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College was, and can be, the best years of your life. You typically have 95% of your time all to yourself and don't have any real pressures or issues to deal with. It's where you can and should take the time to figure out what you want in life. Compress your schedule to the minimum number of days that you can. You will appreciate the days you don't have to attend classes more.
Living on campus or slightly off of campus can help to make friends easier because of the proximity. Just be sure to find and make friends when the new semester starts, even if they're not in your classes or program. Having friends outside of your major will broaden your experiences and view points on life. Having a social group to do various events with is important to enjoying your time.
The semesters that were more of a drag were the ones with classes every day and spread out in time too.
The best semester I had was my Junior year when I was overloaded with 19 credits when 12-18 hours is full time. I had to get special permission to do overload on credit hours, but my advisor was fine with it. To make it more manageable the classes were scheduled only on Tuesday/Thursday and back-to-back with maybe an hour between the set for lunch. My day started after all my hall-mates and still ended before all my hall-mates. The classes were all upper-level classes so they were more project driven, typically given an entire week for the projects. I would spend some of Wednesday working on the projects and finishing before the next class. I had nothing but insane amounts of free time Thursday through Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday Nights were light too.
I took out a lot of student loans to cover what my scholarships and grants didn't cover. I landed a job in my field after college and paid back all my student loans in around 4 to 5 years while also paying off a car loan too. I made certain to pay more than the minimum monthly payment amount to minimize the interest accrued since my interest rates were higher on the loans than any return rates offered through savings or investments.
I didn't deal properly, and a lot of things (stress, depression, anxiety) overwhelmed me to the point where I needed to take time off from school (READ: The school told me to because of my grades). However, after years of life experience and gaining perspective, I am going back to college this fall! The most important lessons I'm going to carry over from my failed college experience are the following (yes, some of these are piggybacking off of previous ideas expressed here)
-Find the proper class schedule balance for you. For me, I like to condense into as few days as possible while not starting before 10 AM. I took an 8 AM Spanish class my Freshman year, was the biggest mistake that I made.
-Get involved on campus, and don't limit your activities to those directly tied to your major. I started off college as a Political Science major, and while I was involved in a political group on campus, my most rewarding experiences were nothing to do with my major at all!
-Live on campus early, and as close to campus as you can afford to after you move out of the dorms. This definitely aids in the getting involved on campus, as it keeps you close to all of the activities and more of the student body. And, if you are into sports as much as I am, living close to campus generally will make it easier to attend the sporting events and be within walking distance so you don't have to pay to park!
-Try new things. College is a time of your life where you are meant to broaden your experiences. Don't be afraid to try new foods, drink, travel abroad, or partake in any drugs that may or may not be legal in your area (NOTE: Don't be stupid with this one).
-Have (safe) sex. You're probably never going to have such a large sampling of potential partners again.
-Make sure you are able to remember the good times because the real world sucks.
Depends on what you wanna major in, etc. College is not for everyone but if its a personal goal, you should do it. Be practical in your choices. Realize that 40k a year is retarded for a school. No, people may not know what the fuck bumfuck bush university is in Nebraska, but its 9k a year. Make connections and USE THEM.
I hate personally socializing, which is ironic due to my major, but I can do it and can be good at it. With the cheap degree and good connections, you can do almost everything.
Don't overspend, and never sell yourself short.
As for working? At one point last semester, I had 3 part time jobs while doing school full time. It's hard. You don't have a social life, but thats something that has never seemed to bother me.
Drank too much, never studied, half-assed my home work and dropped out with like a 2.5 after my first year. Spent the next 5 years working in call centers, managed to leverage my "tech support" experience resetting passwords for retards and resetting their modems and changing their WiFi passwords into a corporate help desk position. I'm now a glorified computer janitor but at least I make a middle class living.
My advice: pick up good study habits now, dont drink too much, dont drop out unless you have a hell of a job lined up and make friends with similar people. The last part is the most important in my opinion, people who are friends with parties are inevitably gonna end up drinking more than they should and studying less than they should.
Really though the most important thing in life isnt what you know its who you know. I would still be making 10 dollars an hour telling 30 people to unplug and plug their modem back in if I didnt get a manager who knew someone who could get me a better job.