The first day of classes, I found myself in the same situation that thousand of college students face each semester. Being the first person in my family to attend college, I had no idea what to expect. Making the decision not to leave home and to attend school in my hometown helped to make the transition easier, but it was still intimidating.

If I had someone to clue me in on what to expect, things might have been easier and I could have concentrated more on my classes instead of fumbling through everything. Tips on the best parking lots, when to use the computer lab, and which professors to avoid, would have been the best things that anyone could have told me about. Unfortunately, nobody did, and I have racked up several parking tickets, waited impatiently for a chance in the computer lab, and have had my share of longwinded professors. The following are a few more things that I had no idea about.

Colleges will help set you up with paying jobs in the community. The student career center is filled with information on positions, skills, and special internships that companies and businesses have sent to the college looking to fill. Chances are that if you are in college, then you are probably broke and need money, so check it out.

You can actually get volunteer work listed on your official college transcript. Check with your particular school and their volunteer office and see how many hours are required to gain the credit. Most of the organizations that need volunteers are nonprofit groups and will accept help from just about anyone who can provide the time.

Terrible roommates don’t last forever. Your first semester might be slightly stressful if you and roommate aren’t compatible. Talk with your friends, check listings at the housing office on campus and read your campus and local community newspapers so that you can check on your options.

What your professors think really does matter. It is your job to get the professor in your corner. Initial impressions stick with these people and sometimes it can be difficult to change a bad first impression. The more your teacher likes you and has respect for you, it will end up being to your advantage. Letters of recommendations from professors are awesome, so utilize them for what they are worth!

Check out your professors. If you want to know who you will get the most out of, not require you to do busy work, or just who is the easiest professor, ask around and talk to other people in your major. If you are in good standing with your academic advisor, chances are that they will help you out when making the call. Professionally they really shouldn’t tell you who to avoid, but some will.

No matter where your classes are, be prepared to hike to class. Most colleges are pretty large, but they only have limited parking. Get there early so you can get a space in a parking lot that is centrally located to most of your classes. You should also check out the parking rules at your specific school, trust me when I tell you that the price of parking tickets add up quickly. Not only is a ticket a hassle, but if you don’t keep them paid, you could have a hold placed on upon your academic records.

Find a balance between school, work, and your personal life. Unfortunately, most of us college students have to work, so look around and find something that will work with your schedule and won’t be too demanding. A social life is important! Just try not to let it mess up your classes. If you love to party several times a week, then why even try for a morning class? You should know yourself by now and know that if you can’t make a morning class sober, you might rethink those early classes.

Nobody told me about all of these little things. Things that don’t really make the school’s catalog are the important things that we all really want to know. The trick to finding out what you need to know, is knowing who to ask. The more you become involved in school and activities and make friends, it will be easier to find the answers to all or your questions that college letters and catalogs don’t find the need to discuss.

Ilaina Johns is a junior at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She is majoring in Health with a minor in Public Relations. Ilaina is also a Real World University intern.

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