College education is one of the single biggest purchases that you’ll ever make. And yet, the average consumer knows more about buying a car or a washing machine. Why not get the most for your money?
1. Go see the prof. You might think that lectures and discussions are the main part of the college class. And you’d be right. But the single biggest resource of any college course is one that most students never even think of: the professor’s office hours. Most colleges require professors to be available for one-on-one consultation with their students for several hours a week. A tremendous amount of learning can go on even in a 15-minute talk directly with a professor. And you’ve already paid for it as part of your tuition – so why not get your money’s worth?
5-Star Tip. Many professors today are happy to answer students’ questions by E-mail or even on a course Web page. Be sure to make full use of these electronic resources.
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2. Keep entering the lottery. Many students (and parents) think that the financial aid package you get when you enter college is the end of the matter. But once you’re at college, there may be a number of opportunities to compete for and get various hidden scholarships. Many donors give piles of money to specific departments for the support of their majors (at Princeton, for example, there is an overflow of money in ancient Greek language and civilization ). Often these scholarships are handed out on the basis of merit. So if you’re doing well, you should ask around to find out about these opportunities and take advantage of them.
3. Think about flying the coop. At many schools first-year students have to live in the dorms. But after that, you’re on your own. Think about living off-campus in an apartment or a cooperative living arrangement. You can often save bundles on food (at many colleges the food-service is overpriced and is used as a means to subvent other campus programs). And hey, you might enjoy playing Rachael Ray, not to mention doing dishes once a month.
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4. Learn a skill for life. Once you know your major, be on the lookout for courses that will give you the skills to get ahead in your chosen career (even if such courses are not required for the major). Learning Chinese or Arabic could be a big selling point for a business major wanting to work for Walmart or Procter & Gamble – or the C.I.A. or Homeland Security A course in critical reasoning or logic could pay off for a wannabe lawyer– or a course in statistics for someone going into the health care profession.