Categories: Applying to Scholarships, College Apps, Financial Aid, General College, GM Features
Where we came from
For two years, we’ve built a platform to allow students, counselors, and parents an easy way to find scholarships they’re eligible for, filter through the noise, and apply to their favorites—all right from our platform. Now, over 200,000 students across 10,000 high schools use Going Merry.
But external, independent scholarships are only one part of the financial equation. Universities themselves also offer financial aid packages.
Introducing: College Scholarships
So now, we’re excited to announce a new section on our website called “College Scholarships.” (Note: You have to sign up or log in to a student account to access it.)
This page will list a range of colleges we’re working with, to make their financial aid offerings clearer to students. Each college provides an overview of their financial aid program, with examples of aid packages for different household income levels. And when you choose to “Learn more” about any college, we’ll pass on your name and details. This way, the college can reach out to you directly with information tailored to your specific case.
See the introductory walk-through video below:
Which colleges do we feature? UVA and others!
So far, we’ve got 5 colleges on board, including the prestigious University of Virginia. UVA has committed to meeting students’ full financial need, for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.
But this is just the beginning; in the coming weeks and months, we’ll be building out this section with more colleges—all of which want to show you just how much money is on the table.
And remember: This direct aid from colleges is all in addition to whatever award money you might win from independent scholarships.
Why did we add this?
We know how difficult it is to navigate how to pay for college. 3 in 4 high school seniors we surveyed said they would change their first choice college, if they got substantial aid somewhere else.
We hope this new College Scholarships section will allow you to make more financially informed decisions about which college you apply for, and which college you choose to attend.
Stay tuned for other features too! We’re building out a range of tools to help students make more financially informed decisions about college.
“How to pay for college?” It’s a tough question with many solutions, but no definitive answer. This question continually factors into major educational decisions. Forming a budget for college means considering attending in-state vs. out-of-state, your living situation, and the number of registered credits you will need to graduate. Students and parents can be eager to mold the most realistic, stress-free “Paying for College” plan, but the task can truly take a bit of patience.
Below, you can find a few ideas about using different routes to take care of educational expenses. In this way, you can build up to the larger goal of affording a great school. You can also check out our new budgeting tool – MerryBudget – to help think through your needs.
Starting with basics, college expenses are covered through three general funds. Any education-related expense you have is covered by money you earn, money you are awarded, or money you borrow. Ideally, you want to focus on “money you earn” and “money you are awarded”. These two options allow you handle the cost of college upfront. Borrowing typically results in longer commitments by adding additional time and money invested in repaying what you borrowed, also known as debt. Balancing these three funds are key to figuring out how you will pay for college.
Money you earn
Earning money is the most direct way to pay for college. In exchange for your labor or service, you make a wage you have the authority to manage.
Examples of traditional labor jobs
Day Care Assistant
Jobs related to customer service and hospitality tend to need less experience and have more flexible schedules. You can find these jobs on popular local job boards. Wages are typically earned hourly, and your schedule is discussed with your employer. You may need long work days to earn a decent amount of money, as these jobs usually start at minimum wage.
Jobs related to a specialized field are based on a specific set of skills. These jobs can be done as employment or freelance to earn a wage. The minimum requirement is proof you can perform the tasks asked. You have a better chance of securing a job if you can prove you are familiar with the skills needed.
Gaining experience with skills in these fields can be done on your own time or in the presence of a mentor. Perhaps you have a family member who owned a car shop, and they taught you a few mechanic skills. You can use that experience to find a part-time job at a car shop. If you love art, maybe you started watching graphic design videos on YouTube. After working on your design skills, you could start freelancing. Jobs in this category are more about learning as you go while you develop your skills. Formal education can be a bonus, but not necessary to begin a career.
In most cases, you will choose your own schedule. A specialized job can give you more freedom. Choosing a specialized field can also help lessen the competition for a job.
Examples of side gig jobs
Ride Share Driver
This category of jobs requires no formal education, and no experience. Many of the jobs are small or simple labor tasks that anyone can do. You typically find companies dedicated to one form of small labor. For example, getting someone’s groceries or driving someone around. The income for such jobs can be very profitable for jobs like driving people around. On the other hand, jobs like a survey taker gradually build smaller amounts of income.
Companies allow you to create your own schedule. The flexibility can benefit a student’s course schedule.
Jobs listed in each category scratch the surface of the jobs possible. When looking for a job, factors like time commitment and wage are very important, but don’t forget to think about what you are good at. A job exists for everything surrounding you. Assess your skills to determine what services you may be able to provide, or which skills can transfer to what jobs.
Money you are awarded
There are scholarships for everyone – you don’t need to have special talents or be a genius! Some will ask about your community service, for instance, or times you’ve shown compassion or leadership or overcome a personal challenge. There are even some that are just dependent on your location. Awards are given for a variety of reasons, so keep this as an option to explore.
This is probably the first method anyone considers once applying for college. Scholarship money is provided by a school, non-profit organization, private organization, or sometimes, a corporation.
Each scholarship has conditions. First, you must be eligible. Eligibility requirements could include location, GPA, school, or year of study. Along with being eligible, you will be required to show work. Scholarship providers may ask for an essay, project, or request you to send you most current transcript, for example.
You can find scholarships on blogs, in local newspapers, on school websites, or on apps like Going Merry. More resources equal more opportunity for awards.
When you compare the amount of money you can receive to the amount of work needed to apply for a scholarship, the exchange is a pretty good deal. Write an essay and receive $500? That’s more appealing than working a full-time job.
The hard part of scholarships is that they are not guaranteed. You can meet requirements, do the work, and not be chosen. In addition, finding the scholarships can be tricky for some students.
Luckily, scholarships are Going Merry’s favorite topic! We suggest scholarships to you based on your profile. We can help get you started right now!
This award is funding or financial assistance typically given by the government. You do not need to repay this money. Like scholarships, grants have conditions and a selection process.
Government grants are typically offered as part of a school’s financial aid package. Common government grants, also known as federal grants, include Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and TEACH Grant.
State and Institution Grants are also common at colleges. Federal grants are considered need-based aid. You can read this informative article, done by U.S. News, for more understanding of federal grants.
In hindsight, you can say grants and scholarships operate in very similar ways. Slight differences exists between the two.
While federal grants are only provided by the government, scholarships are provided by non-profits, corporations or individuals. Also, scholarships have a wider variety of eligibility compared to federal grants. You can find a scholarship matching your interests or characteristics, which can revolve around more laid-back, informal topics. For example, did you see the Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship on our post for No Essay Scholarships (2019 edition)?
Your school can award you with need-based aid or merit-based aid. Need-based aid is determined by evaluating you and/or your family’s income and assets. Your school will use this information in comparison with the expenses of your education to decide the amount you are eligible to receive.
Merit-based aid relies on achievement and talent. Students can exhibit academic, athletic, music, artistic, or another exceptional skill to receive merit-based aid. Common types of merit-based aid include scholarships, awards, and tuition waivers.
Money you borrow
Borrowing should be your last resort. This money needs repayment. You can expect to pay more than the amount you borrow, but the total you repay comes down to details in your contract. Contracts for borrowing money include timeframes and percentages for paying back borrowed funds.
Colleges can offer you loans in your financial aid package. The loans offered in your package are called Stafford loans or Direct Stafford loans. Once you fill out your FAFSA, your college can determine the amount of money the school can offer you. There are two main Stafford loan types: Subsidized and Unsubsidized.
Subsidized loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The government pays the interest accrued on a subsidized loan. This benefit can save you and your family money later. However, the government only pays the interest:
-While you’re in school at least half-time
-For the first six months after graduation (your “grace period”)
-During a period of deferment (postponement of loan payments)
For subsidized loans, the maximum eligibility period is 150% of the time it should take to graduate your major’s program. To illustrate, imagine you are enrolled in a four-year program. Your maximum eligibility period to receive unsubsidized loans is 6 years. (150% of 4 years= 6 years)
Unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students, and are not based on financial need. The interest is completely the responsibility of the student. You may choose not to pay interest while in school, during you grace period, or during deferment. At those times, the interest will still accrue and capitalized (be added to your loan amount). For unsubsidized loans, there is no maximum eligibility period.
You may also consider the Parent PLUS loan, or Direct PLUS loan, for dependent undergraduate students. Parents can apply for the loan if the parent(s) do not have adverse credit history, and if the student meets the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid.
Federal loans can be cancelled before disbursement to your school. Under certain circumstances, all or part of your loan can be discharged or forgiven.
For private loans providers, you will apply and sign an agreement about repayment if you are approved. Being approved for loans can prove difficult for a college student. Most times private loan providers recommend having your parent(s) or guardian(s) act as a co-signer. Companies providing the loans consider the applicant’s credit history, which is why having a co-signer is suggested.
Interest rates for private student loans are higher than federal student loans. Federal loans tend to have 5-8% interest rates, while private loans average around 8-13%. However, rates can soar above 15%.
In fact, private loans interest rates can be variable or fixed. Fixed remains the same rate throughout repayment. Variable will vary depending on state of the economy. This interest may be eligible as a tax deduction.
Private loans do not offer forgiveness or a chance of cancellation. You must pay the full amount, including interest.
The time of repayment depends on the loan contract and the rate you can afford to repay. There is no penalty for paying more than the monthly amount you owe to your provider. Before signing a contract, an expected time is usually given as an example while you are comparing which loan contract you would like. Loan providers may give you more than one option to choose from after determining your eligibility.
Income Share Agreement
Another method of borrowing money is an income share agreement (ISA). Students will pay a percentage of their income after graduating to the college in exchange for funding during college. Depending on the ISA with your school, you will pay 3-6% of your future monthly earnings between 3-10 years. The lower your future income, the lower the amount you are paying.
Additionally, a standard agreement sets a minimum salary for payback. If a student is not making the set minimum salary, the student does not pay any funds back. For example, a set minimum salary of $20,000 means a student making less than $20,000 after graduating will not pay back the school until earning more. The ISA does not have interest, and typically has a payment cap of up to 2.5 times the ISA amount borrowed.
As the trend of graduates not securing jobs related to their major continues, this option allows students who become underemployed to worry less about being weighed down by disproportionate debt.
Income Share Agreements are not common among US colleges at this time. Here is a list of schools with an ISA option:
Colorado Mountain College
University of Utah
Purdue University (Indiana)
Allan Hancock College (California)
Lackawanna College (Pennsylvania)
Clarkson University (New York)
Norwich University (Vermont)
Messiah College (Pennsylvania)
Companies like Vemo Education and 13th Avenue Funding manage ISAs for colleges offering this option. Other companies, like Lumni, partner with a college or work directly with students to manage ISAs.
Balancing your Funds
Sallie Mae, a student loan provider, completed a report about how students pay for college. On average, students covered 47% of the cost of attending college with family income and savings, 28% with scholarships and grants, and 24% through borrowing during the 2017-2018 school year.
Creating a plan for how you will fund your college expenses will help ease the stress of your college experience. Whether you work part-time, receive scholarships, or secure a loan, each part requires a form of effort. Weigh each method carefully, and don’t be afraid to change the way you balance your funds.
Figuring out how to choose the right college major for you is no easy task…especially since we’re asked to make such an important decision when we’re so young. It can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Your college major doesn’t necessarily determine your future career and there will be plenty of opportunities to change your mind along the way.
In fact, 75% of college students either begin their academic career as undecided or change their major at least once. College is all about exploring yourself and finding what ignites your passion, so don’t be afraid to change your mind. And remember, deciding on a major should be a fun and exciting experience, not a scary one.
Check out our 9 tips on how to find the right college major for you:
1. Talk with Current College Students
Speaking with current college students can be a huge help, especially if those students are majoring in one of the fields you’re interested in. Get an idea of what a typical day in that major looks like and what type of material you’ll be learning.
Talking with current college students can also give you ideas for different majors that you might not have known about or different combinations of majors and minors that match up with your interests.
2. Speak with your Guidance Counselor
Guidance counselors are trained to help students prepare for college and they offer a free resource that many students fail to take advantage of. They can give you information on your potential schools and the different programs they offer as well as talk with you about your strengths and weaknesses to see what fields you might thrive in.
3. Find Others in the Field
Reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn can be a great way to gain an understanding of the possible paths you can take to get into your intended field. It can also paint a picture of what it’s like to work in that field, including necessary credentials and skills, employability, and daily responsibilities.
Talking with professionals on LinkedIn can also open you up to niche jobs that you might not have known about.
4. Focus on Your Passion & Career Goals
Lots of people will tell you to study a profitable major. In fact, you’ve probably been hearing it for the last few years, but that’s not always the best path to go down. Entering a field that pays well isn’t an automatic recipe for success. Following your passion, regardless of what it is, can be just as profitable (and will probably make you happier).
Generally, when we do something we’re passionate about, we put all of our effort into it. When we put all our effort into something, we usually do an amazing job at it and our passion inspires those around us. Being able to make money is nice, but passion will be what gives you the motivation and drive to succeed.
You should also take some time to contemplate your career goals and how your intended major can line up with them. Bonus points if your career goals and passions line up!
5. Think of What You’re Good At
If you’re totally lost, think of what you’re good at! If you have a talent for math, why not look into math or engineering-related majors? If you love meeting people from other cultures, look into international relations or anthropology. You get the idea! A great place to start is to think about your favorite classes or classes you excelled in during high school.
6. Take a Personality Test
Personality tests can be really useful in helping you realize your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Plus, the results often give you a summary of which career fields are best for your personality. You don’t need to necessarily follow what it says, but it can provide a different perspective.
Check out this personality test which provides in-depth results on strengths, weaknesses, and potential career fields.
7. Consider Earning Potential
While income isn’t important to everyone, it should be a factor if one of your life goals is to earn a higher salary. You can use websites like GlassDoor to get an idea of salaries for your potential career field.
8. Get Involved
Participating in extracurricular activities can be a great way to explore your interests and gain experience in various fields. Try joining clubs, sports teams, or volunteer groups at your high school or college. You can also attend events in your community!
9. Don’t Panic!
Determining how to choose the best college major for you shouldn’t send you into panic mode and it’s likely won’t affect your life as much as you think it will. Majors are flexible and there will be plenty of chances to change your mind. Additionally, you can double major which will open up twice as many opportunities for you. Just remember – the most important thing is that you have a degree in general. As you explore your interests, you can adapt your plan and studies to fit your new goals.
Even though we know ourselves better than anyone else, writing about yourself is hard work! When applying for scholarships or college, questions that force us to analyze ourselves come up all the time in all different forms…and they often leave us stumped! Some common examples of personal essay prompts are:
Tell me about yourself.
Describe a challenge or event that made you who you are today.
What are your short- and long-term goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Write about a time you failed at something. How did it affect you?
…and the list goes on and on!
We might find it so difficult to write about ourselves because we’re embarrassed, don’t want to brag, or simply don’t know what to include. But knowing how to approach these essays can make them much easier!
Check out these 8 tips for writing an essay about yourself:
1. Create a List of Questions
After understanding the prompt, the first thing you should do when figuring out how to write an essay about yourself is to make a list of questions that you’d like to answer. The best way to do this is to think of smaller questions that relate to the big question.
To get you started, here are a few common examples:
What is your background?
What’s your greatest accomplishment?
What are your goals?
What are your interests?
2. Brainstorm and Outline
After deciding which questions you want to answer, it’s time to brainstorm your responses. Feel free to write down anything that comes to mind. Once you have all your thoughts out, focus on the most important parts and create a comprehensive outline to work from!
3. Be Vulnerable
Don’t be afraid to let both your weaknesses and strengths shine through in your essay! Scholarship and admissions committees love to see that you’re self-aware and conscious of how you can improve as a person so go ahead and talk about your mistakes and how you learned from them.
4. Use Personal Examples
Since this essay is all about you, you should make it as specific as possible! Avoid using generalizations (e.g. I’m really good at music) and, instead, go for more personalized statements (e.g. My fourth-grade teacher really inspired me to pursue my interest in the clarinet). Your own personal examples are what will make you still out in the end.
5. Write in the First Person
Even though you likely had an English teacher at some point who told you to never write an essay in the first person, you can throw that advice out the window. When figuring out how to write an essay about yourself, you should absolutely write in the first person. Using the third person perspective for a personal essay is strange and awkward, so it’s best to avoid it.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Off…But Don’t Overdo It
Most students hate writing a personal essay because they don’t want to brag, but it’s more than okay to highlight your accomplishments and strengths. However, it’s a good idea to take a second look at your essay to make sure that you’re keeping the tone informative and realistic. Also, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed when writing your essay. The committee wants to hear all about you so there’s no shame in giving them what they want!
7. Let Your Personality Shine Through
Just because it’s an essay doesn’t mean it has to be dry and boring. This essay is all about you, so let your personality shine through! Trying your best to express who you are as a person will have a huge effect on the admissions or scholarship committee!
8. Proofread and Edit!
The last step in writing your personal essay is to double check your work! One typo can bring your essay from amazing to just okay…and it doesn’t take long at all to avoid that. In addition to proofreading, it’s also a great idea to go back and change sentence structures or add/delete information to make your essay stronger.
Even though it can be challenging, writing a career goals essay is often an inspiring and motivating process! Not only can it give scholarship committees a well-rounded picture of your goals and aspirations, but it’s also a great opportunity to sit down and think of what you’re passionate about.
There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you start the essay. Taking the time to brainstorm and create an outline before you start writing can be super helpful (just to get your thoughts in order first). Here are a few questions to help get you started, but feel free to pick and choose or add your own:
What are my short-term and long-term career goals?
Where do I see myself in ten years?
What events in my life have led me to have these goals?
What major will help me reach my goals?
What skills do I need to reach my goals?
What impact do I want to have on society?
These questions are a great starting point. When it’s time to put your ideas into essay format, it’s good to have a general idea of structure. You can use the template below to give you some ideas. However, remember that some rules are meant to be broken, so don’t be afraid to be innovative and think outside the box!
Career Goals Essay Template
The first paragraph should be an overview of what you’re going to talk about and it should also grab the reader’s attention. For example, instead of starting your essay with something generic (e.g. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a zoologist.), get creative with it! Try something like My greatest memory as a young girl was going to the zoo for the first time or While most kids play house or school, I always wanted to play zookeeper.
For the second paragraph, it’s a great idea to elaborate on what inspired your career goals. Perhaps it was a relative, a TV show, or simply an experience that you had. You can touch on your short-term and long-term goals here as well, although it might be better to really focus on them in the upcoming paragraphs.
In paragraph 3, you can discuss your short-term career goals and your intended major. How will your intended major help you reach these goals? What skills do you need to learn to reach them? At the end of the paragraph, try discussing how your short-term goals can help you achieve your long-term goals
For the fourth paragraph, it’s a fantastic idea to focus on your long-term goals and the impact that you hope to have on society. If you’re not sure what your long-term goals are, don’t sweat it; they’ll probably change anyways. You can focus on the difference you’d like to make overall instead. And don’t worry too much about the size of the impact…remember that just doing what you’re truly passionate about has a massive impact on those around you.
The last paragraph is your conclusion. You can use this paragraph to summarize what you discussed in the last few paragraphs. If you want to be even more creative, try ending your essay with a question for your readers or a new insight. And good luck!
If you still need some inspiration, check out examples from other students just like you. Here are some links to some great career goal essay examples to get you started:
College is an exciting and life-changing experience. It may be the first time you’ll be living on your own and it’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends and meet new people. However, adjusting to college life can be overwhelming – and getting down a solid study routine is no exception!
College courses are completely different from high school courses and your old study habits might not be as effective. Taking the time to figure out what works can save you tons of headaches in the long run!
Don’t just study, study effectively
Learning to study efficiently can save you time and help you get the most out of your classes. Not only will you better understand the subject in general, which will help you in future classes and jobs, but your test scores will likely reflect all the effort you’ve put in!
How To Find the Most Effective Study Habits
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula or prescription for how to study effectively…everybody is different! The best approach is to try out different methods that you like and see what works and what doesn’t. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t get discouraged. There are tons of college study tips out there…and if you don’t like any of them you can always invent your own!
16 Expert Study Tips for College:
First, Focus on Preparation.
1. Organization is key!
Your planner can be used for more than just jotting down your homework…use it to map out your upcoming exams and create a study plan around them! Additionally, make sure that the area where you plan to study is organized and clean so you don’t get distracted by the mess.
2. Plan Ahead
Creating a study plan at the beginning of the semester or before an exam can make the task of studying much more manageable. Ideally, you should study a little bit every day—even just 20 minutes can make a huge difference—so you don’t end up cramming and stressing out right before the big day.
3. Take Good Notes
Studying starts in the classroom. If you don’t pay attention and take careful notes, you’ll likely have more trouble trying to remember the information later. Learning effective note-taking strategies can have a direct impact on your study habits and is one of the most important study tips for college.
4. Find a Routine
Getting yourself into a routine is one of the best ways to make sure that studying becomes a part of your everyday habit. Determine what time of day works best for you and make a real effort to dedicate that time to reviewing notes.
Teamwork is Essential
5. Study with Friends
Studying doesn’t have to be boring…getting friends involved can make everything more fun and effective! Plus, studying with friends is one of the best study tips for college since it allows you to be social at the same time.
6. Ask for Help!
If you really don’t understand a concept, asking questions can be a huge help! Don’t be afraid to stop by office hours (that’s why they exist!) or reach out to classmates and professors via email. There’s never any shame in not understanding a concept.
7. Teach Someone!
Teaching a friend, family member, or even your pet the material is a great way to see how well you know it! When you explain it to someone else, you’ll have a better grasp of which information you already have down and which information you should spend more time on.
Create an Ambiance
8. Mix Up Your Study Spots
Studying in the same spot can get tedious, so why not mix it up and get a new perspective on things? College campuses have tons of study spots for students—from the library to the campus lawn to local cafes. Take advantage and give yourself a new view every day!
9. Get Rid of Distractions
Studying without distractions is crucial when deciding which college study tips to adopt. Try to find a quiet space or put headphones in to block out your surroundings. It’s also helpful to put your phone on silent. You can always respond to your messages afterward!
10. Don’t Cram
While it may seem like a good idea to learn an entire semester’s worth of information in one night, it’s not a very effective study habit and it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, study a little bit of information every day. You’ll likely remember more and you’ll be much calmer when it comes to exam time.
11. Memorize vs. Understand
One of the study tips for college that can make a massive difference in how you approach new information is knowing the difference between memorizing and understanding. Memorizing information isn’t actually learning the information—it’s just helping you learn how to repeat it. When you fully understand a concept, you’re able to use it in various contexts and understand how it relates to other concepts. In college, unlike many high schools, your exams will likely be testing whether you actually understand the information and not whether you’ve memorized it.
12. Reorganize your notes
One way to study is to rewrite and organize your notes—whether in your notebook again or in flashcard form. Going through each line of your notes ensures that you’re hitting all the information you reviewed in class and might even remind you of a few things you would have missed otherwise.
13. Study Smarter, Not Harder
Occasionally, college professors will tell you the information that will (or won’t) be on an exam—listen to them! They’re telling you for a reason and you can save tons of time studying if you focus your efforts on what you know you’ll be tested on.
Keep Your Cool
14. Use the Reward System
Studying can be draining, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself for a little motivation. Buy a coffee from your favorite coffee shop or get some yummy study snacks. You can also reward yourself with breaks doing things you like, like taking a walk, reading, or watching TV.
15. Take Breaks
Continuing from the last point, taking breaks is super important. It might seem like you need to use all the time you possibly can to study, but your brain will start to slow down after a while. Taking breaks can help you get the most out of your study time with the least amount of stress.
16. Don’t Stress
Stressing out while your studying is counterintuitive. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break, walk away, and come back to it a little later with a fresh perspective. It will make all the difference!
What are your best study tips for college? Let us know below!
Heading to college can be both a life-changing and overwhelming experience. From dealing with roommates and new social situations to interacting in a completely different educational atmosphere, it can be difficult to know how to make the most out of your experience. Luckily, starting off on the right foot can make all the difference and we have the knowledge to get you there!
Check out these 24 helpful tips for college freshmen. We’ve split them up into four different categories to make it easier for you, including social, academic, health & wellness, and financial! (P.S. if you’re also looking to start off on the right foot financially, have a look at our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships!).
8 Social Tips for College Freshmen
1. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
When you first start college, you’ll likely feel out of your element. After all, this may be the first time you’ve been away from home for so long and you’ll be exposed to lots of new experiences. Our #1 tip for how to be successful in college is to try as many new things as possible!
Don’t be afraid to meet new people, take the initiative with starting conversations, or join new clubs and activities that you normally wouldn’t. College is filled with opportunities and it’s completely up to you to take them.
2. Put Your Roomie Issues Out in the Open
Living with a roommate isn’t always easy, but being honest can make the situation much simpler. The best approach is to determine a set of rules that you both agree on at the beginning of the semester. If something your roommate does bothers you, don’t be afraid to say something (nicely, of course!) and try to find a solution.
3. If Possible, Live on Campus
While it’s not always possible for money reasons, living on campus can completely transform your college experience. You’ll be able to see what it’s like living on your own and it will make it much easier to get involved in campus life, go to parties, and get a feel for the overall college experience.
4. Don’t Lock Yourself in Your Room to Study
Most campuses invest a lot of money to make sure that their students have great study spaces—so take advantage! Instead of staying in your room, head out to the library, a café, or even an outdoor space. It will give you a change of scenery while making you feel less lonely at the same time.
5. Involvement is Key
So many students make the mistake of ignoring this college tip for freshmen and not getting involved in campus life, but involvement is so important! Not only does it give you the chance to meet new people, but it gives you an outlet for other interests. Don’t be afraid to get involved in student government, sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or any other activities you enjoy!
6. Use College as a Fresh Start If Necessary
You are under absolutely no obligation to be the same person in college that you were in high school. Don’t be afraid to use college as a chance to completely reinvent yourself!
7. Make Your Space Yours
Having a boring dorm room or apartment can really make a difference in your mood, so don’t be afraid to customize your space. Put up pictures of friends and family, hang a tapestry, or put up your favorite movie posters—get creative with it!
8. Have fun!
Don’t forget that college is just as much about the experience as it is about getting an education. Enjoy yourself and live every day to the fullest! College will likely be some of the most transformative years of your life.
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9. Don’t Let Homesickness Control Your Life
Being homesick is completely normal, especially during your first year of college, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Set aside time each week to talk to your family, but don’t overdo it. Make sure that you’re not sacrificing time that could be spent getting involved in campus life. Finding a balance between speaking with family and experiencing college is crucial!
10. Remember That You’re Not Alone
Among all the tips for college freshmen, this one is often overlooked! College can be overwhelming, but there are thousands of students around you who are going through the same experience. If you feel like you’re in over your head, academically or emotionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to on-campus psychologists, roommates, fellow students, family, friends, coworkers, professors, or anyone else. It’s completely normal and talking it through or seeking help can be extremely beneficial!
When we were at university, we were told about the ‘duck syndrome’. It refers to the fact that when you look around everyone seems to be swimming along smoothly, but under the surface, they’re all kicking furiously to say afloat! At the times when you are struggling, know that you are not alone.
11. It’s All About Balance!
Unsurprisingly, your grades are a super important part of your college experience, but don’t forget to balance things out! When it comes to figuring out how to survive college, you’ll soon realize that this tip is key. Make time for going out with friends, extracurricular activities, alone time, and whatever you enjoy. Stressing out over grades will only lead to you feeling burnt out and frustrated. Plus, learning how to balance various aspects of your life is a life-changing skill to develop!
12. Throw It Back to PreSchool…Naps Are Your Friend
Naps aren’t just for five-year-olds–they’re for college students, too! Between your social life, extracurricular activities, work, and class, you’ll be lucky to get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night. Luckily, class schedules often allow for a nap or two throughout the day…and don’t be afraid to take advantage! Napping can boost your productivity and reduce stress.
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13. Learn to Think Outside of the Box!
College is all about expanding your mind and growing as a person…regardless of your major! It’s where you start to not only answer your questions but to question your answers. Improve your ability to think for yourself and don’t be afraid to discuss outside-of-the-box ideas during class. You’ll learn much more during your undergraduate experience that way!
Professors hold office hours for a reason…because they want you to go! Too many students overlook this college tip and end up regretting it. Don’t be afraid to show up and ask questions about exams, assignments, projects, or simply topics discussed in class. Office hours also give you the chance to get to know your professors, which can open more opportunities for you and give you someone to turn to for letters of recommendation and references when you’re applying for internships and jobs.
16. What’s the Earning Potential of Your Major? Don’t Worry About It.
Unless you want to enter a highly-specialized field where you need to know very specific knowledge, such as engineering, don’t worry too much about guessing your future earnings. In this day and age, the most important thing is that you have a college degree in general! For example, a degree in philosophy doesn’t mean you have to enter a philosophy-related field; there are opportunities all around!
17. Look Forward to Studying Abroad!
Studying abroad is possible for all majors, from international affairs to geology, if you choose the right program! Completing part of your education abroad can give you a strong advantage when you enter the job market and also give you a new perspective on life and your future career. Not to mention, it’s likely the only time in your life that you’ll be able to travel without adult responsibilities, so take advantage of this college advice and do it!
18. Form a Relationship with Your Academic Advisor
Your academic advisor will be with you throughout your academic career—so it’s important to develop a relationship with him or her! Don’t be afraid to take their classes or ask them for career advice…they were in the same place as you at one point. Plus, your academic advisor can be one of the best people to turn to for a letter of recommendation in the future.
19. Participate in Class…Don’t Be Passive!
One major difference between high school and college is that class participation is much more important. Don’t be afraid to come out of your shell and share your opinions…that’s what college is for! In fact, depending on your major, participation in class might make up over 50% of your grade!
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20. Wait to Buy Textbooks!
While it may seem tempting to show up to the first day of class completely prepared, it’s actually better to wait to buy your textbooks (unless your professor says otherwise)—yet another one of the tips for college freshmen that students tend to overlook. Often times, the syllabus is wrong or the professor can recommend a cheaper version of the book that will work just as well. Also, always try and buy used—it can save you loads of money in the long run! Some great places to check for used textbooks are Amazon, Chegg, AbeBooks, BIGWORDS, and local bookstores around your campus (although the actual campus bookstore is usually overpriced).
21. Working Is Beneficial
While it can seem a little overwhelming, getting a part-time job in college is actually a great college tip! Not only will it help you meet new people and expand your social circle, but it will give you a little extra spending money!
22. Get Your Money’s Worth
College tuition isn’t cheap—and most students don’t even take advantage of all the free resources available to them! Take some time to figure out the campus resources available to you, like the gym, fitness classes, the career center, writing center, seminars, career fairs, and more!
23. Budgeting is Your Friend
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you probably won’t have much money in college. Learning how to budget is key…and luckily the internet makes it easier! Check out resources like Pinterest to see how you can get the most for your money when it comes to groceries, apartment decorations, going out, and more. Plus, don’t forget that you can get tons of discounts with your student ID!
24. Minimize the Financial Burden by Applying for Scholarships
It’s no secret that college isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s a huge investment. Of all the tips for college freshmen, this is one of the most important and directly impacts your future. Applying for scholarships can help take some of the stress away. Create an account at Going Merry and we’ll match you with the scholarships you qualify for then allow you to directly apply through our site—saving you time and effort!
What are your best tips for college freshmen? Let us know below!
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