Are you looking for some college advice? Maybe you have questions about what school to attend, which degree to pursue or how to graduate with as little debt as possible. There is no one right way to get your college education, but it can be overwhelming to filter which advice is useful and which is not.
Here are four pieces of college advice from university representatives on how you can move forward into this next phase of your life:
1. Explore as much as you can (and beware of impostor syndrome)
2. Don’t burn yourself out: Balance is key
3. Build healthy financial habits
4. Get to know your professors
Plus: Not all college advice is created equal
Michael Davis, associate director of admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, advises new students to take the time to explore: Meet new people, delve into academic courses, volunteer in the community and join organizations.
Not only can this be a good way to make friends and build community, but it can also help you decide what you’re interested in and what you’re not interested in, which can be just as important. By leaning into these opportunities, you can also build a network where you can seek advice, land resources and ask questions.
At the same time, beware of the impostor phenomenon — sometimes referred to as impostor syndrome — which is when high achievers have difficulty with accepting their success, often attributing it to luck rather than their talent and hard work. Those experiencing the impostor phenomenon may be afraid they’ll be exposed as a fraud and can have trouble asking for help as a result.
“Do not be afraid to ask for help,” Davis says. “Remember that you have earned your place at your college and, while you will encounter challenges big and small, you have the resources to succeed and thrive.”
College can be challenging to navigate. At some point, you may find yourself swamped working a job, staying caught up with your school work and maintaining a social life. All three of these areas can be demanding of your time and energy, and, if you lean too hard on one, your other priorities can suffer.
“Students need to balance their academic life with their work life,” says Philippa Satterwhite, coordinator at the Center for Financial Wellness for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “If students overextend themselves working too many long hours, then their academics can suffer and scholarships can be lost, which can put them further behind financially.”
At some points during your college experience, one or two areas might demand more attention than the rest. For example, during finals, you’ll need to focus more on your academics. If you were trying to give equal attention to your job or social events during that time, you may burn yourself out, miss your classes and struggle academically.
Good time management and organizational skills can help you navigate these challenges as well as avoid mental or physical exhaustion.
Healthy personal finance decisions don’t come out of nowhere. They come from lots of practice and discipline. These are habits you can build early in college to set you up for future success. This can come in handy, especially if you’ll have to pay back student loan debts once you graduate.
“You can have your money work for you by putting money towards what you need and planning for what you want,” Satterwhite says, who works with new college students on financial stability. She helps provide stepping stones for college students navigating their finances.
Despite what some college students believe, Satterwhite says you don’t have to have a high income to save money.
“Saving is a habit you build and not about the amount,” Satterwhite says.
Mastering these skills before you graduate may save you money in the long run as you can learn to avoid costly financial mistakes early on aside from bulking up your savings.
When attending a university, one bit of college advice to keep in mind is that your professors can be your greatest allies and resources. Getting to know them can help you get the most out of your education and college experience.
“Make an effort to build professional relationships with your professors. Introduce yourself, attend their office hours and get to know their background and research,” says Richard Spencer, assistant director of freshman recruitment at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
College professors can help you pull your grades up, secure internships or jobs and get into master’s or doctorate programs. This type of support can have a long-term impact on your career and education, so take advantage of the opportunity to build rapport with your professors.
“They are there to help you, so take advantage and don’t be afraid to seek out the help you need,” Spencer says.
College can be a new and exciting stage of your life to start, but it’s certainly not without its challenges. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources out there that can guide you on anything from where to find scholarships to what countries you can study abroad in for close to free.
Keep in mind, however, advice for college students can be helpful, but some of it can be misguided or not applicable to your situation. Take everything with a grain of salt and do what’s best for you and your situation.
Still not sure what to do? Take a look at what the experts are saying about how to manage your student loan debt.
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