College is for a lot of people an exciting time of life. It is a transition period between high school and “the real world.” You get to take on more freedoms and responsibilities, yet still get the luxury of long vacations and breaks. Instead of having to follow your parent’s schedule, or constantly keep your parents updated on your whereabouts, you now create your own schedule and can do whatever you like. As my roommates one year put it, “I could totally eat ice cream for breakfast.”
Since you are planning your schedule, you can determine what time you want classes to be, how many hours you want to work, or what organizations you want to be involved with. You can also choose whether or not you want to go to class and can pretty much spend your time however you wish. However, I am here to provide some caution and to remind you the reason why you chose to be at college in the first place. While reasons may include wanting to get away from home or meeting new people, the real reason why you and/or your parents are spending so much money is for you to get that degree so you can gain some knowledge and hopefully land a nice job to pay off your student loans. One of my biggest pet peeves when I was at SHC was the fact that too many of my peers basically wasted their parents’ money and spent most of their free time partying. The rule at college is that “The weekend starts on Thursday” so students pretty much go out most nights of the week instead of spending time studying or working on papers.
Now, there is no reason to completely cut out your social life and not have fun. There have been many nights where in the middle of studying I would take a break and head to IHOP with some friends to eat breakfast at 1am. I also traveled for weekend trips and went to art walk or stayed up all night playing Guitar Hero in my friend’s room. However, I always scheduled my time and made sure that I got the important stuff out of the way first.
A close friend of mine provides an example of how focusing on too many other factors other than school can be a problem. In her freshman year, she was in a sorority and was really involved in all of their different parties, philanthropy events, intramural teams, etc. She had a lot of fun but messed up her GPA and wound up with below a 2.0. This wasn’t because she was unintelligent, for she was a pretty good student in high school, but mainly because she didn’t schedule her time well and didn’t spend enough time studying. Luckily, by the time it got to her junior year and her upper level classes, she left the sorority and focused more on what mattered. She still had fun, but by studying more often she was able to bring up her GPA and had a pretty good GPA in her degree.
Now, I want to caution that it wasn’t necessarily the fact she was in a sorority that caused the problem. A lot of people know how to juggle the different required activities in a sorority and fraternity and can keep up their grades, just like a lot of people that don’t get involved in Greek life can be poor managers of their time. It’s just in her particular case the sorority activities were a little distracting and she had to learn how to juggle having fun with preparing for class.
It’s your freshman year and you’re buying textbooks for the first time. You’ve learned that you can order them online through the school bookstore and pick them up when you move in. Or you decide to do things last minute and you buy your books from the school bookstore directly. Either way, when you finally add up the price of all your books at check-out you come to the horrible realization that their price is $700-$800 (or more if you have a lot of math and science classes). At least, that was my experience.
You don’t have to spend that much. Generally, the bookstore will post book lists for your classes as soon as your teacher sends in the order for them. This means that you should be able to look up the book lists for your classes and start shopping for books ahead of time for a much cheaper price. Go to sites like Amazon, eBay, or Half.com and compare prices between their books and yours. Sometimes you can buy a slightly older edition that will have pretty much the same information and chapters but may have a slightly different page order or a few chapters re-arranged. I knew this option was out there, but since I bought my books through financial aid I never tried buying them ahead of time and wound up wasting a lot of money on textbooks.
The bookstore scam doesn’t end at the ridiculous prices of the books either. Textbooks will generally update to a “new edition” every year or every other year to force students to buy the new books and have trouble selling their now outdated textbooks. These new editions generally have very little added information if any and may re-order some pages or fix some errors and typos that may have been in the previous edition.
Furthermore, at the end of the semester when you think you can sell back books and get some of your money back, think again. The first year I sold back books that I had spent around $800 on, I got back less than $200 when I tried to sell back. The reason? Many classes are only offered during the fall or spring semester so the bookstore only buys back a limited number of books for the class. Or professors change their syllabus and require a different book the next semester. Or a new edition of the textbook has come out so professors are switching over to that one.
Also, very few books get sold back at half price even though bookstores try to claim they do. The school bookstore has a quota of how many books they will buy back since they are only going to sell so many used (they want to be able to sell new books at full price). Therefore, at the end of the semester you are usually left with several textbooks you can’t sell back or do anything with or you sell back books at less than a quarter of their original worth. If you’re an English major then you wind up selling back paperbacks and receiving only $1-$2 for them. Ways to get around this problem include selling online, selling to an off-campus bookstore, selling directly to other students, or either recycling or donating your books to a great cause or library.
So, when I toured Spring Hill’s campus for the first time I was given the opportunity to try the cafeteria food. In high school I always made and brought a lunch to school since I hated the cafeteria food, so I was pleasantly surprised that the food at SHC was pretty good. At SHC (and many colleges) all freshman had to purchase an unlimited meal plan which meant you can eat at the cafeteria as much as you want, so I was glad that I would be eating well every day.
However, while my initial experience at the cafeteria was pleasant, I soon realized I had been tricked. After about the first week of school the food at the cafeteria began to go downhill. Yet, on visiting days, suddenly the quality of food would increase. I noticed the same thing happen at South and realized the trick being played at the cafeteria. Honestly, there were some dishes that I enjoyed eating at both school’s cafes, but the problem with cafeteria food is they always have a limited menu and recycle the same dishes every week or so. You always have a sandwich bar, salad bar, pizza, and burgers, but it all gets really boring after awhile.
When I was at South I actually had a dorm room that had its own kitchen, so I was able to cook my own meals. However, college students generally have a limited budget, so I usually bought cheap, easy to make food that wasn’t the healthiest. In fact, I was saddened to see a list of top 10 college meals…and realized that I ate all of them on a regular basis. Examples include cereal, mac & cheese, frozen pizza, tacos, spaghetti, and ramen. Needless to say, whenever I managed to go home to visit, I would always look forward to eating food that didn’t take 10-20 minutes to prepare or was made in a cafeteria.