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What to Know Before Your First Semester of College

Updated on January 13, 2011

I'm currently in my second semester of college.  Constantly new things are popping up that I wish I had known before I started school.  Here are just a few.

Financial Aid

I luckily had two older sisters who went to college before me, so I knew a little about financial aid. First of all, make sure you fill out a FASFA. This is a form to see if you are eligible for federal financial aid. Even if you believe that you are not eligible, FILL OUT THIS FORM. Many scholarships require the FASFA, and if you miss the due date you won't be able to receive much financial aid. Here is a link to the FASFA.

After you are accepted to a school, it will probably send you a scholarship offer if you are eligible from your GPA and test scores. However, the school offer many awards you actually have to apply for. Most schools have a financial aid page on their website that will have a list of scholarships. Be sure to check this out.

Also, many external businesses and associations offer scholarships. Many websites online can give lists of scholarships you might be eligible. Just remember when signing up for these websites, only choose ones that are free. Local organizations are rich with scholarships, and there is a smaller pool of applicants, raising your chances. Keep your eyes open.

AP and Dual Enrollment Credit

You'll want to check out your school's policy on AP and dual enrollment credit.  Some schools have a limit on the amount of credit you can take with you.  Also make sure you go through the right mediums to make sure the school gets your scores/grades.  This was a problem I had with my dual enrollment credit.  If you dual enroll make sure you tell them to send a transcript to your school.  For AP credit, you can choose a school to send your cumulative scores to on your final AP tests.  You'll want to do this since it's free.  If you wait you'll have to pay to get your scores.

Dorms

I thought it would be a good idea to live in the dorms my first year of college. I've found it to be a mistake. Dorms cost significantly more than an apartment off campus and are only better because of convenience. Our refrigerator has stopped working twice already. Our upstairs neighbors are loud and rowdy. At my school, we also have to leave for breaks and can't come back early without special approval. Dorms are an easy way to make quick friends, if you like your roommates, but I think it would be just as easy in an apartment.  I luckily have had no problem with my roommates, but it is really the luck of the draw.

School Involvement and Friends

Join an organization as fast you can. Most schools have numerous clubs, and there will sure to be one that suits you interests. If you think that you can make friends by just going to your classes, there is a good chance you're wrong. Organizations allow you to quickly make friends with people that like similar things. I'm a pretty shy person and this has been particularly helpful for me.  When you find a niche at the school you will also have a sense of belonging and it will certainly enhance your college experience.

Classes

I found the move from college to high school to be pretty easy. I also took a lot of AP courses. If you haven't taken courses where you spend hours on just studying, then this may be a larger step for you. Be sure to figure out how much time you need to spend working for each of your classes outside of class. This may take some time, but everyone gets the rhythm eventually. I find it helpful to always read the textbook. Some classes will test purely on the lecture. However, the textbook will generally reinforce the concepts. When it comes time for the test, study your notes and not the book.

Hopefully these tips will be helpful for you.  I hope you have a wonderful and enjoyable first semester of college.

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