College is a big, exciting place, and sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in all that excitement. Just remember: keep your head and your common sense, and, like everything else in life, don’t believe everything you hear. To help you out, here are a few myths about college. The key word being myth. As in probably not true. And by probably we mean definitely:
- There’s a pool on the roof of the student center. With 100% certainty, I can tell you that there is in fact most definitely not a pool on the roof of the student center. Because, seriously. Really? However, if someone tells you that the library is full of puppies, well, you better head over there ASAP because that just might be true.
- The Freshman 15 is inevitable. While it’s true that college is a place of high alcohol consumption and an inevitably worse diet (thanks, dining hall), it’s still possible to avoid packing on those extra fifteen pounds. For instance, all you have to do is be conscious of what you put in your body and exercise a little bit. No big deal, right? Besides, it’s not like the freshman 15 is exclusive to, well, just freshman. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are all susceptible to a little weight gain if they get too lazy.
- Your teachers don’t even know who you are. You don’t have to be anonymous in your college class, no matter how big it is. If you show up to office hours, participate in class, and show your professor that you’re taking their class seriously, then they’ll definitely know who you are. Not only will you benefit in the future when you need to ask your professor for some recommendations for a job, grad school, or some other opportunity, but you’ll benefit in the short term, too. Just ask your GPA.
- Don’t talk to seniors, or else. Okay, if the upperclassmen seriously seem big and tall and whenever you look at them they scowl and look like they’re about to eat you, then fine, don’t talk to them. But chances are most seniors and juniors would be happy to make new friends and to talk to some fresh faces. In college age doesn’t matter as much as it did in high school. While you shouldn’t make a habit of becoming friends with only upperclassmen, it doesn’t hurt to have a few friends who can show you the ropes. What’s more, most of the classes you take will have a mix of kids from all years, so there’s no reason why you can’t all be friendly.
- Everyone is a number crunching, late-into-the-night-studying super-genius and you’ll never compare to that. In one simple word: false. While there will always be those kids that seem to know everything, who will never get less than an A on an assignment or exam, the majority of students have to put a ton of work into their grades, so don’t feel bad if you’re not getting the marks you want. The rule of thumb: you get what you give. If you want to get those high grades, then buckle down, study, and do what you can to get them.
While you should definitely study what you want to study, and pursue what you love, it’s important to be realistic about your ambitions. That’s to say, in today’s economy, which is still cracking more than one of Joan Rivers’ facelifts, you should set yourself up for success. And some majors result in less job prospects and lower average incomes. That’s just a fact. Here’s a few of those offenders:
Anthropology and archeology. While both of these fields are incredibly cool (think Indiana Jones), you’ll probably fight an uphill battle after graduation. According to Forbes, the median income for anthro majors is $28,000 per year. That’s not much, especially when considering the rising prices of rent, food, and living.
Film and photography/fine arts. Face it: did you really expect the arts would be profitable? While it’s a hard reality to face (who doesn’t love the arts?), if you major in it, you might find out all too quickly what it really means to be a ‘struggling artist.’
Philosophy and religious studies. It’s true: it’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. At least, that’s what Aristotle says. And he’s one of the best philosophers that ever was. No doubt, philosophy and religion are both extremely important; they might just not be the most practical.
Graphic design. The unemployment rate for recent graduates who majored in graphic design is almost 12%. Plus the median earnings for the employed ones is only $32,000.
History. While I, for one, don’t want to be doomed to repeat any big mistakes and so dearly appreciate the work of historians, I also don’t want history majors to be doomed by unemployment, which, according to Forbes, is all too likely to happen. Unemployment rates for history majors is currently over 10%.
English. As an English major, I myself admit that I’ve made life harder by choosing a degree that might not turn out to be the most profitable. That being said, when looking for a job, I’ll play up my communication, editing, and comprehension skills.
That all said and done, there’s no reason why you can’t still pursue these disciplines. If you go to a liberal arts school, you can take a ton of classes in, say, anthropology, but without majoring in it. You could also make it your minor.
One of the most important aspects of college is the relationship you have with your roommate. While your roommate might not be your best friend, there are some things to remember to make sure you get along:
1. Flexibility. The great thing about school is that there are so many things to do, but that means you and your roommate will probably be moving in different directions. You might be sleeping while he’s in a physics lab, or you might be playing intramural soccer when she’s meeting with her study group. Whatever the case is, be sure that you not only compare schedules, but that you respect them—especially when it comes to sleep schedules.
2. The Golden Rule. Speaking of respect, treat your roommate like you want to be treated and your relationship will go a long way. Seriously.
3. Alone time. The biggest secret to a good roommate situation is to be aware of each other’s space. A dorm room is a small area, and it can seem even smaller if you can never get any time to yourself. In order to get some quality R & R, be up front about what you want: the room to yourself once in a while.
4. Open communication. If something about your roommate is annoying you, then address it head-on. Talk about each other’s pet peeves, if you like to keep the room messy or clean, if it’s alright to play loud music, things like that. The more you communicate the less likely you are to run into a problem.
5. Earphones. Of course, sometimes all you need is a solid pair of headphones so that you can, well, just rock out. Or ignore them.
In college? Have student loans? Graduated and are now trying to pay those loans off? If so, you’re a member of the $1 Trillion Club–all the students and graduates across the nation that have a cumulative of $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. But what does that number really mean? Find out here.
Budgeting during breaks is a unique challenge: while you’re not on-campus and don’t have the typical expenses you would during the year, there are arguably more opportunities to spend your money during breaks, which can feel like long vacations. You may find yourself going out to eat more often with friends, spending more on other forms of entertainment, and/or blowing the benjamins on travel.
The key, then, is earning more and spending less, since every dollar you save now is a dollar you don’t have to borrow next semester. And since a dollar borrowed is more than a dollar owed (think interest), you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money in the long run.
Besides reading our article on finding a summer job, which is actually packed with advice on how to find a job in general, here’s a few things you can do this summer to increase the amount of money you’re earning:
- First things first: find a job. We’re saying it again so it’ll sink in a little more.
- Start looking for more scholarships. Summer is a great time to refine your resume, work on personal statements, and apply for as many grants, scholarships, and fellowships you possibly can. Many of them come with free money attached, so it’s time well spent. Start with your school’s financial aid office and your major department, then head online: fastweb.com and finaid.org are both great places to start.
- Consider informal work options. Mow lawns, wash cars, landscape, babysit, or housesit for a professor that’s going on vacation. Point being: if you need money, you need to find the opportunity to earn it.
Spending less and still having fun
This is probably the last thing you want to stress about, seeing as you’re on break from school, which has probably got your brain in a knot. But there are plenty of easy ways to spend less and still have a great time:
- Calculate your expendable monthly income. That’s not your paycheck. That’s your paycheck after bills, your loan payments, and any extra you set aside for savings. Your new goal: figure out that number and never spend more than it.
- Make lists and stick to them. Whether you’re going to the grocery store or the shopping mall, write down what you need ahead of time so you don’t up buying everything just because you want it.
- Splurge for less. Everyone wants to treat himself or herself to a nice meal or a night out. But do so with your budget on your mind: use daily deal sites like Groupon to snag coupons; check if movie theaters, bowling alleys, etc., have budget nights; and go with groups of people so you can split the tab.
- Think staycation not vacation. In other words, how can you have free fun? See if museums have free days, if there are any free music events in town, or if there are any markets or local festivals over the weekends. Also take advantage of the great outdoors. Hiking, rafting, fishing, lazing away a day in the park—all great uses of time, and all very good for the wallet.
- Go easy on the credit card spending. In fact, just keep the credit card in your wallet. Use debit instead. Credit encourages you to spend more than you have, which means you could be stuck with interest payments, and that’s just wasted money.