By Malia Keirsey
College students are incredibly busy – classes, assignments, essays and papers, friends, part-time jobs, exams, and, once in a while, sleeping and doing laundry. It’s easy to get so caught up in the rigors of every day, and students often miss many of the resources that they can and should take advantage of. They may know they exist, especially if they have attended orientation as a freshman or a new transfer student. But they may not take the time to explore the details of those resources. Here is a list of 13 resources and what students can expect to gain from their use.
- Student Discounts
College costs a chunk of change. Anything you can get in terms of a discount will be welcomed by your wallet.
- Explore the town in which your college resides. You will be amazed how many merchants offer discounts just for showing your student ID – restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, hair salons, dry cleaners, etc.
- Explore online as well. You may find great discounted prices on textbooks, computers, cell phones, clothing, and more. Start with com for a huge list of national chains and businesses that offer student discounts. This is a great resource.
- When you go to a store or restaurant, etc., do not be shy. Ask if they have a student discount – you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
- Academic Advisors
Every student is assigned an academic advisor and usually meets with this individual at least once a year. You may want to meet more often, just to be sure that you are on track with your academic program. Many students fail to continually check on their progress and end up having to do an extra semester or add summer school. This is costly.
In addition to the academic advisor, it is a good idea to establish a relationship with at least one professor in the department of your major field. S/he can act as a mentor as you go through the program and also help to ensure that you are on track to finish the required courses within your four years of undergraduate work.
An additional resource that academic advisors can hook you up with is a tutor if you are really struggling in any of your courses. And they are usually well aware of internships and can provide you with a letter of recommendation.
- Career Services
The biggest mistake is for a college student to think that career services are only for 2nd-semester juniors and seniors. Here are the types of resources from this office.
- If you need a part-time job, they usually have lists of openings, both on and off campus, as well as some online resources if you have some special skills.
- They can give you valuable projections on the job prospects in your major and expected entry-level salaries. Lots of students change their majors very early on, because of the information they have received from the career services office.
- This office also has information on internships, and it’s a good idea to check out the possibilities early on. You can even start volunteering with an organization with which you hope to land an internship later on. But first, you have to know that it is there.
- This office also plans and manages job fairs and provides workshops on resume and CV development.
Every campus has opportunities for some forms of entertainment – concerts, plays and musicals, athletic events, movies, guest speakers, etc. Because these are free or pretty low cost, you should take advantage of them. Large universities usually get some pretty big name entertainment so keep your eye on the school calendar – events will always be publicized.
- Financial Aid Advisors
Just because you have been awarded your grants/loans for the year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this resource at other times. This office is permanently on campus for a reason – to offer resources all the time. Here are some of those:
- You may qualify for some scholarship money that you weren’t aware of. Or you may have declared a major and now be eligible because of the field you have chosen.
- These advisors can steer you in the direction of loans with the lowest interest rates and that will have long-term loan forgiveness and/or re-financing options.
- They can answer any questions you have about your loans
- Most of these offices have personal finance assistance. If you are a student who must design and function with a tight budget, and if you don’t have budgeting experience, these advisors can show you how it’s done.
- Join Some Clubs/Organizations
Even as a new freshman, you should take advantage of campus clubs and organizations. Find the equivalent of organizations you participated in secondary school. If you like to write, see how you can get involved in the campus newspaper, for example. If you were involved in plays or musicals, seek out those campus groups. If you join early on, you will most likely have leadership roles by the time you are an upperclassman, and these things look great on a resume.
- Academic Labs
Free help is available if you take advantage of it. Most campuses have labs where students can go and get assistance with coursework. If you are struggling in any course, take the initiative to locate help and get it. Staying current on assignments and mastering skills and concepts mean better grades, and your GPA will be important to you. There are online resources for help as well:
- Online Study Groups: There is no lack of sites that offer participation in one or more study groups. Do a quick search, find one that fits your needs, and join.
- If you are struggling with writing assignments, there are lots of online writing resources that can give you tips and guides, that can review and edit your work, and that can assist you in meeting deadlines when you are overwhelmed.
One of the biggest myths about professors is that they are not too approachable. Most professors, in fact, have office hours and you can make an appointment to meet with them. Sometimes, communicating with professors when you are struggling in their classes can make a huge difference. They will be willing to give you tips and strategies, career advice, and even point you in the direction of capable students and/or study groups. Having a good relationship with a few professors in your major field also means that you can use them as references down the line.
- Fellow Students
One of the best things about college life is interacting and developing friendships with others who come from many diverse backgrounds. If you only stick with the same types of students who were you friends in secondary school, you are missing out on developing a much wider view of this world. Learning to relate to a variety of ethnic and socio-economic groups will serve you well when you enter the world of work.
- Fitness Resources
Your need to “move.” Sitting in class, eating and snacking, and then spending your evenings at your computer means you are becoming sedentary. You will gain weight and get out of shape. If there is a fitness center on campus, find it and use it. Get a buddy to go with you – it motivates you. Participate in intramural sports. If there is no campus fitness center, see if there is a local one that gives discounts to students.
- Resident Assistant
Another myth. That resident assistant exists to “police” the dorm and comes down on you if you are too noisy. This person can actually be a great resource. Suppose you want to throw a floor party – s/he will help plan and execute it. Suppose you are having roommate issues – the resident assistant has seen it all before and will be able to give advice. If the resident assistant cannot solve your problems, they will now where to go for that help.
- Health Services
Most every student knows where the health clinic is. If you have a terrible cold or the stomach flu, here is where you will go. But health services also include counseling services. If you are homesick; if you are stressed; if you are having relationship issues, there is no shame in reaching out to the counseling services that are available. Much better to do that than to ignore such issues until you reach a crisis point.
- Finding that Perfect Spot
The library is often full of others you know who will distract you; the computer labs are noisy; your roommate is entertaining a significant other or playing video games with friends. All in all, there are times when you just need to find a spot to chill or to study, especially at exam time. Look for spots where you can be more by yourself. It might be a local coffee shop; it could be in more specialized libraries (law and medicine are good options), or an open building that has empty classrooms. Once you find your spot, don’t publicize it. Use it when you have the need.
Your Job? – Take Some Initiative
Resources are not just going to come calling on you. You have to seek and find. A college is a complex place, and that complexity can sometimes be an issue. If you know where to go to find what you need, you have taken the proactive steps that will help you navigate these four years more successfully.
Malia Keirsey is an enthusiastic writer and guest contributor. She has finished the University of Chicago with master’s degree in Sociology. Now she’s working as freelance web designer and blogger. Her main topics of interest are writing, digital marketing and education. Follow @MaliaKeirsey on Twitter.