Ruth's Top Ten Tips for Surviving College


Hi, everybody! My name is Ruth. I was a student at Elite a while ago, and I just finished my freshman year at Brandeis University. The folks at Elite asked if I had any advice for students who will be starting college soon, so I've put together ten tips that I hope you'll find helpful.

My main advice for new college students is this: find all the resources on campus you can! For example:

1. There is a Writing Center

They’ll help you write your papers, from brainstorming to checking your outline to checking your bibliography (did you cite things correctly?).The Writing Center is an amazing resource that is in high demand, so it’s important to sign up for an appointment ASAP, especially around finals when everyone is scrambling. 

2. There is a Career Center

On a basic level, the Career Center staff will help you write your resume, but they can do so much more. They can help you find an internship or find a job, and even introduce you to someone who works in the field you’re looking into. They have a HUGE network of connections and opportunities through their alumni list. 

3. Talk to Seniors

Seniors have gone through everything you’re about to go through! They know a lot about your school, the classes, and the professors. They’ll know more about your major and which classes to take/not take. Seniors can be a great resource, so use them!

4. Become best friends with your TA

Usually, in large classes the professors won’t be able to remember every single student so a class will be divided amongst a few Teaching Assistants. Your TA will be the person you meet with to discuss topics from class, go over papers, and they will most likely be the ones grading your assignments. Additionally, if you ever need a recommendation, they will probably write it, or they will talk to your professor about how awesome you are so that the professor has more material to include in your letter.

5. Find somewhere to do free printing.

Though they may limit you to 15-20 pages, find that place. It exists! Printing may not seem too expensive but when you’re reading articles that are anywhere from 20-50 pages for each of your classes, it adds up. Tip: If your school has a graduate school, ask grad students where to find the free printing.

6. If you're in a really big class, email your professor!

If you’re taking an intro class, chances are your class is enormous, so there’s no way your professor will ever get to know who you are. In order to stand out, email your professor at the beginning of the course and introduce yourself so he or she at least knows your name. If you email them every so often, they will have an idea of who you are, and they may be more lenient if you ever need an extension for a paper or assignment. 

7. If your professor has office hours, GO!

Each professor has two hours per week set aside (at least) for chatting with students. Amazingly, almost no one goes. Take a few minutes and chat with them about anything – doesn't have to be about the class – just meet them. They are usually pretty nice people who are experts in their field. Introduce yourself, ask questions, and if you have any problems (like you’re really shy and participation isn’t your thing), tell them so they don’t think that you’re just slacking in class. 

8. Learn your library!

Does your library use the call system or the Dewey Decimal system? Find out which and learn how to use it! If it’s the call system, you’ll find that books are filed based on subject so you can find a lot of relevant information within close proximity. Also, find out what else your library will let you borrow: this may be laptops, iPads, projectors, recording devices, etc.

9. Work study

If you’re offered work study, it’s best to apply for a job as soon as possible. Sometimes, schools will give work study students a grace period of a couple of months so that you have first dibs on job opportunities and then later open up those same opportunities to the rest of the school. Usually you’ll need a resume and a form or ID.

(Sidenote: since you’re basically an adult, memorize your social security number! You’ll be asked for it several times in school and in the real world when applying for a job.)

10. Time Management

Last, but probably the MOST important thing to know is this: time management is the best skill you can develop. There are three things you’ll want (and need) to do in college: study, socialize and sleep. It’s hard to do all three well. Most students will socialize and study but lose a lot of sleep; I’m guilty of this. It’s important to sleep! But I also know that it’s important to meet new people and studying is a given. Schedules help: Google has a calendar that you can fill out with everything you need to do hour-by-hour. 



Written by Ruth G. – Ruth attended Elite of Los Angeles and Elite's satellite program at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy. This fall she will be starting her sophomore year at Brandeis University, where she is a Sociology and Environmental Studies double major with a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies.

Posted on July 12, 2013 and filed under Student Perspectives, Resources.