12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College

If you've read my last blog "12 Things I’ve Learned as a First-Generation College Graduate", then you know my journey of educational discovery came with a list full of self-preservational tactics and an array of trial and error experiences to match. Needless to say, my five-year kit came with no guide on how to stay afloat. Everything I know about college life came as the years went by, but I wouldn't have had it any other the way.

With classes starting today for many first-time college students here in PA, I deemed it appropriate to discuss a few things that I wish someone would have told me before going away to school.

If you’ve read my last blog “12 Things I’ve Learned as a First-Generation College Graduate”, then you know my journey of educational discovery came with a list full of self-preservational tactics and an array of trial and error experiences to match. Needless to say, my five-year kit came with no guide on how to stay afloat. Everything I know about college life came as the years went by, but I wouldn’t have had it any other the way.

The people you meet, the places you get to see, all come at a time in your life where everything you thought you knew was wrong. Going away to college is not just about getting a degree in biology, or joining a sorority,  it’s the knowledge we gain about life, love, and everything in between that makes us true scholars. But, I just really wish that I knew these twelve, eye-opening facts BEFORE enrolling myself into

However, I wish that I knew these twelve, eye-opening facts BEFORE stepping foot onto a college-campus.

Course textbooks can be found at the University Library

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I’ve wasted so much money foolishly thinking that I needed to buy the 2016 edition of a college textbook when the 2015 edition was just as informative! Sure the page numbers may be off when the professor assigns readings for the next lecture, but that’s $250 that you can now put into your newly acquired savings account.

After the first day of classes. stop by your school’s university library to acquire about they’re “Request it” or “EZ-borrow” services. I’m sure the librarian would be surprised that you even know of such a thing.

Reassessing your “strengths” and “weaknesses” BEFORE choosing a major

Majoring in Business Administration during my freshman year at Millersville University, I slowly realized that mathematics was not my forte, but that was after failing three of my core classes. I was all the way f*cked up.

Although college is an experience of its own, always remember why you enrolled in the first place.  Don’t waste your time or the credits.

Staying above a 2.0 GPA

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For those of you who have been fortunate enough to not go through the process of academic probation, my hat goes off to you. Academic probation is a warning that a student’s performance falls below the institution’s requirement for “good academic standing”.

Academic standing is most often measured by GPA (grade point average), but may also be determined by academic progress, or the number of credits completed.

It is possible, at some schools, that a student may have a decent GPA, but may have dropped or withdrawn from too many courses during the semester. Many schools expect students to maintain a (C) average, although the acceptable GPA may be slightly lower for first-year students.  Each school’s policy may be slightly different and is usually explained in the college catalog.

Earning course credits through studying abroad

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Studying abroad did not become a goal of mine to achieve until my final semester. It was always something that I wanted to do but like many things in college, I held it off until the very last minute, literally.

The myths that you hear about studying abroad may turn you off at first, but when doing the correct research, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in another country.

If you’re still skeptical about the idea of seeing a new country, here are a few benefits to studying abroad.

College parties are not accurately depicted for non-HBCU students

Chances are if you weren’t white. partying at an all (primarily) white school just was not right. The music, the drinks, the selections of possible hookups, the list goes on. Night life in college was nonexistent for POC, or at least it was where I attended.

Being someone who enjoys a good social event, I was disappointed to find out that this would be my fate for a handful of weekends to come while on campus. Granted, I had my fair share of turn-up events but it could have been a lot more lit if I would have attended an HBCU.

College men are not “as seen on T.V”, and neither are the women…

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The only insight that I had of college was what I’ve seen on television and read in books. I didn’t take into account that every university is different based on geographical location and population size.

With that being said, the same types of people that were in high school just progressed to college level life status. There’s no magic maturity pill that we take to instantly make us ready for the world. You think all the games and lies are over? Just wait until you meet Mr. or Misses whoever during “Introduction to Psychology”…

 Internships do matter

Somewhere in the mix of getting a degree and your first career job, people left out the part about internships and how they are your first true taste of what it will be like to work in your field of study.

For me, I was lucky enough to land two amazing opportunities, but it wasn’t until my last two semesters of college that I had the information I needed to go through with the internship process.

If you are unsure of how to go about applying for internships, stop by the career services center on campus and they will be able to direct you to the next leading resource.

FAFSA will run out

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When I tell you that I wish I knew the in’s and out’s of FAFSA before cashing my first refund check, I really mean that! I did not know that there are limitations to how much aid you get based on how many semesters you’ve been enrolled.

Usually, there are limits to how much money you can receive in financial aid. Most federal student financial aid and even private student loans have aggregate limits. These total, combined limits cannot be passed.

For example, the Federal Stafford Loan comes with the following aggregate limits:

  • $31,000 (Dependent, Undergraduate Borrowing Limits)
  • $57,500 (Independent, Undergraduate Borrowing Limits)
  • $138,500 (Including Graduate/Law & Undergraduate Borrowing Limits)

However, the Federal PLUS Loan for graduate students and parents of undergrad students comes with no aggregate limits.

Click here for more details.

Maximum meal plans are NOT needed

Each semester you will have the option to change your meal plan. Now, of course, you won’t know this if you’re a newbie but over time you will see that universities are just like any other business and that every dollar counts.

For example. Millersville starts students out with 19 meals a week with $150 in flex cash (flexible spending). That’s three meals a day for six days with one meal on Sunday.

Now I don’t know about you, but who actually eats all three meals in one day? Of course, it sounds like a good idea when its 2 am, but 20 lbs later you’ll wish that you would have lowered your meal plan after the first year.

Trips to Health Services/Planned Parenthood will be common

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Who doesn’t love a great PPH visit? From the common cold to slight signs of alcohol poisoning, frequent trips to the doctor’s office will be one to remember while away at college.

There’s nothing wrong with getting tested or stocking up on free condoms while you wait. Rather be safe than sorry!

Office hours are bonding experiences

Professor office hours were designed to allow students to get the answers to failed quizzes and an opportunity to retake each quiz upon the professors discretion. Here is where you will learn about all the quirky habits that the teacher may have. Making an impression matters, even if it is just to stop by to say hello.

Student subscriptions for thousands of products

Being a college student comes with its perks. Everyone knows that 9 times out of 10 we are broke. tired and hungry so why not give us free stuff?

Below is a list of student discounts and subscriptions that were made for college budgets alike:

  • Regal Cinemas: Depending on your local theater, you can score a student discount. Check your theater to see if they offer the discount.
  • Norton: Norton gives student discounts on security and its AntiVirus software to help protect your computer. Check out the discounts online.
  • Apple: Students and educators save 5% off most purchases; save up to $200 on a new Mac or a new iPad with Apple’s Education pricing. Learn more about Apple’s student discounts.
  • J.Crew: The store offers 15% off when you’re shopping in-store. Learn more about the discount on their website.
  • Levi’s: Need some new jeans? Luckily Levi’s offers 15% off for students. Register to receive that same 15% off for online purchases.
  • Amtrak: If you have the Student Advantage Discount card, you can save 10% off on tickets plus bonus points for travel. Visit Amtrak’s website for more information.
  • Greyhound: The Student Advantage Discount Card will save you 20% on Greyhound unrestricted walk-up fares or online tickets to thousands of destinations. You’ll also save 40% on package shipments sent through Greyhound Package Xpress.

Recent college grads, what are some things that you wish you would have known before going to college? Comment below to share your thoughts!

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