Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The ABCs of Being a Student

I've been in school my entire life.  Seriously.

I started elementary school, well . . . let's just say it's been a while.

In fact, just to give you a frame of reference this was the #1 song on the Billboard Charts the week is started kindergarden.

And this was at the top of every kids' Christmas list to Santa:

Okay, so now that we've established that I've been in school a really, really long time I'd like to share a few things with you that have taken me, well, a really long time to figure out on my own.  


  • Never, ever buy a textbook from the campus bookstore unless it's a do-or-die situation.  They're extremely overpriced.  Type in the ISBN into google or amazon or buy used from a friend.
  • Post your books on amazon.com immediately after the semester ends if you plan on selling them.  (It's simple.  You just set up an account and type in the ISBN, which is listed on the back of the book.)  Books are replaced with new editions very often.  If you don't list it immediately, you risk having another paperweight around the house.  
  • And speaking of making the decision of whether to sell or keep your books:  unless you found the layout of the book so helpful that you'll reference it in the future (either for class or your profession) get rid of it!  You'll be forced to buy way more than you have room for, trust me.
  • If a book is recommended by the professor, rather than required find someone who's previously had the class to find out if you should purchase it.  Chances are, you won't ever use it and you won't be tested over any material in it or else the professor would have required it.  My vote: 9 out of 10 times, pass them up.


  • If you're not a morning person, don't enroll for morning classes and magically expect that you'll feel like going.  You won't.
  • Think ahead.  If I take "x" this semester instead of "y" will "y" still be available for me to take next semester?  Some courses are only offered once per year.  This requires planning.
  • And speaking of planning, know exactly what classes you plan on taking, exactly what you need to do to register for those classes online, and the exact minute registration opens.  Registration at my school is online and each class is assigned a number.  I write out the numbers of the classes I want as well as alternatives in case I don't get into the courses I want.  Then, I set my alarm (our registration is always at 7:15am), wake up in the morning, grab my list, log online, and am ready to go.  This insures that I almost always get in the classes I want.
  • Try to keep one day class free if possible.  I usually try to do this on a Monday or a Friday so that I have a longer weekend.  Some people prefer Wednesdays so that it breaks up the week.  Think about what would make the semester easier on you.

Costs of College

  • There are people whose jobs are to help you with your financial aide.  They know you don't know all of the answers, or even all of the questions.  Use these people!  Make appointments with them.    Take a notepad and pen.  And ask tons of questions.
  • FAFSA is the federal government program that will help you pay for college.  You'll fill out a form and the government will send the information straight to your school.  Almost 100% of my undergrad and doctorate have been funded through the use of this program.  
  • Avoid private loans, such as loans through banks.  Stick with the government grants/loans.  Trust me on this one.
  • Don't forget to research scholarship opportunities.  You'd be surprised what's available.  Ask the HR department if your corporation offers them.  Ask the colleges you're applying to.  And don't forget to visit your state's website for scholarship opportunities as well.  
  • College is expensive enough as it is--don't add to the costs if you don't have to.  For example, do you really need to go out of state?  Or, can you take your basics at a technical college and then transfer them to the university you want to attend?  Many times, this is possible and can save you thousands of dollars.
  • Find out what your tuition entitles you to and take advantage of it.  For example, my college has a gym with workout equipment and a huge pool.  It's free to all students, so if you live near campus there's no reason anyone who attends there should be paying for a gym membership.

The Kitchen Sink 
  • Friends.  Make them!  If you're shy, find at least one person in each class that seems nice and ask him for his phone number/email.  Make a deal, "I'll take notes for you when you're absent if you'll do the same for me."  You'd be surprised how helpful this will be when the professor decides to make a sudden change in the syllabus while you're not there.  And you'd also be surprised how many of these "strictly business" relationships turn into lifelong friendships.
  • Absences.  Find out the attendance policy up front.  If you know you're going to be out, let your professor know as soon as possible.  Despite what they say, many of them won't count it against your total if you let them know up front.  Also, keep track of your absences on your calendar.  And use your absences wisely.  Spring 2010 semester, I had to allot my absences perfectly so that I didn't miss any of my son's t-ball games.  Think about these things in advance.   
  • Involvement.  Whether you're 18 and going off to college or in your mid-forties with kids at home going back to college--get involved.  Colleges have activities to fit all interests and lifestyles.  For example, many of the activities I've participated in are ones in which students are encouraged to take their spouses and children, such as baseball games or luncheons.  Seek these opportunities out and have fun with them.  Many are funded by your tuition anyway, so you might as well enjoy them!
  • Student Discounts.  Tons of stores offer these, so make sure you get your Student ID while you're in the campus bookstore not buying books.  Most campuses supply your ID for free.  Keep it on you and ask around.  Many places offer student discounts:  movie theaters; local sports events; amusement parks; department stores; auto insurance companies; and more.  One of my favorite places to shop is Express.  They offer a 15% discount to students who show their ID.  Now that makes me happy!  
Alright, well I hope someone found this helpful.  If you did, please let me know by commenting below. 

This post idea came from Mama Kat's Writing Workshop.  Be sure to stop by there for creative inspiration!


  1. These are great tips - but I find myself feeling very, very old when reading them! That song that was in the charts when you started Kindergarten? I was starting my senior year in college.

    College has changed a lot in the last 20 years! We had to either use a typewriter or the college mainframe to type up our work! And we had to do all our research at the library because there was no internet (at least not widely available)!

    This is good stuff to know for when my oldest goes off in 8 years! (gulp)

  2. I love prince lol... way to make my day!

  3. I just had a college flashback. Thanks for the reminders. Every single point was true for me. This should be part of a Freshman orientation packet.

  4. I saw the game boy and I immediately realized . . . I am older than you.
    Great tips though. As a teacher and tutor, I hope my students know some of these tricks.

    Stopping by from Mama's . . .

  5. Great advice. The number one song when I was in kindergarten? Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head, by B.J. Thomas... I am old. lol

  6. Great advice! Stopping by from Mama Kat's.

  7. When I first went to college I took morning classes even though I'm not a morning person. Terrible. I slept through most of them. Now I take night classes. Much better.

  8. These are great tips!! Wish I would've had this advice!

  9. Very nice tips, especially about the books. I had to find those out the hard way.

  10. Express gives a student discount? Oh, I'm so there!