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10 College Life Hacks Every Freshman Should Know

College Graduates:

  • Mindy T., Southern Maine University
  • Osamase E., Boston College
  • Bianca, Endicott College
  • Jenna B., Penn State University

Entering college is like moving to a foreign country – exciting but kind of scary at the same time. To ease the transition, we’ve asked several college grads to share their best college life hacks —from how to make money, to how to get involved on campus. Conquer your first year of higher education with confidence!

Before you arrive on campus

Prior to move-in day, there are plenty of things you should be cognizant of. Being prepared will be a major factor in your success. So use your summer wisely, and be on the lookout for the following:

1. What is one piece of advice you wish you had before starting school?

“Things take time! Yes, some people will have it all figured out from day one and that’s fine. We all have our own timelines.” – Osamase

“College is less about the university name and more about what you put into it. I chose to attend an in-state university and I’m so thankful. With being just four years out of school, I have almost all my school debt paid off. This wouldn’t be the case if I went to a more expensive private university.” – Mindy

2. What are essential items for a college freshman dorm room?

Mindy says:

  1. Foam mattress cover: because college mattresses are anything BUT comfortable. Bonus points if it’s hypoallergenic.
  2. Shower caddy: I wouldn’t have survived freshman year without my shower caddy! This little device lets you carry all your shower goods between the community bath and your room.
  3. Pictures: Display a lot of photos in your room. Having pictures of high school friends, family members, and pets made me feel so happy!

3. Should you opt in for the college meal plan?

“If you're living in the dorms for the first year or two, then absolutely! It saves you money, they're usually just a walk away, and you don't have to carry groceries! I dropped my meal plan once I moved into an apartment.” – Jenna

“Absolutely. If you are living at school, then there is no point in wasting your money eating out every single day. Not to mention how un-modern the kitchens are in most college dorms. You will likely have a microwave and maybe a stove, but probably not.”- Bianca

Money tips

Unlike differential equations, basic financial skills will always be useful. If you haven’t done so already, opening your first bank account should be a priority. It’s a tool you will use for the rest of your life; and the better grasp you have on your finances now, the better off you’ll be once you’re a real adult.

4. What are the best ways to make money in college?

“Work-study or traditional on-campus jobs are great ways to make money. An on-campus job will be more flexible and willing to work around your class schedule.” – Osamase

“It can be tough to find time in your busy college schedule for a job. I picked up promotional gigs as a brand ambassador with companies in the area, started my blog, found occasional after-school babysitting jobs in nearby towns, and applied for seasonal work during school breaks.” – Bianca

5. How did you manage your money while you were in college?

“My parents took me to open a checking and savings account. I would use cash as much as possible, so I would avoid over drafting.” – Osamase

6. Did your college tuition go up while you were in school? How did you adjust?

“Yes! Luckily my financial aid went up as well. I did have to cover some costs with the help of student loans though. Those days in the financial aid office were initially overwhelming; it was my first taste of actually handling the financial future of my education.” – Osamase

Osamase’s growing tuition:

Freshman year: $60,000

Sophomore year: $64,000

Junior year: $66,000

Senior year: $68,000

“Yes, and I was not happy about it. One of the main reasons I went to Endicott was because of my scholarship package. When tuition goes up it can be frustrating. This is something you will need to evaluate based on the impact it has on your financial capabilities.” – Bianca

Campus life

Campus life is all about balance. You will need to learn to balance your social activities, academics, and possibly a job. It’s important to utilize your resources. Things like the writing center, student unions, or office hours are there to help you succeed.

7. What are the best ways to meet people on campus?

“If you’re feeling social, leave your door open. You’ll be surprised by who strolls in and introduces themselves.” – Osamase

“The best way to meet people on campus is to get involved! Whether it’s an intramural sports team, student government, or a volunteering group – you’ll meet people with common interests.” – Mindy

8. What are the best tools to stay organized?

“Google Calendar saved my life! As soon as you get your syllabi (that’s the plural form of ‘syllabus’) during that first week of classes, update your schedule with all the upcoming assignment deadlines.” – Osamase

“My traditional planner was – and always will be – my life saver!” – Jenna

9. What are your favorite things to do when you’re stressed out?

“When I’m stressed out I like to get outside. I usually take a walk to the gym, dining hall, or just anywhere outside. The fresh air is soothing.” – Osamase

“Running! Finding a stress reliever in college is so important.” – Mindy

10. What would you do differently in college today?

“Make more memories.” – Jenna

“I would definitely study abroad. My business school curriculum was very regimented, so I didn’t end up going abroad. But if I could go back, I would prioritize that experience.” – Mindy

What to remember

Higher education is as much about academic learning, as it is personal growth. That growth looks different for everyone. If you’re getting your first job, learning money management skills will be a priority. Getting acquainted with a new checking and savings account may take some time, and that’s okay. Take everything at your own pace, and use the resources that are set up to help you succeed.

More information

One of the toughest things for young adults to learn how to manage is their money. We are committed to helping you reach your financial goals. Click here for more information about how to open an easy to manage student checking account. You can stop by your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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