A Letter To the New College Student: Here Are My Tips On How To Survive Your University (2022)
From a recent college graduate to a new student- please read this. May this help you in some way.
Dear New College Student:
Are you about to start your first year at your university and feel kind of overwhelmed? Do you feel you are about to turn around and reconsider?
Please take a moment to breathe.
You are about to embark on a new chapter in your life and that is to pursue your degree in your chosen field. Sure, it's going to be a confusing and frustrating time in the beginning, but it's completely natural. Believe me- I thought I knew my surroundings quite well at first, but I was wrong; I had a lot of learning to do.
Let me share with you my tips on how to have a successful collegiate journey.
After Accepting Admission Into Your University, Put Time Aside To Tour Its Campus.
This is something a lot of parents had their child(ren) do prior to the start of the first semester. I find it essential that students get a good look at their university, so that they know where to go.
I strongly emphasize this for courses. Look up the buildings as to where the classes are located in and go there beforehand so that you do not get lost when the semester begins. This will save you a lot of time and stress.
Before I started college in the fall almost a few years back, I knew someone who was a student there, and they put time aside to give me a tour of the campus. We went to most of the classrooms that my courses were located in, the Student Union, bookstore, transportation services (for my parking permit), etc.
Overall, it was an absolute help.
Understand Your Course Load
When I first started at UNLV, I was told that if I took fifteen units (five courses) every fall and spring semester for four years, I would be able to graduate on time. Keep in mind that UNLV is said to be a four-year college. Usually they want their students to finish in four years, but I will let you in on a secret- they are understanding if you paced yourself. If you feel that taking five courses is too much, listen to your instincts.
Initially, I was going to start my semester with five courses, but my father warned me that this load could be too much. Given that he had went and completed his studies, I considered his concerns, but I was willing to give fifteen units a try- which only lasted about a couple of weeks.
Now that I got a feel for what the course load was like, I went for four classes (twelve units). At UNLV, most of the courses I enrolled in were three units each with the exception of some offering one or even four units. For the majority of my collegiate years, I took four classes (usually twelve units, but on some semesters I took five (mostly thirteen units) and had to put up with it.
My point is here is that I would strongly advise you to take a small load of courses each semester, but remember one important thing- depending on which university you are student to, you may need to take a certain amount of courses to maintain your full-time status as a student (especially if you are a recipient of a scholarship(s)). At UNLV, I needed to take at least twelve units to maintain my full-time status (as an undergraduate student).
Dealing With Time Management
Once you've got your courses for the semester, you will need to get a feel for what your instructors are looking for in the term. Usually, you would be able to figure out if the class is heavy with coursework or the opposite within the first few weeks of the semester.
That being said, there are going to be times where you will be working long hours to get your homework done. That's natural as well. I get that this may be a huge inconvenience for you since you have other things to do in life, but you need to consider some things here- the semester is not even six months long; you are putting a lot of money and time for your studies, and you're doing this because of your future (you want to get your degree in order to start your career).
I dealt with time management issues for the bulk of my college years. I grew to resent the demands that my classes are asking of me and did consider withdrawing from school, but I had to persevere. I got used to it, and for the remainder of my tenure, I grew to understand that I am in college to learn more about my career, obtain my degree, and seek employment.
Remember, if you are struggling with your assignments, take some time to cool off. De-stress. Your wellness is important to those around you. More on that in a few.
Apply For As Many Scholarships As You Can, But Make Sure You Are Actually Eligible For Them
When I was still in high school, I was told by my guidance counselors to apply for scholarships. Of course I did just that, and I found them to be incredibly helpful throughout my collegiate years.
If you are still in high school, talk with your counselors about applying for scholarships. If you’re in college, talk with your financial aid advisor to see if there are any scholarships you could apply for. In the end, it could be beneficial.
If you are looking to apply for any scholarships out there, be aware that you could be asked for some personal information like your email address and/or home address. That’s normal, but if they ask for your social security information, don’t bother applying there- it could be a scam.
Keep applying for scholarships until you graduate. If you get any, it'll save you financially.
Try To Avoid Purchasing Your Supplies At The Bookstore
Bookstores on campuses are known for being expensive- especially for textbooks. So it's best to look for legitimate sites that are selling your supplies such as Amazon and Chegg (mainly for books). Usually, their prices are a lot more reasonable to buy or rent books there. If that doesn't work out, and the bookstore is the only place to buy what you need, then you may need to settle for them.
If you are debating on whether you should buy or rent a book, my best bet would be to just rent one. I found it practical for me at UNLV, because I felt that if I were to buy a textbook, I don't know if anyone would buy it- especially if a newer edition was published by the time I sold it. Plus, I'm only renting it for one semester, so I don't think I should keep it if its purpose had been fulfilled.
However, sometimes, you may not have any other choice but to buy the book itself, so if you choose to sell after you're done using them, I wish you good luck on that; your outcomes may be better than mine.
Join A Registered School Organization (RSO)
The cool thing about being in college is that there are plenty of clubs for students to join. At UNLV, we have lots of fraternities and sororities, yet I didn’t sign up for any.
Instead, I joined the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (which endorses leadership and service), the UNLV French Club, the UNLV Criminal Justice Club, among others. There are also organizations such as Toastmasters (to help improve one’s public speaking skills), UNLV's Disney Club 33, and even a Mario Party club.
These RSOs, in my opinion, give students an opportunity to make new friends, join their board (to help strengthen their leadership skills and run the club), and serve as a getaway from their studies.
If you want to get out of your comfort zone and try new things, I highly suggest joining a RSO at your college. Believe me, it served as my happy place from the tumultuous work I faced.
Student discounts are something to take advantage of while you're in college. I found them to be beneficial.
Check out this article by Carol Katarsky of Nitro to see where you can get some student discounts!
Remember To Take Some Time For Yourself
As I mentioned before, there will be times when you will get stressed out. Always remember to relax.
The way I handled these issues with college was to do the things I found to be soothing such as listen to music.
I remember instances where I've blown a fuse multiple times. The rage that I felt even discouraged me from continuing my studies, but in the end, I really needed to calm down, handle things slowly and eventually, the pain will be over.
When I'm not in school nor doing any homework, I would enjoy my free time. Doing a lot of academic coursework placed a huge amount of stress on me, and as a result, I needed to look out for my health.
If you feel you need some form of help (either through therapy or another kind of treatment), don’t hesitate on getting it. There’s no use holding it in and letting it eat you from the inside.
Remember to take deep breaths and breaks if you need to.
I know you will do good things with your degree in you hand. Please don’t take this for granted. Not only are you doing this for yourself, but you are also doing this for your loved ones.
The college journey will feel long, but rest assured those years will go by fast.
I get that this letter is long, but I want to make your college life a little easier. I hope that this letter will help you, and don't hesitate to refer to it when you need to.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I wish you well.
Ambivert Ashley Productions
Cover photo is from Wix.