1. Community College is a Thing
I went to community college, got my AS, and then transferred to a four year school. I think if you’re focusing on exploring your options and gaining job skills, this is the way to go. If you’re using college to leave your hometown and spend thousands of dollars to make friends, maybe don’t? I dunno. That’s a lot of money to make friends.
Cons: Transferring after two years is a huge pain. It’s hard (basically impossible) to make friends when you don’t live on campus. There’s a huge, gross stigma against community college students. I constantly had students and professors talk down to me and be judgmental at my four year school. It was hard to get the guidance that I needed once I transferred.
Pros: I ended up with the same degree and the same job as everyone else, but for less than half of the debt. Professors at community college were much more helpful in my job search. Class time and labs were more skills focused at community college, so I felt better prepared for life from my first two years of school. Worth it.
2. Ignore that the School Bookstore Exists
Don’t buy your textbooks there, guys. Check textbook rental sites (Amazon and Half.com were always good to me, the others varied). See if your school library has the books. Buy an edition or two back for $10 and read more closely. Not much changes in the world from year to year.
If your course requires an access code, buy the access code and then rent/buy a cheaper book.
3. If Your Professor Can’t Teach You, Find Someone Who Can
At least one of your professors will have an amazing gift for explaining things that you understand in a completely incomprehensible way. This course will be required for your major. This is a law of the universe. At some point you will need a second source of information. I went to youtube for this. Crash Course and Bozeman Science were all really good for biology. Khan Academy got me through calculus.
4. Get Your Experience Before You Get Out
Do a program that makes sure you get experience before you graduate. You need an internship, or a co-op, or a really intense capstone project. After college, no one is going to ask you what you learned, they’re going to ask you what you did.
5. Keep Records of Everything
Email forms to have proof of a date of submission. Photocopy what you can’t email in so that you have a copy. Send emails to confirm that things were received. Do this for everything even remotely important.
My financial aid was wrong every semester at my four year school. One year a clerical error cut my scholarships in half. They didn’t catch their mistake, but I got it fixed because I had records. You need records.
6. The Obvious
Learn how you study best. Plan everything. Get enough sleep. Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance. Have more people writing you recommendations than are required for what you’re applying to. Someone will be busy.
And I guess, if school is your thing, have fun.