College is meant to be one of the best times of our lives. It’s a transition period that imbues essential life lessons upon most of us — like how to successfully move away from adolescence or, more importantly, how to shotgun a beer.
Though this is probably the only time in our lives when we can justify blacking out several times a week (not that I’m necessarily advocating that…), it’s good to remember that there is more to college than sheer debauchery. This is a venue that enables self-expression and self-discovery; this is a time that you can to learn about yourself before you are stuck with all of the responsibilities of true adulthood. Maximize the opportunities you have here.
So, take a look at this list of 16 college hacks and use them to help make the most of your time at school because time passes too quickly and before you know it, you’ll be filling out job applications and wondering where the last four years of your life went:
1. Go to office hours.
Most students make the mistake of only going to office hours before exams. What they don’t realize is that academic departments require professors to hold office hours each week, even if no one shows up. Most of the time, no one bothers to come so make a great impression by being the student that does show up. Even if you don’t have any burning questions about the material, you can just go to make conversation with your professor — it’ll indicate that you care and probably serve you well when he or she assigns grades for the semester.
2. Take classes outside of your major.
I’m an economics major, but I went into college — a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman girl who was the picture of naiveté — thinking that I was going to be a philosophy major. I quickly learned that Nietzsche was an asshole, Sartre was pretentious, and that I wasn’t cut out to sit around and analyze precious texts all the time. I might have learned regardless that I wasn’t meant to be a philosophy major but I might not have realized that I loved economics had I not decided to take a class in the subject on a whim. College is the time to discover that your interests may not be as steadfast as they seem — make the most of the classes that your school offers, even if they fall outside of your discipline.
3. Venture off campus.
Sometimes, it seems easier and more convenient to stay within the confines of your campus, especially when everything you need is within a five-mile radius. However, you should venture outside of the bubble. Get away from campus. Discover the city or town that houses your college; you don’t want to spend four years in a place and realize that you haven’t gotten to know it at all.
4. Join a social or student organization.
Joining my sorority was one of the best decisions I’ve made during college. I got to meet a group of great girls I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, who became some of my best friends. If Greek life isn’t for you, though, there are plenty of other options to meet people and make friends on campus; whether it be the college radio station or the fencing team, join an organization in order to find and befriend people who have similar interests.
5. Find an academic mentor.
Find a professor who teaches in your major and concentrates in your specific area of interest. Talk to them; learn from them. Listen to their suggestions on classes to take and ask them for advice on ways that you can use your degree. These are important relationships to cultivate because they can not only help with your academic growth but you could also land some sweet recommendation letters when you’ll need them.
6. Befriend upperclassmen.
Upperclassmen have already been through the same kinds of experiences you’re just beginning to discover, so they will have (mostly) solid advice. You’ll learn which professors to take and which to avoid at all costs. You’ll learn which local bars will accept your shitty fake ID and which restaurants near campus stay open late.
An added bonus: most upperclassmen have cars and many are willing to help schlep you off campus when you need it.
7. Befriend the kid in the Slayer shirt who sits at the back of your English class.
Sometimes, the most meaningful friendships you can have in college are with those who fall out of your typical social circle and who come from backgrounds different from yours. So, try to meet and befriend people who don’t hang out with your usual crowd; you can learn a lot from people who have interests that aren’t too similar to your own.
So, go ahead and strike up a conversation with that Slayer-loving kid in your class; maybe you can learn something from him.
8. Take your grades seriously but not too seriously.
Yes, your GPA does matter in terms of finding jobs and applying to graduate school. No one will want to hire or accept you if your transcript indicates that you spent little time studying and too much time taking shots of Everclear. Gross, Everclear.
However, the score you got an individual assignment or exam won’t significantly impact you in the long run. So, when Friday night rolls around, pack up your books, head out of the library, and have some fun.
9. Attend networking events.
Adults pay for memberships that enable them to go to networking events because making contacts is the first step in the long, arduous process of finding a job. Most colleges have these kinds of events on campus — as a means of keeping alumni happy (because happy alumni generally donate more money!) and helping students meet people in the professional world. Take advantage of these events to get your name, business card, or resume out there; that way, when internship season (and later, post-grad job-hunting season) approaches, you’ll have somewhere to start.
10. Show up to class.
You might think of this as a no-brainer. However, there will come a point (or several points) in your college career when, after a particularly rough Thursday night bender, you will feel more inclined to stay in bed than go to your 9am Italian class. No one makes it through college without skipping at least one class, but just remember that most professors keep tabs on who shows up, even if they don’t necessarily take attendance and especially in smaller classes. Just like with pointer #1, you want to make a good impression.
11. Discover unconventional study spots.
During midterms and finals seasons, the library becomes the most social spot on campus. For some reason, most students harbor the delusion that forcing themselves to sit in a cubicle for hours will automatically make them more studious; as a result, they all crowd into the library, which becomes a shitshow. It’ll be difficult to concentrate on studying when you run into your friends every few minutes. Find a study space where few other people will go. Personally, I like to hole up in an empty classroom all night when I need to do some serious work.
12. Learn the art of the power nap.
College students are perpetually exhausted. This is sometimes because we have unbearable workloads, but more often than not, it is because we accidentally stayed up browsing Reddit or made the harebrained decision to go out until four in the morning when we have class at nine. The best way to combat fatigue and ensure that you stay awake during uber-boring lecture classes is to learn how to properly power nap. If you have time between classes, find a quiet space and rest; afterwards, you’ll feel so much more refreshed.
13. Advil, water, and carbs are your best friends after a night out.
This one doesn’t really need an explanation. In order to avoid a killer hangover, you should chug water as you drink (for those of you who didn’t pay attention to the alcohol education course that every freshman has to take: remember to take a sip of water for every sip of booze). However, if you still wake up feeling as though a truck ran over you during your sleep, pop an Advil or two and find some bread. You’ll still feel queasy for a few hours but carbs and drugs will expedite the hangover recovery process.
14. Living with friends can be fun as long as you’re compatible.
Conventional wisdom tells us not to live with our close friends but this is not always true; roommate compatibility has less to do with how close you are to someone but rather how well your living styles work together. I’ve lived before with friends in situations that did not turn out well, but my current roommate is one of my closest friends and one of the best roommates I’ve ever had. And when I catch myself saying things like “do you want me to bring you something home for dinner?”, I realize that we have become an old married couple.
15. Apply for a credit card.
It’s important to build your credit score while you’re still in school. That way, when you’ve graduated and have to deal with the daunting reality that is paying your own bills, you will actually have credit. That goes a long way — it’ll enable you to apply for loans or rent your own apartment.
16. “Go out” to places other than your college bar, if you can.
Rick is the bouncer at the bar near my college. Over the course of the past two and a half years, I’ve really gotten to know him. I know that he is almost 40. He once dated a blonde girl with a great smile but a mediocre boob job. He has a daughter who prefers Legos to Barbie dolls. But you know what? I’ve known Rick for a while, and I’ve gotten a bit sick of him. Venture out of your campus bubble (like I suggested in #3) and hit up nightlife spots that other kids from your college don’t frequent (and get to know different bouncers). Then, when you get sick of all that exploring, head back to your favorite haunt for some 50 cent shots that only broke college students could stomach.