May 31, 2018

College Survival Guide 101

 College is an intimidating experience and the complexities of signing up for classes doesn’t help
the nerves. Now that I am a college graduate, I feel like I can confidently advise college freshman on the ins and outs of signing up for classes, college life, and more. This only applies to United States Universities and the way they do things may differ from my university so my experience may not be the same as yours. However, I feel like this advice could at least lead you in the right direction!

THE BASICS: Signing up for classes

✤ Plan ahead! Know how many hours you need to complete to fulfill your degree requirements, the required classes, and your electives. Plan out your two (or more) years. It helps you in the long run, it keeps you on a tentative track, and it definitely helps you when you meet with your advisor to sign up for classes.

✤ Check the course list and descriptions on your schools website so you know what is available and what you can expect to learn in those classes. Make sure its what you want.

✤ Four classes a semester is full time (12 hours or 3 credit hours per class). Some people take five or more classes to graduate faster, but I recommend starting out with four classes your first semester so you know what you can handle.

✤ General Education (Gen. Ed.) classes will bore you to tears, so I liked to mix my semesters with Gen. Ed.s and electives until my main requirements like math, science, the basics, etc. were filled. It makes like easier when you are taking something you look forward to.

Make sure your schedule makes sense for you! Don’t schedule a class at 7 AM when you know you won’t like it in the long run.

Plan your schedule so that it fits your life. For me, the earliest class I can handle is at 9 AM, but I commute 30 minutes, which calls for a 2 hour wake up call before that so I can get ready.

Give yourself time to do homework, papers, projects, etc. by making sure you are out of class by 5 PM (at max) and try to get Friday’s off. Don’t freak out if you can’t get Friday off though. Some classes especially gen. ed. classes and classes that require labs will only be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

✤ Don’t worry if the class you want to take isn’t offered that semester or if it is full. One, It will be available the next year (if it is an elective or usually small class) or if it is a popular class like gen. ed. classes usually are, it might be available the next semester. Two, You can always email the professor and ask if there is enough room for you in the class if it is full. Sometimes the cutoff is standard and not a true reflection of the available seats. It never hurts to ask!

✤ Students with more hours get seniority when registering, meaning seniors get to register first,  then juniors, and so on. So don’t worry when people start talking about having already registered. Just make a note of your college’s registration dates.

✤ I recommend signing up for classes as soon as they become available (if you are able to sign up online). I make sure to sign up as soon as it turns 12:01 AM just to make sure I get in.

GET AN AGENDA! Write everything down so that you don’t forget. I take all of my syllabi and write down everything assigned for the whole semester so I don’t forget a thing. Remember to change it if the professor does.

IMPORTANT! When professors have something assigned on a specific day, you are meant to do that assignment BEFORE class that day. Example: if you see “read Shakespeare sonnet” under Tuesday, it means you are meant to read those sonnets Monday night. If it helps, write down your homework for the night you are meant to do it, believe me, it helps.


➤Sometimes you just need a day of rest. Just take note of the days you’ve missed so you know how many more you can afford to lose. Remember: there is a penalty for taking more sick days than allotted, which is usually four (depending on your weekday schedule MWF or T/Th). Don’t feel guilty about staying home either. I went through a stage where I would force myself to go to class even thought my anxiety was crippling because I felt guilty for staying home. Don’t do this because you will not learn anything that day. There is no reason for you for force yourself to go to class when you know you won’t be able to focus just because you feel pressured to go. Mental health is just as important as physical help, no matter what professors say.

Reading/ blogging 

➤While in school this is hard, especially when you have other things to read and write for school. I suggest reading when you can, and if you still feel pressured to blog, make them small posts. Don’t take on/promise more than you can handle. School should come first, but you can always take breaks in between to read or write. If you want to write a blog post, piece it together throughout the week (write a little each day) and by Sunday you can have it edited and posted.


➤Do as much as you can and take notes on everything. Trust me, getting homework done early on in the week will make your life easier and if you’re an English major like me, reading is a huge part of homework: therefore, taking notes (even just an outline of what you read) will help you in the long run. There is no such thing as too many notes. Also, using colored pens to section off things, highlight certain words, etc. will really help when studying for exams.


➤ One thing to note is that most universities require a C+ to pass a class that is required for your major, for electives, you can get away with a D+ (but it won’t help you with your GPA). That being said, one bad grade on an exam won’t be the end of you. Remember that you have more opportunities to make that grade up with papers, quizzes, or other exams, and attendance also helps boost (or lower) your grade. Don’t stress over the grades you can’t change, just work harder to do better next time. Also, most classes or topics (English, foreign language, science, etc.) have tutoring programs that are free to help you. Don’t be afraid to use them if need be.

Clubs, internships, resume boosters, etc. 

➤Clubs and internships always help your resume stand out, but if I had to pick one or the other, an internship will help you more in the long run. An internship, if it’s in your field or not, will teach you important lessons that you will be able to use in the future. In my case, I want to be/am an editor. I shot for editorial jobs (specifically for books) so that I could gain experience, knowledge, and a feel for what I was going into. I have done three internships so far in my four years of college and each one has given me valuable information about the publishing industry and how editorial work works. That being said, college freshmen, start looking for internships now. This is a time when internships are the most crucial because future employers will see how dedicated you are to learning. Most places are looking for experience so that they aren’t paying newbies for subpar work. Internships are (usually) unpaid, and they are ways for employers to receive free help and for students to learn.

➤Anyway, for the publishing industry, most positions require at least 2 years of experience in that field, which is where the internships come in, they look good and they serve a purpose! Most publishing internships will be remote (unless you are lucky and live in New York) which is a bummer because you don’t get the full experience of being in a publishing office, but they still teach you a lot. Scour the internet and even social media for openings. You can usually find them at the start of each season (specifically fall, spring, and summer). Make contact and send in your resume. Your college should have a career services office/program and they can also help you not only find a job/internship but also help with your resume! Some colleges will even give you credit hours for internships if they are approved though the university! Bottom-line, internships are your friend. That being said, while clubs or sororities/fraternities look nice on a resume, they don’t really set a precedent for your future job. However, they do provide you with an avenue to make friends and have fun. Either way, I choose an internship.

Don’t be afraid to speak up in class and chat with a neighbor. 

 ➤Make friends in class and when you miss a day you can borrow their notes, trust me, this helps when it comes to tests, papers, and exams. College is not like high school, full of clicks and classes where groups congregate. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out. It’s more than likely that the person you want to talk to is just as nervous. In almost every classroom I have been in there has been one (or more) person that has spoken to me and we became acquaintances during that class, which also helped if the class was boring or I was struggling to pay attention. Having a friend to share class woes with made it bearable.

➤I suggest asking what their major is, what year they are, etc. You will have people ready to open up about their passion or share their struggle with choosing a major.

➤ Know that it is okay to stay quiet too. Don’t feel like you have to socialize, but realize that people in college are way more accepting than kids in high school.

Dealing with classmates or professors you don’t like. 

➤I, unfortunately, have had a lot of experience with this. I had to deal with a headache of a classmate for almost two years because we were in the same major and took some of the same classes. Not gonna lie, one of my best friends that I made in college was because we bonded over our shared (extreme) dislike of that classmate, though we were not actively mean to her. At one point, it got so bad that my friend and I had to go to the professor of the class at the time and address her rude behavior and remarks. Thankfully, the professor handled it. College professors have little to no tolerance for that sort of behavior.

➤Annoying / Irritating/ Unlikable professors are a more difficult issue. It can be hard to listen and learn from a professor when you don’t like them or are annoying. That is where “rate my professor” comes in handy. This is a website where students can anonymously rate teachers and give their honest opinion on their personality, homework/work load, and even looks (que eye roll). I suggest looking at the classes you want to take, making a note of the teachers available to teach that class (if there are multiple options for the same class) and looking them up before registering.

➤ However, the website doesn’t account for personal taste and sometimes a student and professor don’t mix. That being said, try not to focus on why the professor annoys you, but what he/she is teaching. Focus on taking notes. If it becomes too much you can always drop the class for another one (But make sure you drop the class during the first week of class or else you will be penalized and it will show up on your transcript). No one can blame you.

 ➤ If you don’t like him/her because of something offensive they have said/done or if they make you uncomfortable, report them to the dean of students or your respective department for student concerns. You are paying to learn, not to be made uncomfortable or unwelcome.


 ➤Rent them! Don’t spend tons of money at the campus bookstore if you don’t have to when you can find used books to buy or rent online for a third of the price. You will save hundreds of dollars a semester doing this. It’s also better this way because half (if not most) of the books you will need for class you won’t want/need to keep when it’s over. In my four years if college, I’ve kept maybe five books and that’s such a small amount since most classes have at least two required books.

 ➤Rent or buy used and save your money when you can. Sometimes you have to get your books from the college bookstore because it comes with an online program code or cd or something, and unfortunately those can be at least two hundred dollars. However, for renting books I like Chegg, Abebooks, and Amazon. You can also use a used textbook comparison site to look for the cheapest book among a lot of websites.

Perks of Being a Student

➤Make sure you are using your student status to its fullest. Software (such a Microsoft suit, Adobe suite, etc.) is often free for students. Amazon prime has a six-month free trial for students which includes Amazon TV! Stores even have student discounts now, especially during back to school season. Some theaters have them too! So search the internet for places that offer student discounts! (P.S. you can keep your student ID after you graduate and milk your student status until you can’t physically pass as a student. You’ve paid thousands for an education, it’s okay to work the system in your favor!)
There you go! There is my (semi) comprehensive college survival guide! Did I cover everything you have worried about? What helped you the most? If you still have questions, leave them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter and I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability!