College Life

Read blogs in our college life category for advice on everyday situations and topics that affect college students.

5 Things I Learned Being a Commuter

My decision to commute as a college student was not easy. There were some pros – like not having to pay for housing; but there were also many cons- like not getting the “full college experience.” I remember thinking I would be the only one in my group of friends who didn’t go away for college. Three years later, I now realize I made the right decision. Along the way, I learned a few things which made being a commuter easier. Here they are:

The Best Time for Class

Traffic is always a hassle for commuters. Students who dorm enjoy the luxury of rolling out of bed and walking to class. If you are a commuter, it’s important to account for the possibility of traffic by waking up and leaving extra early. If you take morning classes, you must leave extremely early or you run the risk of getting stuck in the morning rush hour. On the contrary, if you take evening classes, you’re subject to the late afternoon rush hour. I’ve learned late morning and early afternoon classes are the best for commuters to register for. Yes, it’s in the middle of your day, but most of the time it’s worth avoiding heavy traffic. If your main goal is to avoid rush hour, ideally schedule your classes from 10AM – 2PM.

The Most Convenient Coffee Places

It’s practically a fact; college students live off of caffeine. You never know when you’ll need a little pick-me-up! That’s why it’s necessary to know where all the most accessible coffee stops are along your commute. It’s also vital they aren’t too far off your route or you risk adding more time to your commute and the possibility of traffic building up.

How to Efficiently Use Gas

The greatest downside to commuting is definitely having to pay for gas. Along with gas, potentially putting serious mileage on your car is another negative. The best way to save on gas and keep the miles down is staying on campus between classes. Even if you have a few hours before your next class, don’t travel all the way home and then all the way back. Use the time to get some work done at the library or go hang out with friends. You’ll quickly see staying a few extra hours on campus is worth it.

How to Make the Best/Easiest Schedule

With my senior year approaching this fall, I feel I have mastered schedule making. As a commuter, it’s ideal to be on campus as few days as possible. If you’re going to be successful with this strategy, you really must make those days count. Try scheduling more than one class per day. It’s easier to be on campus two days a week, taking a few classes each day, than being on campus 5 days a week while taking one class a day. You’ll save on both gas and time.

How to Use Your Time in the Car Wisely

You spend a lot of time in the car as a commuter. This may seem like wasted time, but there are several ways to efficiently use this time. Buying books on tape is one of those ways. You can buy whatever you like – fiction, nonfiction, educational or biographical – and listening to it while in the car increases your knowledge and keeps you thinking. Another great option is recording lectures (as long as it’s okayed by the professor) and listening to them on your way home. It’s a great way to pick up on things you missed the first time around. Reviewing lectures in the car is also a great study tool.

No one said commuting life was easy, but with things I learned from experience you can save on gas, make the perfect schedule and optimize your time in the car.

 

Balancing a Part Time Job on Campus

We all like making a little money on the side, but balancing a part time job and schoolwork is tough. Even for the best students, scheduling around classes and work shifts is a challenge. When academics get rough, oftentimes a job becomes a nightmare. But never fear! I’m here to give you some advice on how to manage your academics and your part time job at the same time.

Scheduling Your Time

Schedule everything! Make sure to use Google calendar as much as possible, scheduling everything from your workouts to your study times. By scheduling when you study, work out, and take breaks, you can prevent wasting time. Budgeting lets you know where your money is going. Scheduling lets you know where your time is going. By scheduling your time, you will stop having those days where it feels like you’re scrambling to get everything done. Below is an example of my Google calendar for a day earlier this year.

Balancing a Part Time Job

An example of my weekly calendar

Talking With Your Boss

Your boss is a person too, and they probably also had to juggle a million and one things in college. They get it, I promise. If you’re having an especially bad week, talk with your boss and ask if she can cut some of your shifts. If she can, she probably will. Employers know an unhappy employee is often a bad employee. If you feel uncomfortable about speaking to your manager, consider brushing up on your workplace communication skills starting with this article from Forbes. Should talking to your boss fail, you may be able to swap shifts with a fellow employee. Worst case scenario, they say no. Why not ask them before resigning yourself to a week of torture?

Balancing a Part Time Job

Treat Your Part Time Job Like a Class

Treat your job like any other class, in every possible sense. Don’t skip your job. Try to schedule your shifts the same way you would a class. Ask your manager if you can work at a consistent time every week. If possible, try to block it in with all your other classes. For instance, most of my shifts as a tour guide were right after my classes. I could get all my structured responsibilities out of the way early, and then have the afternoon to work out or do homework. By treating your job like a class, you’ll develop better professional habits and use your time more efficiently.

Do you have any tips on how to manage a job during the school year? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Benefits of Attending a Small University

Small Univeristy

Unlike most of my friends I graduated high school with, I go to a very small university. It’s a place people never hear about, and until I went searching for my perfect educational match, I hadn’t either. There are times I feel looked down on, as if my degree won’t be worth as much as ones given out by well-known universities. Luckily, I have come to realize my degree will be worth just as much – that I’m receiving a quality education at my “no one’s-ever-heard-of” college. There are various benefits of attending a small university. Before you overlook a small university, here are a few benefits to consider:

Personal Classes

Every professor knows my name within a couple weeks of the semester starting. That’s because we have small classes with a 30 student maximum.  At bigger universities, attendees sit in a lecture hall with over 50 students for three hours a day and are never called by their name. Smaller classes are beneficial, especially for learners like me who prefer group discussions over hours of straight lecturing. Getting to know your professors in a more personal setting also makes it easier to approach them with any questions or concerns about the course. Nothing’s more awkward than asking a question half way through the semester and the professor asking, “And what’s your name again?”

Strong Advising System

You will quickly get to know your academic advisor. Similar to the attention you receive from professors, they will actually know your name and agenda instead of referring to you as “another science major”. You won’t have to go into every meeting and repeat your situation for the hundredth time. They remember who you are! This is extremely beneficial and will help with your academic planning.  Also, I’m continuously getting emails from my advisor throughout the semester. They frequently check up on you, making sure you’re doing well. It all adds to the more personal aspect.

Getting Involved is Easier

Joining teams or clubs at larger universities can be very intimidating. At smaller colleges, it’s significantly easier because there aren’t as many people in a club. Once you’re a member of a smaller club, you’ll find everyone’s contributions are ultimately more meaningful. Everyone becomes an important part of the team because there are less people to fill positions and work on projects. In addition, student groups are easier to reach out to and they provide quicker responses. At a small university, you won’t feel like an outsider peering in.

Lower Tuition

Last, but certainly not least, is the lower cost of tuition. Large universities could potentially charge over 40 grand per year! Smaller schools are typically less than 20 grand per year.  Attending a smaller school gives students the potential to have less student loan debt – if you’re lucky you may not even have any- and still receive a quality education. Lower tuition rates also makes receiving a higher education more financially obtainable. If you’re career requires a masters or doctorate, you may want to begin your journey at a smaller school.

The next time someone has never heard of your school or is surprised it’s so small, don’t be discouraged! There are many advantages to smaller classes and club sizes. Regardless of size or notoriety, it’s always best to attend a school that meets all your needs, both educationally and financially.

Keeping in Touch Over the Summer

It’s summer break! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re ready to make the most of it with your friends when it hits you… They’re all scattered across the four corners of the earth. Going to school with diverse people from different locations is great until it’s time for everyone to go back to their hometown. Missing the company of your friends is a struggle we all face over summer break. But never fear! Here are a few tips for keeping in touch over the summer:

Texting

For all the think-pieces written about how texting is killing our generation, overall it’s a positive thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should be texting your friends from school on your phone all the time. That’s a recipe for missing out on life. But some people anxiously feel they need to have a purpose for texting their friends before they can push send. However, receiving a text from your mates is almost always a welcomed surprise. If something reminds you of someone, shoot them a text! See a billboard for their favorite band? See that one food they love? See a friend from home you know they’d get along with? Shoot them a text! It’s easy to keep in touch by texting, But even better than a text is…

Snapchat

Snapchat, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of staying in touch over the summer. Snapchat will let you share what’s happening in your life, live and directly to your friends. They’ll be able to see your face, the world around you, your friends from home, and anything else you can find! The app includes great filters for making any occasion into a fun episode featuring your life. The platform is perfect for random, unpolished moments as well. When it comes to quick ways to show someone you’re thinking of them, you can’t go wrong with sending a snap!

Skype

We all know skype has some drawbacks, but even the most ardent critic of the program has to admit – it’s a wonderful free tool for keeping in touch with people. Skype is great for limiting data  usage when you’re connecting with a friend during their international vacation. Unlike Snapchat, there isn’t a limit on the length of video you share. Instead, you can actively video conference your friends anywhere in the world. Schedule a time each week (or more/less often, depending) and video conference with your friends for a bit. Texting is great, but actually seeing a person’s face and hearing them talk does wonders for strengthening a friendship.

Doing the same stuff

During the school year you have plenty to talk about with your friends. Unfortunately things change over the summer and once you’ve told each other how your week’s been, conversations can get a bit slow. The best solution to this is planning to do shared or similar activities, individually. You both might read the same book, watch the same TV show, or see the same movie! It gives a quick and easy topic to jump back to when the conversation gets a bit slow. In addition to discussing your experiences, you’ll have an opportunity to talk about and plan which activities you’d both be willing to try. Who knows, they may suggest something you’ve never thought of before!

Not having your friends around during summer break can leave you feeling lonely. Of course, nothing can really beat seeing someone in person, but hopefully these tips encourage you to use the technology you know and love to stay connected. On the upside, August is only a short three months away!

Delaying Graduation is Okay…I Promise

Delaying Graduation

The day I found out I would not graduate on time is forever ingrained in my memory. I sat there, listening to my academic adviser tell me I needed an extra semester or two for finishing my degree. My heart dropped. I was in such disbelief about delaying graduation, I began laughing in response. My mind raced with doubt. I worked so hard, why is this happening to me? Could she be wrong? After much denial, I grew to accept my new date. Like me, you too may hear these words at some point. If that moment comes, here’s why you should also accept your new date.

Going at Your Own Pace

Not every student can take five classes a semester and go to school all day, Monday through Friday. Some students are only able to take two night classes a semester, and that’s okay. Earning your degree at your own pace nothing to be ashamed about. It is important to know what works for you and to use that knowledge to your advantage. If you are the kind of person that can obtain a 4.0 taking three classes a semester, but will earn a 2.8 taking five classes, only take the three classes. Graduating with a 3.8+ GPA after six years looks better than rushing through in four years and graduating with a 2.8. You will eventually get there. For now, don’t stress about delaying graduation. Take your time and do what’s best for you!

Figuring Out Yourself

Like many other students who take more than four years to earn their degree, I changed my major which pushed back my graduation date. When I first graduated high school, I was pressured into chosing a major that would make me the most money. The pressure came from everyone- my parents, other relatives, and even my friends and their parents! I let their opinions influence me. I started college off as a veterinary science major because I knew it paid well. Well guess what? I hated it! I remember being more miserable than I have ever felt. When I thought about changing, all I could see were shrinking dollar signs. Even when I built up the courage to get out of the veterinary medicine field, I couldn’t let go of the pressure to shoot for a high paying field. In my mind, science fields made the most money, so I changed my major to something else science related. After two more miserable years as a science major, I realized my happiness is the most important factor. I decided to start over, as an English major no less. Even if it meant graduating late, at least I knew who I really was. College is full of trial and error, and one of those trials can certainly be choosing your major.

Adding a Minor

Graduation dates can often times get pushed back due to adding minors, especially if you add them later in your college career. Do not let this discourage you from adding on a minor. A minor is typically equivalent to an additional full semester and that’s okay. Minors tend to be a great thing to “fall back” on and add value to your degree. If it’s something that strongly interests you, add it. If it will enhance your professional career, add it. If it makes you happy, add it. There is no need to have absolute justification for broadening your studies and enhancing your degree with a minor. Don’t miss out on a more fulfilling collegiate experience simply because you’re worrying about delaying graduation.

Whether you graduate in 4 years or 5, after graduation you’ll have 20+ years to utilize your degree. The timing of when you graduate will have little affect in grand scheme of things, but your chance to learn is now. Forget about social pressures or stigmas. Do what’s best for you, always.