College Prep: What to Expect When You Go Back to School

by Tiffany Young

There are hundreds of campuses across the country, but some things remain the same regardless of location or name. Here are some things to expect when you enter (or re-enter) college:

It is hard to meet people on campus. It is not just because you are older than most students that makes it difficult to find someone to talk to and to have lunch with. This is just the way many college campuses are. While it seems like everyone has a ton of friends, if you look carefully you will see plenty of other students walking around alone. “But they have plenty of friends,” you may think. “They just aren’t in the same classes with their friends.” While that may be true, there are plenty of students who go through college finding very few people they would actually consider friends. The best way to meet people is to strike up a conversation with one or more people in each of your classes on the first day of class. Get their name and phone number and sit by them every day. You might even give them a call to ask what assignments are due every once in a while. You will feel better when finals come around and you have someone to call to study with or someone to borrow notes from. If you are quite a bit older than most of the students in the class, don’t be intimidated or feel like they will think of you as a parent-figure. While some students straight out of high school may want to keep to students their own age, many students wouldn’t mind an older person to give them advice when they need it. You have the advantage of going back to college because you know what you want and how to get it. Many students, however, are in college because they don’t know what they want to do yet and going to college gives them a little more time to figure that out.

It’s expensive. No, I’m not talking about tuition, because I know that you know that tuition is expensive! It’s more than that. Textbooks are costly. Food is costly. Everything is costly. Never buy textbooks at full price. Ever. If you can find your textbooks at the college bookstore used, great, but you should still shop around. Check out the online deals, because they are often cheaper and if you purchase a certain number of books, there is often no shipping and handling fees. As for food-bring your own! I know you’ll feel a little foolish bringing a lunch box along, but you will save so much money by doing it. I even bought a thermos for soup and hot cocoa. Occasionally you might forget your lunch and need to buy something on campus, but you should really try and buy something from the vending machine and wait to eat a real meal when you get home, because the cost of the campus food is highly priced. If there’s a Taco Bell or Subway store near by, you might just want to walk the extra distance.

Professors that know you may give you more flexibility. I know that you’ll have every assignment turned in on time. I know that you will do high quality work. But if your computer ever crashes and you don’t have a backup disk, you’ll wish you had followed this advice. Get to know your college professors. They have office hours every week, so that students can come to them and ask questions and chit chat. Go to office hours. Believe it or not, professors usually dread office hours, not because they are so busy, but because students make so little use of them. Even professors who teach over 1, 000 students a day rarely have students interested in the class (or the professor) enough to come by and see their professors. You should try and meet each of your professors at the very beginning of the semester, and drop by periodically to just say hi, or let them know that they are doing a good job or that you need something explained. Just the fact that you go to this much effort will impress them. They are used to having so many students not interested at all in what they have to say, that they are happy to find that someone is listening. If you enjoy the subject and are thinking about going into the field that they are teaching, then ask them about your options and find out if they ever worked in the area you are interested in. Many professors have real life experience and also know some good contacts that they can put you in touch with when it gets closer to graduation.

Organization is about 90 percent of your grade. You may think that being smart is the most important way to get through college. Well, you’re wrong. The hard part is being and staying organized. You’ll find a lot of work is given at college, but the work is rarely extremely difficult unless you leave it up to the last minute to do. Keep your notes for each class together. Write on your calendar when everything is due. Read everything when it is supposed to be read and you will do just fine. The people who are kicked out of school or drop out because their grades are low are generally disorganized and don’t turn things in when they are supposed to. Or they wait and try to cram for exams at the last minute. It’s not that professors are plotting to keep you as busy as possible so that they can fail you when you can’t keep up. The professors are just interested in making sure you know their subject, know it well, and that you’ll be able to get a decent grade if you go on to the next class. Use whatever experience you have outside of school to keep yourself on track. If you have previously been a homemaker, well then, put yourself on a schedule like you did for yourself and your kids before you enrolled in classes. If you were previously a manager, then you should be used to arranging schedules. No matter what your background is, you can use it to your advantage. The more organized you are, the higher your success will be.

These are some things that you should expect on any college campus. Remember that in order to succeed at college you must be prepared. Talk to a few friends about their college experiences to get a feel for what you can expect. You probably won’t be joining any sororities or fraternities, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to have a realistic idea about what types of people you will encounter and where the best places to study on campus are. Besides, everyone loves reliving their college days, and soon you will be able to do the same.

Tiffany Young is Community Relations Coordinator for Literacy Volunteers of America-Brazos Valley, and resides in College Station, Texas, where she is currently attending college. She will receive her degree in Journalism this May from Texas A&M University.