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When I graduated high school I literally didn't know what to do next or even how to go about going to college. I was the first in my family to even attempt to go to college so there was no knowledge passed on to me, no advice to give me direction. So I asked: random strangers in line for Financial Aid and Counseling, the Go Center Advisor, my friend's older brothers and sisters, and the internet for advice. Through the years, I have compiled a pretty good amount of knowledge on the subject to the point that others ask me for advice. So here's some things I've learned along the way!

Try to get work study

Usually, work studies are flexible with your school schedule and have pretty normal hours of operation allowing you some time to study. Another benefit is that they offer jobs in your major, so you can get experience while making money. Think of it like a paid internship. How to go about this:

  • When you are filling out you financial aid just check "yes I am interested in work study"
  • Go to your financial Aid counselor and let them know you checked yes and ask what is the next step
  • They will probably give you a website to go to fill out an application and do some online training 
  • After that, they will approve the application and then you just start applying to jobs on the school website

Join a club

I made the mistake of not joining a club during my time at school, but I would often ask others what did they do in their clubs. Like a work study, their activities helped the members gain experience in their field and begin gaining a network of peers (which is really important when finding a job).

Don't buy textbooks from the bookstore

When I first got my book list I did what anyone would do, I went to the campus bookstore to look at the prices, which could have been one of the biggest "no no" I could have done. I looked at the prices and was appalled, thinking "this can't be the only option". And it wasn't. Here's the list of where to buy your textbooks in the order of most expensive to least:

  • The campus store
  • Off-campus bookstores
  • Buying an e-book online
  • Renting a book
  • Buying from craigslist/ or Facebook groups where college students buy and trade texts books 

Another pointer is to ask the professor if the book needs to be the newest edition, if not buy previous edition because usually the only difference is that maybe 30 or so pages are added (most of the time these pages aren't even to be used in class).This can be the difference between you buying a 100 dollar textbook to a 30 dollar one.

It's okay to start off at a community college or at your hometown university

Like any high schooler, I knew when I went to college I wanted to go to an out of town University. Universities are expensive, that's just the way it is. Now, out of town Universities are way more expensive because:

  • You have to pay for rent/dorms
  • Food
  • If it is not in state, then out of state tuition (which is REALLY REALLY expensive)

Many of my friends decided it was worth it (and if I had the money I probably would have left too, to be honest). However the next year many of them had moved back, so I asked, "what happened you didn't like it over there?" And I got this answer many times and it was along the lines of "It really fun but so much money and I couldn't pay past the first year". 

So at this point, I realized maybe I'll stay in the city and go to my hometown university or community college to save money.  I went to community college my first two years, graduated with my Associates Degree and with no loan debt.

Make friends in your classes

During the first few months of my first semester of college, I really didn't talk to anyone in my classes, but there came a point when I realized that I seriously needed to. I had a 7 AM class that I was always on time too but one day my alarm didn't go off. I woke up at 10 AM (3 hours after my class had started) and panicked. My first thought was " I wish i knew someone's number so they can tell me what did we do today and if anything was due". Fortunately, it was just a normal lecture day with nothing due but after that day I made it a point to get at least one person in class's number.Later I found myself asking and answering my classmate's questions:

  • What time are our finals
  • Do you know how to do problem #X
  • I have a Doctors appointment can you tell me what we did in class
  • You want to get together and study

Communicating with other classmates is something that both you can benefit from because having someone you can rely on is valuable in college.

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