Tips and Tricks: The College Life Advice, Part I

When I went away to university, I had a lot of misconceptions about what college life would be like. Misconceptions about loans, paying for books, Greek life, living away from home, living with other people, and relationships. I've been reflecting a lot on my experiences as I enter my (hopefully) third and final year of undergrad, and I thought I'd write about it. Maybe this will reach a college student that I can enlighten; maybe this will reach the parent of a college student and help save them money.

  1. Network for textbooks. Do not make the same mistake that I did. Use your resources. The campus bookstore is not your friend; unfortunately, you will learn that your university is a business and will try to make money off of you for everything. Try Amazon, Chegg, Student Rates, etc. to purchase or rent your books; sometimes buying is better because you can sell back your books. and make back $40 of the $70 you spent to buy versus getting nothing back for spending $60 renting. But, before you go to any of those websites, network with other students. Most university students are Facebook users, and they create groups for you all to talk with your class. Find the groups for your class to meet new students, and find the groups for older classes; students often hold on to textbooks and will sell them to each other at incredibly discounted prices. This semester, my books cost $550. Due to some nice searching, and personal networking with people I've met on campus, I'm only going to spend about $60. Not bad compared to the $600+ I spent freshmen year my first semester... And not only textbooks, but you can get other stuff from students as well!
  2. Loans and Credit. Every college student takes out loans. Make sure you read up on yours. Figure out the interest rates, learn about deferring of payments, learn about how you can set up payment plans to slowly pay them back while you're still enrolled so it doesn't accumulate interest. Don't get
    blind sided thinking that college is easy because you don't have to pay yet - $10,000 loans turn into $30,000 loans in the blink of an eye due to interest. Get a credit card before taking out loans; afterwards, you're likely to get denied because your loan amounts exceed your financial ability to pay them off. So do yourself a favor and start building credit before being weighed down with those loans. You can check on your credit score with free websites that are safe; let me know if you want a specific one that I've used!
  3. Learn public transportation, get GPS. Most universities, especially if you're in bigger urban states like New York (like I am), will have some kind of public transportation available. Learn the bus schedules and ask questions. Some people at my university get on the wrong bus because they're not paying attention to the signs or the bus came from the wrong direction; pay attention to that too! For example, if the 12 bus came from the left, it left the mall and is most likely going downtown;
    the one coming from the right is coming from downtown and will go to the mall. But never assume; ask the bus drivers! If you have GPS on your phones, use it! This is a good time to convince your parent or parents, for you to be convinced, that a Smartphone is worth it. As a vegan, I needed to find a health store and my GPS/Apps helped me locate one close enough to campus that it wouldn't be a great hassle to go shop there. I even have an app that tells me when public transportation is coming, what stops I need to get off of, and what the bus number is.
  4. Utilize the buddy system. In addition to learning the public transportation, learn the areas surrounding your university. Where are the safe areas? Where are the shady areas? Always bring a friend, no matter what kind of area you're in. You absolutely shouldn't have to; you should be able to
    wear whatever you want, go wherever you want, or do whatever you want without the fear of attack, theft, rape, or harassment - but the reality of that isn't close in American culture. Do not, do not, do not go downtown alone ever. Always bring money with you when you're out, because accidents happen and you might miss a bus and need to call a cab or something. Especially if you're going to a party downtown (they're not as big of a deal as everybody thinks, so don't feel lame if you don't go, trust me) - parents, face it - you're going to need to be very safe. Have your phone fully charged at all times.
  5. Don't always buy the university's offer. Universities will attempt to sell you everything; bedding, because *only theirs* fits their beds properly (this is never true); hoodies that are automatically $30 more expensive because of your university's logo; etc. Find Targets and Walmarts in your area and go go go! Especially if you're out of state; figure out the tax differences. For example, I live in NJ where our taxes are 7%, but in NY where I go to school, it's nearly 9%. That adds up when you're massively shopping! Look around for deals and for coupons, and if you have nice dollar stores where you live like I do, buy stuff there. Don't have shame; there are no dollar stores where I live, so I always get
    things sent to me from home to save money! It works just as well and I didn't spend a fortune, plus I don't contribute to Walmart's abuse of their employees (that's a long story). As for university wear, sure, buy one or two things; but DIY the rest of it! You can easily find logos and iron them onto your clothing. Local A.C. Moores' and Michaels' always have coupons for things like that. (P.S. Get into couponing as best as you can -- SERIOUSLY.)

One thoughts on “Tips and Tricks: The College Life Advice, Part I

  1. This is great. I realized the less I spend on textbooks the more money I will have coming back to me. I was lucky this semester and didn't have to pay for any. Not that I am at a University but it still adds up.


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