Surviving the College Life

How to Stay on Track on Campus

Dorm room, roommate, eating, sleeping, studying, social life, cash-flow—you land on campus and suddenly all of these things can seriously impact your survival. Everyone talks about nurturing good habits, but what exactly does that mean?

Your college application has been accepted. You've found the financial aid you need. Now, you find yourself on campus, in a dorm room with a roommate, learning to balance studying, sleeping, social life and your cash flow. It is important to nurture good habits while at university, but what exactly does that mean?

Financial Responsibility on Campus

Before you head off to college, learn and practice basic money management. Once you understand the value of money, how to earn it and how to budget it appropriately, you will find handling your finances while away at college much easier.

Tips for campus fiscal responsibility:

  • Make a Budget – Making a budget, and sticking to it, is essential to any successful financial plan. Your budget should cover all of your essentials, including tuition, books and supplies, food and all monthly bills. If you are working, you will want to assess how much of your income needs to go to monthly essentials. When you receive money from home, treat it as if you had earned it. A workable budget can take a lot of the stress out of your college experience.
  • Avoid Splurges – A sound rule of thumb for anyone on a budget, but particularly for college students. While it is tempting to buy that new iPod, or head out on the town for the weekend of the big game, you may find that those indulgences leave you short of funds at the first of the month. When you find your entertainment out-lay is exceeding your budget, it's time rethink your spending habits. Everyone splurges a little every once in awhile, that's human nature. But making a habit of spending responsibly will keep your finances sound, and stave off those broken bank blues.
  • Pay Bills on Time – Make a habit of opening any bills as soon as they arrive. Don't set them aside to be looked at later, only to be forgotten about until your payments are late. Make a note of due dates, and be sure to make your payments on time. Any bills you are receiving will be directly connected to your credit history and score. Protect your credit while in college, and don't end up graduating college only to start fighting an uphill financial battle.

Study Tips

Of course the prime aspect of a successful college career is maintaining good grades. The successful college student develops good study habits, sticks to a regular study routine and puts course work before playtime. Here are a few general tips for keeping up with your college studies:

  • Review class notes each day after class to keep the content fresh in your mind.
  • Form study groups with trusted classmates to review particularly tough material.
  • Stay committed to your study schedule and don't let yourself get distracted by the campus night life.
survival college

Use Classroom Time Wisely

Nothing is more important than staying focused and at your peak in the classroom. Falling asleep, zoning out or missing class all together undercuts your college career, and negates all the hard work that got you into college in the first place. Keep to these rules of thumb to get the most out of your college classes:

  • Get plenty of sleep at night.
  • Concentrate on the lecture.
  • Participate in class discussions whenever possible. Participation helps you retain information much more easily than simply learning by rote.
  • Come prepared. Always have your essentials with you when attending class. Textbooks, notebook, laptop, etc. No one can succeed without the right tools at hand.
  • Record particularly detailed and complex lectures and transcribe them later. Transcribing lectures will help to solidify the information delivered in your memory.

Writing Tips

Knowing how to write well is essential to any successful college career. Being able to clearly and concisely write about a given topic will serve you well, both in college and after you've graduated. Whatever your ultimate career goal, it will likely involve some level of writing, and being able to express yourself well will serve you in good stead in the workplace.

If you are unsure of your writing skills, and feel they may be lacking, seek out assistance on campus. You'll find you have access to many writing tutors and academic help centers that are free for enrolled students. Use these resources to your advantage. There is no shame to needing help to improve with any subject, only in refusing to take advantage of that help when it is available.

Exams

Exams are a fact of college life. They are the score-card for your college career. Many good students find taking exams difficult, not because they are unsure of the material but, because they find test-taking to be stressful. Relax and look over these helpful tips to improve your test-taking performance:

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before and avoid alcohol. A well rested mind is an agile mind.
  • Relax before the exam—listen to music, go for a run or walk, do some yoga or clear your head with some light pleasure reading.
  • Begin studying for the exam well in advance of the testing date. Don't end up cramming at the last minute.
  • Try reviewing key concepts just before you go to sleep at night: some study experts suggest that this method improves cognitive recall.
  • Take all the time you need for the exam. If it's time-limited use all of the time allotted. If you finish before the time has expired, use the balance to review your work.

It's Okay to Have Fun

College life shouldn't only be about studying, exams and counting your pennies. Your stay at university is one of the best periods in your life, and it is definitely OK to enjoy it. Be sure to allow yourself some play-time. College isn't a walk in the park, and it's good to schedule some downtime for yourself. You may find you perform better when you allow for some light diversion.

If there is one rule of thumb however, it is "Everything in moderation". It is tempting to let yourself get carried away with campus life and let your studies slip, but try to stay focused.

Dealing With Dorm Life

Living in a dorm is a new, and strange, experience. This may your first time away from home, and it may be your first experience of having a roommate. While it may seem a brave new world, it is really not too difficult a world to navigate. Some cooperation between you and your new roommates can make dorm living a lot less stressful, a lot more rewarding.

Try using these tips to make your new dorm life run smoothly:

  • Develop clear lines of communication with your roommates right away.
  • Create a schedule that is amenable to you and your roommates. Set aside time for studying, socializing and sleeping. You might try using a joint calendar to note each others exam dates, important athletic competitions, crunch time for term papers and other dates that may effect the routine of the dorm.
  • Be mindful of each others personal space and possessions.
  • Be respectful of one another.
  • Communicate like adults, sensibly and clearly. Screaming will get you nowhere.

College can be frightening, fun, exciting and stressful all at the same time. Rule number one, 'Don't Panic'.You can get through college and retain your sanity. Establish a set of good habits and keep your eye firmly on the final goal.