A guide to a successful college experience offers tips on surviving and excelling scholastically and socially, including activites, study habits, and roommate etiquette
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Shaheena Ahmad is a 1997 graduate of Yale University. At Yale, she double-majored in English and Political Science, worked as news editor of the Yale Daily News and executive editor of the Insider's Guide to the Colleges, and participated in psychology experiments from which she is slowly recovering. She has few plans for the future, but does aspire to a longer bio in a book someday.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1: What to Bring?
The night before I left to come to college my freshperson year, I began to freak out. Should I bring 17 years' worth of photos? Was it necessary to buy a computer before I got here? Did I need to buy an iron if I had never used one in the past? Deeply philosophical questions like these plagued me as I folded my jeans and shirts into suitcases.
Junior, Yale University
Packing for college can be more taxing than the SATs and require more stamina than your first all-nighter. Clothes, appliances, furniture, room decorations -- figuring out what and how much of it to lug to school can really try your sanity, not to mention that of your parents. The temptation to bring a lifetime of accumulated junk with you to college is a great one, but remember that even if you manage to cram it all into the U-Haul, dorm rooms are often of shoebox proportions. And don't forget -- if you're going to be moving everything but the family dog into your new pad, eight months down the line you're going to be stuck moving it out again.
So when it comes to packing, let "less is more" be your mantra. Try to pack only the essentials, and when in doubt, leave it home; you can always ask Mom or Dad to ship the rest later.
It's always easier to have your parents send you something later then to have to send something back yourself if you don't have room for it. Then you don't have to do the work. Anyway, when you first get to college, your parents are so anxious and miss you so much they'll do pretty much anything.
Senior, Johns Hopkins University
So here are some of basics -- must-have items that you might have forgotten and will wish you hadn't.
Most people tend to take way too much clothing freshman year. The average college closet (even if you're lucky enough to get one for your very own) will not accommodate every ugly sweater you've ever gotten for Christmas. Take this as an opportunity to go through your closet and weed out anything you don't wear on a fairly regular basis. People tend to dress down in college; lots of pairs of jeans are a must. Pack some semiformal attire, though, for the many "welcome" functions you'll attend in your first few weeks -- freshman dinners, freshman assemblies, etcetera.
Think hard about what the weather's like at your school and pack accordingly. If you're from a warmer climate and are heading for a school up north, this may mean a few shopping trips before you hit the road. One of our next-door neighbors freshman year braved New Haven's numbing cold in her Mississippi miniskirts; it was truly a miracle that she escaped frostbite. If you're heading for a colder climate, it's a good idea to bring the winter coat, since it often gets cold enough to wear it before Thanksgiving break. Also remember "duck" boots or Gore-Tex™ lined foot gear, as well as an umbrella (two if you can swing it, since umbrellas tend to disappear incredibly quickly).
Last, but certainly not least, remember socks and underwear. Lots of it. The more the better. It's always possible (if unappealing) to put off doing laundry until you run out of clean underwear. Although we did hear of one person who just turns it inside out...but you don't want to do that.
Speaking of laundry, when you do finally make it to the laundry room, transporting your clothes in a laundry bag rather than a bin or a basket is probably most practical. Sturdy laundry bags are available in most discount stores. If you're truly ambitious, invest in a (really) cheap iron and mini-ironing board. If not, chances are one of your neighbors will have one tucked away, or there might be one available for public use in your dorm's laundry room.
One thing you can try to do is bring enough clothes for the season and transport wardrobes during vacations or breaks, so you don't have to bring all your clothes at once.
Sophomore, Boston University
A nice, warm bathrobe and slippers are good to have, since you may be trekking down the hall frequently to get to the bathroom. You might also want to take along a pair of flip-flops for the shower. Yes, bathing in shoes seems somehow unnatural, but so is the grime festering on the floors of many college showers. And don't forget a shower caddy to lug your stuff to the bathroom -- the kind with holes for drainage is best. Avoid shower "buckets"; they tend to be a friendly breeding ground for unidentifiable molds and growths.
At many schools, the beds require extra-long sheets, 80" rather than the standard 75" -- find out the size you'll need before you buy. You should take along at least two sets. Most people opt for comforters and skip the bedspreads, since they let you make your bed in a flash, if you choose to make your bed at all. Dorm mattresses are similar in constitution to those that prisoners sleep on; some kind of washable mattress pad for your bed will make it infinitely more comfortable.
Bring along your favorite pillow, and also look for those armchairlike study pillows -- they're great for reading in bed or on a window seat.
Appliances and Furniture
The most crucial thing to do when thinking about what kinds of major appliances and furniture to bring is to consult with your roommate(s).
You should talk at least once during the summer, not only so you can get acquainted before arriving on campus, but also to make sure that your room doesn't end up with two TVs and no refrigerator. Or six Monet prints and nothing to sit on. Talking to your future roomies beforehand can avoid a lot of these hassles and ensure a pretty good setup once you arrive at school.
You can get a pretty good idea of what freshman dorms are like before you arrive by calling the dean's office or current students. Chances are you'll be living in either a single, a double, or a suite consisting of a few bedrooms and a common room or living room. In terms of furniture, most schools provide their students with just the basics: bed, dresser, desk, chair. Obviously, this makes for fairly spartan accommodations. If you're really lucky, your room will come equipped with amenities like a mirror or bookshelves, but if not, you'll have to clean out your bedroom at home and bring these items yourself. If you'll be living in a suite with a living room, heaven has smiled on you; get down on your knees and show your gratitude. Then, after you dust yourself off, start looking for furniture.
Looking for furniture is a lot easier if you've a) coordinated with your roommates, and b) acquired certain information, such as average room measurements, beforehand. If your common space is big enough, you'll need some kind of couch, chairs, a rug, maybe a coffee table. If you have a sibling who just graduated or old furniture tucked away in the garage or basement, life is good. Otherwise, you'll have to get creative to keep from shelling out the big bucks. The Salvation Army and other secondhand or thrift stores are a great place to start -- you can often find comfortable furniture in decent condition at rock-bottom prices. If you come up short, hit the summer garage sale circuit. You can also find cheap carpet remnants at furniture outlets or discount warehouses like Caldor or K-Mart. If your dorm room isn't carpeted, a rug is a must; it will warm up your living space better than any other single item. A final note when it comes to actual furniture for your dorm room: If you arrive at school and discover you are in desperate need of a beanbag or a coffee table, there will probably be scores of recent graduates hawking their wares (dirt-cheap) all over campus.
Another thing to consider: Make sure your future home has adequate overhead lighting. Freshman year, we lit our enormous common room with a half-dozen 60 watt desk lamps; we literally saw spots all year. If lighting could be a concern, be kind to your eyes -- consider investing in a halogen lamp. They're pricier and uglier than shaded lamps and not as cool as lava lamps, but just one can completely light up an average-sized room. One note of caution -- several universities have recently banned halogen lamps, deeming them fire hazards. Check with your school before investing in one.
When it comes to appliances and electronics, there are few must-haves. Obviously, you should make sure someone is bringing a clock and a phone -- you'd be surprised how often these particular items are overlooked. You may also need an answering machine, although more and more schools are offering some kind of voice mail option. A small refrigerator is one of the few electrical appliances that is an absolute necessity. Most schools offer some kind of yearly refrigerator rental service, but if you can find a used one and are hoping to spend at least a couple of years in college, it might be cheaper in the long run to buy. Coffee pots, if you need regular caffeine fixes, are also pretty standard. As for other appliances, such as hot plates, microwaves, toasters, and rice cookers, try to gauge realistically how often you will really use these items. Remember that you'll probably be on some kind of full meal plan, and will probably have access to some kind of points system you can use to grab late-night snacks and coffee. An army of random cookware might not be entirely necessary. Also, some schools consider certain electrical appliances fire hazards, and ban them from on-campus rooms.
As for entertainment-type items, most people bring at least some kind of CD player or stereo system from home. You own personal preferences and budget will determine whether you'll need just a box or some kind of full-fledged system. Again, don't neglect to consult with your roomies. When it comes to a TV or VCR, if you have one lying around your house, and your parents don't object, go ahead and take it to school, but it's not a necessity for everyone. In fact, the constant temptation of the tube can prove a dangerous distraction for die-hard junkies or serious procrastinators. If you know you are true TV addict, if given the opportunity you will spend more hours a day watching soap operas than doing reading, do yourself and your GPA a favor -- leave the TV at home. There will probably be some kind of TV lounge just down the hall or in the basement where you can get your weekly fix of ER.
Computers: To Buy or Not to Buy?
One of the biggest decisions you'll make before you leave for school is whether or not to buy a computer, if you don't already own one. If you can't afford to bring a computer to college, rest assured that most universities provide easy, free access to computers in the form of public computing labs (or clusters, as they're sometimes called). If you can work it into your budget, however, you'll probably want the convenience of having a computer in your room -- to type papers, E-mail, or just procrastinate with a nice long session of Super Maze Wars. Computer clusters may be located several blocks from your dorm, and worse, they may become nightmarishly packed during midterm and final periods. Sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed, and facing a quickly approaching deadline, you might not react well to a crowded computer cluster. And a catfight over a keyboard is never a pretty sight.
If you're budget minded, a computer definitely does not have to be a major investment. Many schools offer good deals on new computers, so be sure to check with yours before buying a machine at home. Often, school computing services will be as competitive as the CompUSA around the corner.
Other affordable alternatives include buying a used computer, preferably from someone you know, or buying a new computer, but an older model. You probably won't be using your computer for more than games and word processing, so don't automatically head for the latest, superfast Pentium computer loaded with memory and multimedia features. An older, slower model will get the job done just as well.
Before buying a computer, think about what types of things you plan on doing with the machine. If you're planning on writing programs for computer science classes or playing Doom, you'll want a fast computer with lots of memory for building programs or blowing up assorted bad guys. If you're not as technologically inclined, you might want to settle for an older, cheaper model. Here are a few things to consider in your quest for a machine that will meet your computing needs without driving you to bankruptcy before you've even arrived at school.
Macs versus PCs
When it comes to the great Macintosh versus PC debate, the best solution is to determine which system would be most convenient at your college. For instance, if Macs are dominant in your school's computing clusters, you might want to purchase a Mac just for convenience's sake. Although Windows 95 has made the PC almost as easy to use as the Mac, Macs are often cheaper and easier to network. The overriding consideration in your decision, though, should be which system is most prevalent at your school.
Desktop versus laptop
After deciding whether you want a Mac or a PC, the next major consideration is whether to buy a desktop or a laptop unit. Desktop units are usually cheaper, more powerful, and have better displays, but a laptop can provide you with more flexibility. With laptops, you can bring your computer to class with you to take notes, or write your paper in the library. Now that they've have dropped in price substantially, laptops are definitely worth considering, especially if you plan on using your computer mostly for word processing.
Next, you need to decide how fast a computer you'll need. Approach this decision with great skepticism. Do you really need a superfast processor? Remember, even if you buy the fastest processor on the market, your computer will be hopelessly behind the power curve in a few months anyway. Buy the cheapest computer you can find that will run all the software you plan on running. The most common pitfall when it comes to buying a computer is spending too much money on a machine that is far too powerful.
Besides the processor, you also need to consider how much memory, or RAM, you want. You should get at least eight megabytes to start. If you're interested in saving money, you can usually stop there, and then buy more later. But do not skimp on the hard drive; you'll find that you need that space.
Think about whether or not you want to reach the Internet from your desktop or laptop. If your school offers network access from your dorm room, make sure you get a computer powerful enough to access the Net. Usually, this means a computer with at least a 486 processor and eight megabytes of RAM.
Also find out what kind of network your college has -- the most common type of network is Ethernet. Depending on what kind of computer you buy, you might have to spend up to $200 extra to connect to the school's internal network.
Will you need to purchase a printer? A good deskjet printer runs about $200 and might be a worthwhile investment. Most schools do offer laser printi...
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Book Description Kaplan Publishing, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0684837579