Destination: College, Part 2
Establish a routine
The demands and delights of college will pull at you from all directions, and it will be tempting to over-commit. A realistic routine can reduce stress, increase productivity, and give you time to meet competing demands.
Write out a schedule with a set time for each of your daily activities - classes, meals, exercise, sleep time. In estimating your time needs, observe the rule of doubles: If it's a 10-minute walk across campus, allot 20 minutes. If you think that lunch takes 30 minutes, schedule an hour. Keep in mind that your workload will probably increase after the first three or four weeks.
After the essentials, schedule other activities - clubs, sports, hanging-out time. Try your schedule and see if it works. If you're pressed for time, prune your commitments.
Consider using a personal digital assistant (PDA), such as the Palm Pilot. These can act like a spare brain, helping you plan your day, find time to study, and get to classes on time. Punch in your schedule, set the alarm, and keep your device with you at all times.
Low-tech tools, such as multi-pocket backpacks, can also keep you organized. Assign a place to keep all of your belongings. The less you worry about where you put something, the more you can focus on important things.
Leave clutter behind
What will you bring to college? Make a list of essentials, then add the stuff you'd like to bring. Which items will you need to use daily? Weekly? Monthly? What you can do without? If you play tennis, limit yourself to one racquet. If there are books you've been meaning to get to, leave them at home for winter break. The less clutter in your room, the better you can focus on your work. Be a minimalist. Take as little as possible, and cut down on time spent cleaning your dorm room and searching for stuff.
Buy books in advance
Once you're sure you're taking a class, order the books in advance. You can save a lot by buying used texts through an online bookseller instead of at the college bookstore.
And there are academic benefits to this approach. Many professors expect students to jump into homework on day one. If you're fighting bookstore crowds, it's easy to fall behind at the start. Buying in advance also gives you an early look at the course material. If you discover you're in over your head, you can get help or switch classes before it's too late.
Make a budget
It's easy to run into financial problems at college, and these can distract you from your studies. Anticipate your annual expenses, including pocket money, and determine how you'll cover them.
- Prepare a monthly budget. List all known and any possible expenses. Snacks, parking permits, notebooks, pens, and other desk supplies are among the frequently forgotten expenses that boost the cost of college.
- Call or visit your college's financial aid office. Check on costs, and make sure you've turned in all necessary paperwork.
- Find out about scholarship and grant programs. Start with the library or bookstore - there are innumerable books on the subject. Check out organizations that you or your parents belong to - the YMCA, a labor union, the Rotary Club. Many local and regional groups offer scholarships. Unlike college aid, which typically takes the form of a loan, scholarships can reduce your college debt.
- If you'll need a job in the fall, start looking now. Campus jobs - typically part of an aid package - are often low-stress and flexible about hours, but low-paying. Off-campus jobs offer better wages but may not allow flexibility if you have an exam coming up or a project to complete.
- Say no to credit card offers. Easy credit now can mean a huge debt by the time you graduate. That's when you ought to be looking to the future, free of burdensome financial obligations.
Expect your first semester to be challenging and memorable. If you play it right, it can also be your springboard to a successful college career. Preparation is your ally. Start now with these simple steps, and give yourself the best chance for success.