Going to college is one of the most important steps one can take to ensure a stable career. Don’t get me wrong, some people don’t need college to succeed, but for many who have chosen the conventional methods of living, it is critical. In the past, college gave graduates an advantage; now, it simply puts you in an even playing field with most of your peers. With this being enough of a daunting task, it is important to put yourself in position to not be defeated by the college system. As a recent graduate, I like to think that I know enough about the college system. My exposure was not limited to just one institution, as I spent two years at Virginia Commonwealth, and two at George Mason University. Graduating with a 3.54 GPA at GMU, after attaining a 3.9 GPA from VCU, I have mastered enough of this craft to be able to give advice to others on how to successfully beat the college system.
1)Take at least 15 credits a semester
Colleges will never admit to this, but they want you to stay in their institution as long as possible. Why would they not? The longer you stay, the more tuition you pay. The more tuition you, you know the rest. At orientation, advisors try to seem empathetic when they tell you that enrolling in 12-16 credits make you a full-time student; therefore enroll in the amount of credits you find you will be able to handle. Never listen to that. To successfully complete an undergraduate program in 4 years, which requires 120 credits, you need 30 credits a year. To obtain that, divide that number into 2, which equals 15 credits a semester. As you may or may not know, most courses give you 3 credits (some 4, depending on the workload….which is why taking 16 credits here and there is acceptable). This means you should be taking about 5 classes a semester. Taking 12 credits a semester means that in the same 4 year span that a student who takes 15 credits a semester would have earned a degree, you would have racked up only 96 credits; 24 short of the amount needed to graduate. 24 credits equals out to be around 8 more courses. Now, at the 4 class per semester rate (if you take 12 credits each semester), this would require another year. Get the point? Another year worth of tuition wasted by pretty much being lazy and not challenging yourself. DON’T DO THAT TO YOURSELF!
2) Go to class
My second point is important for many reasons. In most courses, going to class is imperative because it is a way to ensure mastery of the course, sometimes a requirement for your grade, a way to make sure you don’t miss pop-quizzes, and lastly a way to perhaps avoid needing to buy the textbook! Most professors, not all but most, teach the content in the course strictly out of the textbook. By going to class and paying attention, you can gather all the information needed for the course, without having to spend your precious dollars on the textbook! Again, I stress that this doesn’t apply to ALL classes, although my experience in college taught me that it applies to about 80-90% of courses offered. In addition, professors typically go a step further when explaining content from the textbooks. This puts you in position to succeed, and not fail the class, and ultimately avoid needing to retake the class all over again. The whole point (in this post at least) is to be as efficient as you can, and to beat the college system. Going to class will certainly help you do that.
3)Don’t use the assigned college book store!
College is as much of a revenue generating industry as it is an educational institute. With that being said, universities will take any opportunity that they can to profit off of students. One of the biggest ways of doing so is through the inflated prices of textbooks and other materials sold at the School’s book store. Unless a book is distributed only by the school’s book store, you should by all means avoid buying textbooks from them. You will almost ALWAYS find it cheaper elsewhere, whether new or used. One thing I would actually advice students to do is to rent textbooks. They are MUCH cheaper, and save you the hassle of trying to sell back. Speaking of selling back books, the school’s bookstores absolutely rip you off when you sell your books back to them. They can look you dead in the eye and tell you that the same book you bought for $80 about 3-4 months ago is now worth $10….absolutely ridiculous. Meanwhile entities such as Amazon are much more reasonable and give you anywhere from 50-80% of the price you paid for the book. The morale of the story: unless it’s something published by the school, or Scantrons and things of that nature, NEVER buy anything from the school’s bookstore if you can avoid it.
4) Avoid on-campus room and board if you can
Most schools are kind enough to offer housing opportunities to their students. Unfortunately, this too comes with an inflated cost. If you want to live in a moderately nice housing complex with a respectable amount of space, you’re going to have to pay for it, excessively! Otherwise, take your little assigned sh*thole and shut your mouth for the next 3-4 months. And even THAT too will cost you a good amount. To be smart financially, find a spot off campus that is relatively close, gather some roommates, and save money! Not only will you save money, you will also be free from the rules and regulations of the school….not to mention fire drills. If you’re able to commute from home, do so by all means. Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on a social life. You will always have an out-of state friend who has no choice but to live on campus. Their spot can be your on-campus hang out. Not to mention, you can probably buy yourself a car with the money that you would otherwise spend on room and board. That car will last a lot longer than your stay on campus. Even though you would have to get a parking pass, also at an inflated rate, it won’t compare to the rate of room and board.
5)Be a proactive high “schooler”
Believe it or not, a lot of what you do in high school can set you up for success in college. Start off with your GPA. If you take high school seriously and graduate with a very high GPA, you can potentially earn a scholarship and relieve yourself of a huge economic burden. Secondly, your SAT scores can dictate what school you can get into. It can determine whether or not you get into that local in-state school, which will save you lots of money through in-state tuition, and perhaps eliminate the need for on-campus room and board. Do whatever you can to get the highest score possible. Next, if you play sports, take it seriously! This can lead to you getting a free education. Also, take AP courses! Getting high scores on your AP exams can earn you some credits that will go toward the 120 total needed to graduate. This can shorten your tenure, and inevitably save you some money. Lastly, participate in as many extracurricular activities as you can. This will look good on your resume and increase your chances of getting into your first choice school. Doing most of these things in high school will make you look like a nerd but f**k it, be the biggest f**king nerd there is! You will end up being the one pulling up in a fast-food drive thru with a fly car buying extra fries from the “cool” kids. Take my word on that.