There’s so much to figure out when you’re in college. We talk to Blair Thornburgh, author of “Stuff Every College Student Should Know,” out March 25, about her best tips for surviving college without spending all your money on textbooks, how to pull an all-nighter and more.
“Pay attention to anything that’s written on the board. The teacher is not going to put something on the board that doesn’t matter. It’s also important to write down any questions that might come up in a discussion. It could be something you will think about when you’re reading. Write down all dates and formulas. These things are easy to forget, so put them on paper so you have a record of it.”
Make the interview matter
“The most important tip is to be courteous and on time. You have to recognize a person’s chief job is not normally interviewing people; they have other things to do. So if you can be there, be prepared and make their job easier. Don’t do anything that’s going to make you uneasy. Don’t dress improperly and don’t be rude. I would not come in with a cup of coffee or with my earplugs in. Just come and show that you’re focused on doing this interview. It’s always good to have a couple of questions to ask your interviewer. You want to show that you know what they do and you want to know more about it. Imagine if they did give you the job: What would you ask and what would you need to know right away?”
The almighty all-nighter
“It’s tempting to think that you can drink six Red Bulls and then write your paper, but that will probably just give you a heart attack. Drink water instead – it helps you stay awake better because you’re hydrated, and when you have to go to the bathroom all the time you will not fall asleep.
“I also find it helpful to break the time down. It can be terrifying to think about writing 12 pages in six hours. You should just think about working 45 minutes straight, writing a page and a half in that time. If you break it down into smaller chunks, you’ll feel like it’s more manageable.”
“Don’t buy the books new from the campus bookstore – they’re just going to rip you off. The books can be pretty easy to find online if you have the ISBN. Make sure you look around also on foreign sites. Then you can also sell the books when you’re done with them. If it’s a big textbook you’re doing for a huge class and you have a study group, you can split the book. You can also make an arrangement with someone you know is going to take the class next semester.”
“So much of college is social and a lot of people need to get away from that sometimes. And if you don’t feel like you can go to your room, it’s going to be very stressful. It’s a good idea not to assume that you’re going to be your roommates’ best friend. A lot of people think that because you really want to make friends. Even if you live with someone who was your friend before, you might not get along. It’s really important to talk, so you don’t build up a weird resentment; then you’re more likely to explode. Plan out what you want to say before you bring up an issue – that will make it easier. If it’s really bad, you should get help from your residential staff because that’s why these people are here.”