How To Survive Your First Semester At College

And most of your real life after that.



For some the life of a college student comes easily. They live with their parents or near their hometowns, going back every so often to see the fam, eat something other than cafeteria food, and do their laundry. The transition comes smoothly.

Others leave their families hundreds of miles away, step into their standard-issue dorm rooms, and realize they know ... nothing. Not how often their car needs an oil change, not how to study with the constant distraction of energetic co-eds running around. They can't cook and they have to beg their roommate to teach them how to do laundry.

So to save them from those embarrassments, the Flyer offers this College How-To Guide.

How To Do Laundry

Yeah, you'll probably go to class in pajama pants more often than not. That or shorts and a T-shirt. However, these items still need to be washed from time to time, as do your unmentionables.

So follow these instructions from the back of a brand-name detergent: 1) sort laundry and select water temperature; 2) measure detergent; 3) add laundry to washer.

But it can be a bit more complicated than that. First thing, stock up on quarters. Keep them in a jar, a pouch, a sock, anything, but keep them. And don't use them for late-night snack runs. Most machines will only take quarters and depending on where you're doing your laundry, the wash alone can cost from 75 cents to $1.50. And then there's another 50 cents to a dollar for the drying, although sometimes two washer loads can fit in one dryer. (It's not recommended, but who are we to stop you if there's still space?)

It's also a good idea, if your laundry room is in your dorm, to not anger anyone else using the machines at the same time as you. This means: Don't leave your clothes in the washer overnight; make sure to clean out the lint traps; and just to be safe, try not to take anyone else's clothes out of the dryer (to some people, this is an unforgivable offense). And don't forget the fabric softener.

Now your pajamas will be fresh and clean and ready for your next two weeks of classes.

How To Avoid the "Freshman 15"

Stay away from the cafeteria's peanut butter cookies. Stay away from fast-food hamburgers, pizza, and milk shakes. And certainly don't eat them all at one sitting.

"Avoiding fast food is one of the main things," says Susan Hulett, a registered dietitian who has a practice in Germantown.

"At home, students would probably be getting a healthier diet," says Hulett, "but then freedom comes and they eat pizza at all hours of the night. They're staying up late, studying and eating."

Hulett, herself the mother of two college-age sons, says to be selective about your meals, choosing fruits and vegetables. But if you can't stay away from more fattening foods altogether, try to balance your diet.

"If you have a hamburger, have a salad with it versus having fries, and instead of having a milk shake, have a Diet Coke," says Hulett. Incoming students should also keep up their current exercise regimen.

But if you do all this to no avail, look to your nightlife. Partying might take a larger toll than you think.

Says Hulett: "Beer might be the biggest part of [the freshman 15]."

How To Detect Alcohol Poisoning

While we're on the subject of beer, this is a piece of knowledge you should have. College students die every year in alcohol-related incidents, from alcohol poisoning to accidents under the influence. So just tuck this away until you need it; and if you don't, all the better.

If, after a night (or day) of partying, your friend falls asleep and you can't wake them up, they have alcohol poisoning. If their breathing has slowed to about eight to 12 breaths per minute or if they stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, they have alcohol poisoning. If their skin is cold and clammy and pale or bluish, they have alcohol poisoning. Call 911. Even if they're under 21. Call 911.

Oh, and if someone's vomiting, don't leave them alone. Stay with them and keep them sitting or standing up; that way they won't choke on their own vomit.

How To Get Into "History of the Beatles" Rather Than "Ancient Myth In the Original Sanskrit"

Be prepared. Be early. And, by all means, read the directions on how to register in your freshman information packets.

Succeeding in the registration process is all about knowing what's going on. These days most university and college students get to register via telephone or the Internet. Students plug in their identification numbers and then follow the prompts.

"Before, when students registered in person, it was a madhouse the days before school started," says Danny Molling, assistant registrar at the University of Memphis. "It's made it much easier, being able to register by phone."

When you go to register, you'll want to have the call numbers for the courses ready, says Molling, and students should also have an alternate schedule, just in case one or more of the classes they want is already full.

Many universities, like the U of M, keep updated class lists on the Web so students who haven't registered yet can see which classes are full and plan their schedules accordingly. But if that special class closes up and you still want in, you'll want to call the registrar and see what they recommend.

At the U of M, Molling sends students directly to the academic departments to see if they can get in. From there, the department might make a decision, have the students sign a waiting list, or tell them to talk directly to the professor. And it's just a matter of you knowing which is the right way to go about getting signed up.

But a word to the wise: A polite e-mail to the professor can never hurt.

How To Balance Your Checkbook

"It's really simple," says Linda Conley, the branch manager of the Bank of America in Peabody Place.

The most important thing is to write everything down: each check you deposit or write, and especially every withdrawal from the ATM. Then add or subtract that amount from your beginning balance.

"A lot of customers use their debit card and forget to write it down," says Conley. People also forget to enter ATM charges and their bank account's monthly service fees.

When you get your monthly statement, check to see if the balance the bank shows matches what you have in your checkbook. Then go back and check all the debits and credits on your bank statement and in your checkbook.

If there's still a discrepancy, it's time to head to your bank with all your records. So keep them.

"We'll look at our statements against your records," says Conley. "When you come in, we have to see your records.

"Most customers call in our automated system and use that balance. They should never do that," says Conley. Because of the turnaround time, if you've made a withdrawal or a deposit within the 24 hours prior, the balance will not be accurate.

Just remember to keep a pen or a pencil handy.

How To Not Bankrupt Yourself

Now you've got your checkbook balanced, you should know one thing: College is expensive. And if you don't want to be a pauper at the end of the year, listen up.

You probably shouldn't sign up for every pre-approved credit card that's having a promotion on campus. And you probably shouldn't use your student loan money on a trip to Cancun.

But probably the most expensive part of college -- other than tuition itself -- is books. Depending on how many literature and history classes you're taking, each semester's books will probably cost you around $300. But here's a tip: You probably will never read those books, not in their entirety, anyway.

To avoid paying for those books -- you'll only get a pittance when you sell them back -- try your school's library. They should have a copy of the text; if you can't check it out, you can always photocopy the pages you need (one copy for educational purposes only). But if you'd rather have something you can write notes in, another scheme is to share the book with a friend who is taking the same class. It's better if it's someone who lives in your dorm, but as long as you know the book's co-owner's address and phone number, don't sweat it.

Then there's always the daring plan of not buying the books at all and just basing your exam answers on what the professor says. It's not a bad system if you can take really good notes. Or your grades aren't really that important to you.

And if things get really desperate, don't forget you can always sell your blood.

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