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I have been in college for nearly three years. Now, with just a single semester left to complete, I’ve been thinking about what I would have liked to have known years ago.
If you’re a high school junior or senior, you will hear piece after piece of advice in the coming months. Everyone will have some tidbit to chip in—don’t procrastinate, get plenty of sleep, and so on—and those are valuable and important to remember.
However, the reason everyone gives certain advice is because most people have done whatever it is that they are recommending you avoid doing: we all put off an assignment at some point and from time to time we all fall into bed hours after we intended to.
Next time you visit your future school, ask a student what they would have done differently their freshman year. You’ll get advice that’s specific to your college from someone whose experience is still recent.
For now, if you’re in the mood for some concrete ways to get the most out of your college experience, find testimonials from current students, like me!
You will likely find that there are many organizations and activities that you’re excited to join, and even if not, someone will likely recommend that you join x number of clubs. Basing your involvement around an arbitrary number isn’t a great strategy, though—at least not in the long run.
During your first year, go to plenty of meetings for plenty of different organizations and narrow down the ones you’re interested in. Later on, find which one or two you’re passionate about and be involved in them to the max.
You can still be a part of other organizations, but your college experience will be that much more rewarding if you’re truly participating in even one extracurricular group.
My last and probably most controversial and unpopular piece of advice is this: don’t join a fraternity or sorority. At the very least, wait until your sophomore year before rushing.
The financial commitment alone—we’re talking thousands of dollars over the course of your college career in pledge and initiation fees, chapter dues and extras like apparel and gifts for potential "bigs" and "littles" — is not something you want to be saddled with right off the bat.
Take some time and consider whether you actually need Greek life to be content and successful in college, or if you’re just fine the way you are. Find out who you are before marrying yourself to an organization. And if you decide to skip the rush and remain independent, rest assured knowing that you’re not missing out on anything.
At some point during your college career, and likely more than once, you will wonder if you made a mistake in choosing the school/major/organization that you did. That’s okay.
You know what’s also okay? Transferring, changing your major and dropping out of a club.
The great thing about college is that it is one of the few life experiences that you can essentially personalize as much as you want. And even if you’re worried about spending more time in school than you wanted to, you’re in good company: only 19% of students get their degree in four years!
When you’re in college, you’ll learn how to think critically and with an open mind—use those skills to think about your own college experiences as well. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, or even to forge your own road.
For those of you who are seasoned college veterans, what do you wish you had known as a freshman? And incoming freshmen, what questions are on your mind?
When the time comes to sign up for your senior year classes, the popular approach is to take the easy way out, to take three study halls or a couple of gym classes.
However, your senior year is not something to take lightly.
As you prepare your schedule for next year, there are a few things to consider.
Check the requirements of the schools you are planning on applying to in order to get an idea.
Take as many AP or post-secondary classes as you can handle. These classes will prepare you for the rigor of college coursework and show schools that you can challenge yourself.
Making straight A’s will be extremely difficult with an AP class in your schedule, but that is no reason to worry. Taking harder classes is more important to colleges than getting straight A’s, so fill your schedule with tough classes as best as you can.
If you take a difficult course load, balancing it with a study hall is fine, but remember what it is for – studying. After all, those classes will be giving you plenty to do!
Sign up for an elective to balance things out, but if your schedule is full of tough classes and you do not have room, do not give those up.
Try to relax and not take everything too seriously when considering senior year, but remember your college goals.
Stay focused on what your transcript should look like come time to apply, and signing up for classes will be a breeze!
National Decision Day is a huge milestone for high school seniors across the country.
May 1st marks the official day that those who have not made their final college decisions will commit to the college or university of their choice.
Whether you’ve made your decision or not, here are some tips to get you prepared for National Decision Day.
There are many questions that students have when they are looking at a prospective college.
Can I see myself fitting in here? Does the campus life interest me? Will I live on or off-campus? What type of meal plans does the university have? What clubs will I be interested in joining? Have I looked into all scholarship opportunities?
All of these and more of your own personal questions are important in determining your final decision. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, create a check list and go back through your important questions.
Even if you have made up your mind, ensure that your college checks off on the majority of your important questions. These will help you visualize yourself at your selected school in the fall.
It’s hard for an 18-year old high school senior to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life. In fact, research shows that up to 50% of college students change their major at least one time before graduating.
Whether you think you’re set in your major for the next four years or not, ensure that your school has a solid backup plan for your first major. It doesn’t have to be related in any way, but ensure that you at least have a second option in mind should things change in the fall or the coming years.
Again, this goes back to taking into account the questions that you have about each college. You need to ensure that you pick the school that caters to your strengths both as a student, and as a young adult.
Focus on the things that are going to make you successful in life down the road.
Whether you’ve made your decision yet or not, don’t be a follower! Whether it be the classic “my girlfriend/boyfriend is going to such-and-such college so I am too,” or a student following in the footsteps of their parents, be your own person!
Don’t let the decisions and thoughts of others affect one of the most important decisions of your life. At the end of the day, it’s your decision. Keep it that way!
Lots of students end up basing their final decisions off of things that were cool in high school: partying, sports, or even the stereotypes of the students at the school.
Don’t be one of those students. Although attending a school with a good football team would be fun, that can’t be the sole basis of your decision.
Remember, academics are the most important, and while the pop-culture side of things can have an impact, that cannot in any way be the basis of your final decision.
At the end of the day, whether you’ve committed yet or not, make your decision based on what feels right. It’s where you are going to spend the next four years of your life at least, and is a life altering choice!
Take all things into consideration, and be comfortable with your decision.
On March 13, This American Life of NPR released a compelling report on the discrepancies of high school education between low-income and wealthy students and how it either fostered or alienated low-income students from success in higher education. The report followed three different students from a low-income high school in the Bronx – all of whom showed promise in college enrollment.
One student graduated from high school early and never attempted to attend college, another won a prestigious full-ride scholarship but failed out of school and the final student graduated from college and become a teacher.
Each of these students had the intellect to attend college and succeed; however, they didn’t have the resources. Making information of these resources more readily available is the first step to helping lower income students achieve in high school, college and life. With that, here are 10 resources for low-income students to help navigate college applications and financial aid, college readiness requirements and the college campus culture.
College Applications & Financial Aid: Guidance Counselors, Mentoring Programs, Free FAFSA Workshops and Scholarship Search Engines
While there may not be much help and guidance at home when it comes to applying to college and financial aid, there are resources outside of the home available to you. First, you should seek out your high school guidance counselors. They not only supply best practices for college applications, but they can also direct you to mentors or organizations that specialize in helping low-income students with their college applications.
Most of these services also extend to financial aid applications as well. Plus, every year, cities across the country host College Goal Sunday. These free workshops are perfect for students and families who have no idea how to fill out the form, decipher financial aid options or ultimately pay for school.
Finally, there are a plethora of scholarships for you. Teachers and counselors can usually direct students to local or national scholarships, but you can find options on your own too. Filling out a profile on Fastweb is a great way for you to find scholarship opportunities for which you actually qualify. Once you have filled out every section of the profile, you can view your scholarships, which you will then have to apply to individually.
College Readiness: Remedial Courses, Advisors and Financial Aid Administrators
As soon as low-income students step foot on campus, their insecurities about their academic and cultural preparedness are triggered. And that’s perfectly normal. While some of the wealthier students may give no indication, they are likely experiencing anxieties too. Regardless of how everything may seem, the arrival on a college campus the first time is scary for everyone.
If you’re placed in remedial courses for the first year, don’t despair. It says nothing of your intellect; rather, it’s about your preparedness. You deserve to be in college just like everyone else there, and your professors and advisors are working to ensure that you’re on the same page as your peers. Attend these courses, spend study time on the assignments and meet one-on-one with the professor or teacher’s aide to help you succeed in the actual courses and throughout your college career.
Meeting with your advisor for the first few times will be intimidating, but their purpose as an advisor is to help students. They would much rather help you than to see you fail out of college; don’t be afraid to approach them. If you are struggling with a course, dorm life or something as simple as directions to a building on campus, seek guidance from these resources. If they don’t have the answers to your questions, they will be able to direct you to someone who does. Remember, there is no question too simple or “stupid.”
When it comes time to paying for school, dealing with tuition and financial aid discrepancies or changes in your ability to pay, you can visit or call your school’s financial aid administrators. Though you may be intimidated to speak with the people that seem to control your finances, these people are on your side. Their sole job is to ensure that you can realistically afford your tuition bills; so if anything happens to your financial circumstances, speak to a financial aid administrator as soon as possible.
Campus Culture: Library, Career Center and Student Health Services
While a college classroom can be daunting, everything else about the campus can seem a culture shock for low-income students too. Your high school may not have had a library, gymnasium or cafeteria. On a college campus, you have all of these benefits and so much more; however, you may be too scared to ask for help.
Again, these resources are here for you – so use them! If you can’t afford textbooks or need help with a research paper, visit the campus library. This building doesn’t just house books; it’s home to knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to teach you the library basics – like how to find a book, use the computers or navigate the resource center.
Though you may have envisioned flipping burgers all of your life, the reality is that you’re a college student. It’s time to start dreaming bigger. Check out your campus career center, which is staffed with experts who can assist you in finding a career that will shape your academic pursuits. They’ll also help you format a resume and cover letter when the time comes, prepare for interviews and match you with internship opportunities if you feel that’s something you’d like to do during college.
Finally, whether you’re sick, injured or need to speak with someone about how overwhelmed you may feel, the student health services are at your disposal. All of these services are included in your student fees so you don’t need to pay extra for them. It may be especially beneficial for you to see one of the campus therapists about any discomfort you may feel about being in college. Though you may feel isolated in your feelings, there are plenty of other students from all different backgrounds going through something similar.
In 2014, the White House published a report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students that referenced a study, “Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America,” which stated that, “When children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50%.”
Though there are many significant barriers to getting in and succeeding in college; the time, stress and anxiety are worth it. As a low-income student, you don’t just deserve to go to college; you deserve to graduate too. Never be afraid to ask for help, and take advantage of the resources at your disposal to make sure that happens.
Ah, graduate school. What a completely unique experience - or so they say. Because, the truth is, when you're a grad student, nobody really gets you, right?
Wrong! Fastweb does! Not only do we know what you're going through, but we want to help you get through it, too.
It's pretty scary in graduate school, too. It's basically, like, sink or swim without a fancy swim instructor looking out for you.
Just think of Fastweb as that life preserver waiting to save you when the going gets tough or when your arms give out. No, we can't do the work for you (sorry, we asked) but we can try to motivate you to keep sticking it out when times get tough.
No matter what year you are, utilize these tips to get through graduate school successfully - we know you can do it! Here are some tips that can help you survive graduate school, from start to finish.
This tip is likely not all that difficult to follow if you’re a regular graduate student. But, when you do score some extra cash (for whatever reason) try your best to put it towards paying your bills, savings or paying off loans and interest.
Because, chances are, you’ll want to have a splurge session and, quite honestly, we don’t blame you. It really is in your best interest to pay off your debt!
Deciding to take on graduate school is a scary task but, remember, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who has decided to take on this lifestyle.
In fact, you may not be the only one questioning, “Why on earth did I decide to take on this lifestyle in the first place?” Heck, there could be support groups for students like you.
So, take solace in the fact that you, friend, are not alone!
You’ll be in a much better spot with as little interest accumulated as possible. It’s difficult, but pay off as much interest as you’re able. Your future self will be eternally grateful.
Repeat: I am a grad student. I am learning. I will make mistakes. Seriously, don’t be so hard on yourself. What you’re doing is seriously admirable and really difficult. The world really isn’t going to come to an end if you make a mistake, we promise.
As a graduate student, you qualify for unique tax breaks that you should utilize.
For example, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit can allow students thousands in tax breaks annually!
There are a lot of resources provided to students like you. You just need to: 1. Find out what they are. 2. Utilize them.
Refer to your professors, go to their office hours and ask the right questions. When in doubt, refer to number eight on this list!
By this, we mean grants and scholarships! There are so many financial resources available to graduate students on sites like, ahem, Fastweb, so apply, apply, apply!
Remember, applying is pretty much a numbers game and the more you apply, the better your chances of winning are. Apply for all you qualify for to maximize your odds of winning.
Your advisor is there to help with any questions you may have regarding programs, research, faculty issues, etc.
Don’t forget about this important person you should have on speed dial! If your advisor doesn’t have an answer for you, he or she will be able to point you in the right direction of the contact who will.
It’s even advisable to set up a regular meeting with your advisor to check in and see how things are progressing for you. So many students neglect to do this.
Think about it this way, you’re paying for their services indirectly, so why not utilize them?
You can’t devote hours on end to learning and working on something you can’t stand. It’s as simple as that. You’ll grow tired of it and simply won’t put forth the endless effort that it takes to get through days and nights of studying and working towards a goal.
Bottom line: pick something you absolutely live and breathe so that you can live with your decision.
Through your courses and your difficult curriculum, try to take time to experience life as well. You’ll see glimpses of life through meeting others, getting to know professors, chatting with baristas or petting someone’s puppy on the street.
These may seem like pretty lame experiences and, quite frankly, they are but they’re little slices of life to help you get through even the darkest of days.
Never forget that through all of your pain and hard work – there is an end to a means. Grad school doesn’t last forever and, with every moment, you’re getting closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel!
Yes, we know – easier said than done. At the rare moments when you have a free moment, try your hardest to relax.
Take a deep breath, take a bath and do whatever you need to do to just, you heard us, relax!
When seeking scholarships, three main resources come to mind: your school, your town, and the Internet.
Regardless of your experience and faculty with these options, your junior or senior year of high school are good times to start for all three.
Next, I’ll break down each option for every student.
High schools know that their students are anxious about college, especially affording an education.
Students whose parents aren’t the Obamas or the Carnegies need to know that their school has opportunities for financial help.
Your first stop should be the guidance or counseling department. As a hub of all things college-related, these offices usually have lists of scholarships available for students.
Start with the counseling website. If nothing is listed, speak to your guidance counselor or a school administrator. Start early, as some scholarships require recommendations, essays and have deadline requirements.
Also, many schools offer scholarships especially to seniors, usually from specific memorial funds. These scholarships tend to be specific, so do your research to see if you qualify.
For example, my school offers a scholarship for future English teachers and another for church members. Ask your teachers, as your teachers are often the people asked to recommend students for these awards.
Most towns, even small ones, have local scholarships. These tend to be run by local clubs, so make sure to inquire at any clubs or groups that you or your parents may belong to, such as a local Woman’s Club.
Scholarships may also be available beyond your town, especially if you live in an area composed of many small towns. Look for county or district scholarships.
Sometimes these opportunities are posted around local establishments, such as coffee shops, libraries, religious and municipal buildings.
Reach out to past graduates who attended school in your area. They may know of scholarships that they took advantage of, or that friends utilized.
If you’re reading this, you’re already on your way. Fastweb is one of many websites designed to connect students with scholarships.
With online scholarships, you might feel stressed or anxious about competing with so many other scholarship-searchers. I’ve certainly submitted scholarships that I haven’t won, often because they were national scholarships full of bright applicants.
Applying for national scholarships is a smart idea because they often offer the most money. You won’t often find $10,000 scholarships from local organizations.
However, keep in mind that smaller scholarships have their benefits. Though the award amounts may be smaller, the competition pool is smaller and you have a greater chance of winning. And, if you win several smaller awards, that money can really add up!
That’s why it’s recommended you should apply for more specific scholarships. There are scholarships for almost every person. Search “weird scholarships” and you’ll be amazed, but start with the basics.
Your age, gender, race, experiences, hobbies, aspirations, and eccentricities set you apart. Apply for scholarships for women specifically, or for African-Americans.
Scholarships exist for future farmers and artists, or any other profession you might pursue. Design a sign or make your prom outfit out of Duct tape to win college money. There are scholarships for bowlers and even for vegetarians.
If you’re willing to do your research, set aside some time, and put in the work, you can generate money for college.
Start with your school, and apply for everything possible. If you’re late for scholarships, it’s okay, you’ll find another. Just don’t make it a habit or you may miss out on some great opportunities!
Not every scholarship requires an essay. Some are fashion contests, some just sending in your Common Application and transcript, and some are so strange they might even end up being fun.
Don’t agonize over missed deadlines or scholarships you didn’t win. Take a deep breath and do what you can.