common ground with many of the people you will meet over the course of your college experience. Not only does it give you common ground, but it will also show that there’s more to your personality than just schoolwork.
If you’re looking to try something new, such as taking up an art or studying a new language, college is one of the best times to do it. It will add to your skills-set as well as help break the ice with others who are trying the same thing.
Those are the five essential items that every college student needs to survive during their time of study. No silly product pushes or technological rigmarole, but rather the bare essentials based on my personal experience. Hopefully, you will find these tidbits to be useful as you begin the next phase of your academic career.
For more helpful tips, read Part 2 of Romney’s Survival Guide for Freshmen.