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Survival 101

By Kirk Noonan

No doubt college is going to challenge and stretch you. But … it will also be filled with good experiences and new friendships that will create memories that last a lifetime. With the right tools — some of which are included in this guide — your pursuit of higher education should be a remarkable journey that prepares you for the career and life God has planned for you.

But first you need to make it through the first few weeks of school. No worries. Read on for insight on much of what college will throw your way.

Dorms and roomies

It’s true. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Because of that there are a few things you need to know when you move into your dorm room. David Gould, director of residence life at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., tells new students to read the school’s policy manual before they move onto campus and be prepared to exercise diplomacy.

“Be flexible and willing to learn from your roommate,” says Gould. “The number one thing to remember is that there is not a perfect roommate.”

To avoid becoming your school’s version of the odd couple, Gould gives the following recommendations:

• Bring the least amount of personal belongings as possible. You can always purchase things you’ll need or have them sent later.

• If you are the first to arrive in the room, don’t claim every square inch of available space as your own. Try to imagine how you would feel if you arrived and your roommates had already staked their claim to all the premium space — your new roommates would feel the same way.

• Be willing to have your parents help you move in, but don’t let them decide who is sleeping where or how to decorate the room. “Talk with your parents before you arrive on campus,” advises Gould. “Tell them your fears, concerns and desires.”

• Avoid confrontation by gathering with your roommates and establishing boundaries and expectations. Ask questions such as: Whose stuff goes where? Who gets the top bunk? Who gets the desk by the window? Are guests free to come and go? Who is going to empty the wastebasket and vacuum the floor? What time should lights be out?

Gould says common sense, respect and communication are the keys to any good relationship — especially one you’re going to have to deal with every day.

Loans and debts

College is expensive. Your studies will require sacrifice, hard work and money. Are you going to get a job to offset expenses? Should you get a credit card to help pay the bills? Are there any grants or loans you may have overlooked?

If you haven’t asked these questions, you should, says Lana Walter, director of financial aid services at Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash. According to Walter, having a financial plan for your college years could save you thousands of dollars.

Here are five ways to save and make money:

Get involved: Become a resident assistant or a student body officer or a teacher’s aid. Compensation for such duties is usually an hourly wage at the very least, but sometimes includes scholarships or housing and tuition discounts.

Hit your stride: Once you’re in college, it will be harder, if not impossible, to get an academic scholarship. But some schools award grants or at the very least give tuition discounts for academic achievement. Every school is different, so you’re going to have to ask if your school offers such deals.

Minimize credit card use: The average undergraduate student carries $2,200 in credit card debt. Walter advises students to only use a credit card for emergencies or to buy essential school supplies such as books. And she says, “Pay off the card each month.”

Get a job: Most full-time students can work at least 12-17 hours a week and maintain good grades. If working during the school year is an impossibility, Walter says students should work during the summer and save a large portion of their money for the school year.

The benefits of working, says Walter, are that it instills a solid work ethic, develops discipline and in some cases is a résumé builder.

Get creative: If you’re financially savvy there are some quick ways to make or save money.

• When the semester is over sell your expendable used textbooks at the school’s bookstore or online. Then buy used books at deep discounts for the following
semester.

• For entertainment, take advantage of free local offerings such as lakes, mountains, beaches and cities.

• Instead of a cell phone get a prepaid phone card.

• If you’re a coffee junkie learn to make coffee rather than buying it every morning for three bucks a cup.

• Don’t get caught up in having to have everything everyone else has. Ask yourself what is really essential. Having an iPod, plasma television or the thinnest cell phone can wait.

• If possible, don’t bring a car to campus. With insurance, gas, maintenance and in some cases a payment, you’re going to be blowing a lot of cash on a depreciating asset. Instead, use your money to pay down your school bill.

Curing homesickness

Going away to college is going to stretch you in ways you never imagined. You’re going to be away from your home, friends, siblings and way of life for the first time. Don’t despair. Every Assemblies of God college and university has a host of activities and resources to help you adjust to college life. The only thing they ask in return is that you participate.

At Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., and other AG colleges, the first week of school is filled with student-orientation activities. Though these events appear to be all about fun and games, they are really designed to connect students with other students and faculty.

“We provide events to submerge the students in college life so they can meet other students and find people they have something in common with,” says Steve Gallagher, 34, campus activity director at Southeastern. “One of the worst things a student can do is come to college, withdraw and go into a shell.”

According to Gallagher, the remedy for homesickness is getting involved on campus. “Seek and you shall find life-changing relationships,” he says. “Students need to get connected as soon as possible — so try as many avenues as possible to connect with others.”

Here are nine ways you can do that:

• Introduce yourself to your neighbors.

• Join a ministry group.

• Run for student government.

• Play intramural sports.

• Volunteer to tutor.

• Invite someone to go with you to get supplies.

• Eat in the cafeteria.

• Join a study group.

• Most importantly — be yourself.

Making the grade

To earn good grades in college you’re going to have to commit yourself to much study and discipline. But like the story of the tortoise and the hare — it’s not how fast you run the race; it’s how you run the race that counts.

According to Sheri Phillips, director of academic and career development at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., many freshmen are surprised to learn how much more studying they have to do in college than they did in high school to earn the same grades.

Besides the fact you can count on more study time in college, there are several other things you’re going to need to do, says Phillips, to make the grades:

• Get to know your professor. Doing so helps him or her put a face with a name, plus it opens lines of communication, which could be good if your grade begins to suffer.

• Realize that study strategies that carried you through high school might not work in college. You may have to make adjustments in the way you study, when you study and where you study.

• Get a calendar and put all your assignments on it. “Life happens and things come up,” says Phillips. “But if assignment due dates are on the calendar, you know they’re coming and it shouldn’t take you by surprise.”

• Get into a routine that balances school, work and play. “For every hour of class time a student should spend at least two hours studying,” says Phillips. “But if students manage their time effectively, they shouldn’t have to spend all their time studying.”

• Be realistic about your abilities. If you were a C-student in high school don’t pressure yourself to get straight A’s.

• Get adequate sleep, eat healthy foods and exercise daily. “We joke about the ‘freshman 15,’ [the amount of weight some students gain during their first year of college],” says Phillips. “But it’s a reality. Students need to find balance and not go to extremes when it comes to what they eat.”

It’s your turn

There are no shortcuts to making friends or good grades or money, but you can always count on God to be there for you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).

And that’s a promise.


Kirk Noonan is associate editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel. He graduated from Bethany University in Santa Cruz, Calif., and obtained a master’s degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

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