August 06, 2010

10 Tips for College Students

Going off to college is both exciting and a little terrifying. For most people, it is the first time they’ll be living on their own. College will bring new opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities. American Student Assistance® (ASA) offers the following 10 tips for college students to help you prepare for what lies ahead.

  1. Go to your entrance interview. If you've received federal financial aid, you’ll get important information you need to understand your student loans when you attend your entrance counseling. Also be sure to find out how to contact your financial aid counselor, they are there to help you and answer questions about your financial aid package.
  2. Get organized. Buy an organizer, use Google calendar, or track assignments on a big wall calendar—whatever it takes to stay on top of due dates.
  3. Don’t skip class. You’re paying for an education, so make sure you get it. If you can’t get out of bed before 8 a.m., don’t schedule classes that early. If you can’t avoid early morning classes, go to bed early the night before (or take a nap after class!).
  4. Meet your professors. Your professors can help you when it comes to choosing a career path or getting into graduate school. Professors schedule office hours for the sole purpose of meeting with students—take advantage of that time.
  5. Get involved on campus. A big problem for a lot of new students is a combination of homesickness and a feeling of not belonging. Consider joining student organizations, clubs, sports teams, or sororities or fraternities. You'll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to your school.
  6. Keep tabs on your student loans. It’s easy to borrow money above and beyond what you need for tuition and room and board. But eventually, you’ll have to repay that money, including interest. It’s important to be aware of how much debt you’re taking on. Remember to be a wise borrower. If you’re not sure where to find your loan information, start with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). NSLDS will have details on all your federal student loans.
  7. Stay healthy. By now, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded freshman 15. Even if you’re eating at the school cafeteria every day, you can still make healthy dietary choices. You should also look into joining your school’s fitness center; oftentimes, your membership is covered through your student activity fees.
  8. Don’t get into credit card debt. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of credit card debt. If you do decide to get a card, make sure you understand how it works. Learn about credit management first.
  9. Seek professional help if you need it. Most colleges have health and counseling centers. If you're sick or depressed, take advantage of the services these offices provide you.
  10. Create a budget. If you've never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so. Budgeting doesn’t have to be a time consuming pain. Get started with our budget worksheet (pdf, 0.34 MB) and budget calculator.

Entrance Counseling

Counseling session you must take part in upon receiving your first federal student loans. Your school arranges and conducts your entrance counseling, which covers topics like loan repayment and debt management. Entrance counseling must be conducted in-person, by audio visual presentation, or interactive electronic means before you can receive your loan proceeds.