After a summer vacation, burning questions is back. Now, this column typically finds inspiration from pop culture. However, things are a little barren out there right now. Just look at new movie releases for this weekend: a One Direction documentary and Getaway, an action movie starring Ethan Hawke … and Selena Gomez? (At least that one could have a good soundtrack.)
Instead, we took to the calendar itself. Monday is Labor Day, and the holiday marks the end of summer, as well as one’s ability to wear white in public. However, it also means the beginning of the school year. So, we asked our bloggers for some 20/20 hindsight back-to-school anecdotes. (Sadly, none involved triple lindys.) Check out what they came up with.
Do not, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT over-pack. You need surprisingly little to live in a 12 × 12 space—and that’s a lesson I still haven’t learned. The first time around, I ended up with a giant pole (Bed Bath and Beyond called it a “coat hanger”; I disagree) in the middle of my room. Move-in part two placed a green table too low to the ground to serve a purpose next to my bed for 12 months. In episode three, the Oxford edition, I donated A LOT of clothes to the British Heart Foundation because they wouldn’t fit in my suitcase coming home. A noble endeavor, but an entirely unplanned one. Let’s see if I get it right the fourth time around …
Before you throw those boxes marked “college” into your trunk, take a quick peek and make sure you need everything in them. It might save you, mom and dad, or your significant other some back pain. My husband was notorious for never unpacking his college stuff. After lugging boxes up three flights of stairs, I was never very happy to find them full of textbooks he didn’t need and broken appliances.
The earlier you move in, the better! Whether it was days early or just showing up early in the morning, I found that it was always the way to go. Not only did I avoid the crowds and get to use the elevator without waiting in line, but I also was able to stake my claim on the better side of the room before my roommate!
Allow double the time you think you will need to move. Traffic, parking, and crowded elevators can dramatically increase the time it takes to finish moving. Then there’s the physical room set up, and all the indecision about where to put things. (And if you buy one of those quick-to-assemble bookshelves, allow a couple of hours to assemble it.)
It’s probably not the sexiest thing on this list, but stick to your reading list. My undergrad economics curriculum always started with a huge reading list of what’s happened in the world, and so forth. In most cases, it was optional, but it got everyone rowing in the same direction regarding current or historic events. So, in short: dig in and enjoy your reading.
Buy used textbooks online. Professors will probably be lenient at the beginning of a semester if your books haven’t arrived yet. You can also ask them to put a copy on hold at the library (people won’t be able to check it out, but they can use in the library). Also, textbooks for e-readers can save you some cash (though this wasn’t really a thing back in my early college days). For my complete list of tips for saving money as an incoming freshman, check out this article I wrote for The Boston Globe a couple years ago.
You can get away with cold water when you do your laundry. Your clothes will last longer, and they’re not any less clean.
I had a great experience going to community college first, meeting friends and saving lots of money. However, I didn’t do my research when I transferred. I ended up at a college that I love, but I wish I had researched my major more—I could have ended up with two degrees rather than the one I’m getting. But, oh well. C’est la vie!
If you’re moving off campus, be sure you know exactly what’s included in your new place. When my roommates and I made the leap, the house’s previous tenants were “nice” enough to sell us a bunch of couches, posters, and miscellaneous junk in the attic. In retrospect, they probably weren’t taking that stuff with them. Oh, and it also probably belonged to the landlord to begin with. (Well, at least the couches; I doubt he owned the inflatable Amstel Light Zamboni I kept out of spite.)
Don’t spend all your student loan money in that first week of school. When my loans came in, my tuition would be paid and then what was leftover ended up in my checking account. I treated it like income and spent to my heart’s content, which meant I had all my fun in September and by October I was broke! Not making that mistake this time around!
In most cases, the all-nighter shouldn’t be seen as a badge of honor. Usually, pulling an all-nighter means you failed to properly prepare for your tests or papers over the course of the semester. Don’t waste time pretending to be productive and living in the library. Since “homework” as you used to know it is a thing of the past, please take an hour or two every single evening and review your notes or read for the next class. Now I understand why nontraditional (read: older) students were so serious about their studies: They understood that time is money and they don’t have money to waste!
All right, readers, it’s your turn! Pass along your wisdom in the comments.