We’re always looking for new ways to help students and families of WNY better understand the many moving parts of college planning. For today’s blog we will be featuring a post directly from the mind of a real life college senior here in Buffalo! Thanks to Mia for helping us with this helpful content! Without further adieu… Here are 10 things a college senior wishes she knew before college! Welcome back to the Send Your Kids to College blog! My name is Mia Draksic and I’m a senior at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York. As I wrap up my four years I’ve been thinking of what I would tell my freshman self. I’m taking over the blog today to dive into those and hopefully help some new students along the way.
1. Get started ASAP
It’s best not to stall your college planning. Not knowing what you’re getting yourself into can be very dangerous and lead to graduating with stress and debt. It’s recommended that you start planning for college in your junior year of high school. In this case, you can put aside money while also determining what additional money is needed in time for freshman year.
2. It’s okay not to have a set major
The degree I went to school with is not exactly what I’m leaving with. It’s okay to know that you want to further your education without having your whole life planned out. You can always start with gen eds and declare a major later. There is no shame in this and will actually make your scheduling much easier in the future. Imagine you chose your major and you already have the basics out of the way. Your last couple of semesters will just be what you love.
I’m not saying to go to school without any plan. It’s essential to make sure you like your school, you know how to pay for it, and you know which general courses are required. However, your actual major isn’t as big of a deal as it’s made out to be. I went in wanting to do just Animal Behavior but am leaving with Multimedia Journalism as well. Engage in class content, look at the course catalog, and talk to your professors. It’s worth it.
3. Rent your books
Today we live in a digital world so buying physical copies of your textbooks isn’t always needed. Buying brand new, hard copies can get your budget back by hundreds!
Instead try renting used textbooks from places like: your school bookstore, Amazon, Ecampus, Knetbooks, and many more!
You can rent a copy and mail it back when you’re done or be emailed a PDF. Either way, it’s worth it for your pocket and you’ll minimize clutter at the end of the semester.
4. Learn how financial aid works
I’ll admit it, my first year I had no clue how financial aid worked. It's going to vary from person to person but here are some basics. Every student is going to qualify for financial aid. However, your family's financial circumstances will be gathered in a FAFSA. This will then determine how much your family can help with the cost of your education. The college will be notified of your EFC or “expected family contribution” and design a specialized package to meet your needs.
There are a couple types of financial aid, student loans technically are but will need to be paid back. Alternatively, grants are free money based on financial need. These can come through the federal and state governments or the college themselves. You can also partake in work study which is a typically on-campus job that directly aids in these expenses. Most of this is situational so it’s important to talk to your family and do your research.
5. Apply for scholarships and grants
Did you know that each year there are over $100 million in unclaimed scholarships in the US? This is due to there not being enough qualified applicants. There are so many scholarships out there for all kinds of students so there’s bound to be something that's the perfect fit for you.
If you haven’t started college yet I’d recommend looking into the Young Achievers Scholarship Program. It awards three $1,000 scholarships to high school students that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in their school, community, or workplace.
6. Go to school events
Going to school events is a great way to make new friends. It can also help you get involved on campus and give you a good break during your school day. It can be intimidating especially when you’re new but it’s worth it. Oftentimes they’ll have fun add-ons like food trucks, live music, DIY stations, and games.
Clubs also host their own events, you can find your niche here. On my campus, there’s a video gaming club that hosts "Gaming After Dark." They take place on about 4 Saturday nights every year. We play games, earn tickets, and put them into raffles for prizes. I met so many people here who play the same games as I do and was so happy I forced myself to go at first.
At orientation there will likely be a club fair, I highly recommend going and at least picking up some pamphlets.
7. Use your resources
Before you get too far into the year, take a chance to browse your student portal. Here you will likely find a variety of ways in which the school can assist you. There’s advisement, tutoring, mental health support, you name it. It’s all part of your tuition so you may as well make the most of it. I’ve found some excellent success with my school’s writing center. Here there are tutors to assist you in your work as well as a nice quiet space to do it.
8. Get hands-on experience
One of the best parts of college is that you can get hands-on experience for a fraction of the cost. Look into doing internships and travel during your time at school. Not only will you get class credits but you can do some things you wouldn’t be able to without it.
For example, last semester I learned about Tropical Ecology in Belize, Central America. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of Canisius. They were able to provide transportation, food, rooms, and an itinerary while all I did was sort out the cost.
9. Learn your study style
Knowing how you work will make things so much easier. Don’t feel inclined to take notes or study a certain way. Try out new methods and find what works for you best: flashcards, quizlet, group study, rewriting notes, YouTube videos, you name it.
I found that I am a visual learner and do my best with videos and songs. Once I figured that out I found some awesome resources to aid in class content.
10. Ask for help
College is a lot to take in and ultimately it will be one of the biggest investments you’ll make. For me, it’s the biggest investment I’ve made in my life thus far and many young college students can relate. Doing this without some kind of aid could definitely set you off on the wrong foot. It’s important to start gathering information and educating yourself but you’re still going to need some assistance.
Send Your Kids To College is a useful resource for this. They can advise you to set up a plan to reduce your debt and save for both college and retirement. When it all comes down to it college is a fun time in your life. You get to learn a ton, make new friends, and be independent. You’re not going to want financial stress constantly on the back of your mind.
It’s okay to ask for help and making plans with professionals is a great option. Send Your Kids To College has a form you can fill out to get started.