Whether you’re going to college online or you’re hauling yourself to a brick-and-mortar campus starting school every fall is always a fresh new experience no matter how seasoned of a student you might be. With the economy and technology changing faster than a caffeinated humming bird every new school year brings a set of challenges that may not have existed before. So in the spirit of “You’re never too old to learn new things” here are five back-to-school college tips that are sure to make your first semester go down a little easier.

  1. Don’t Live Off Your Credit Card
  2. The economics of attending college are scary. College tuition in some cases is on par with buying a home. So every semester there will be times when money is tight. Even though it’s convenient try to resist the temptation of living off your credit card to make ends meet. Commit to going without instead. Yes, you have to eat, but you don’t have to eat out. Cook at home or if your parents live close by, go to their house for dinner. Save the credit card for real emergencies, like if your car breaks down and you need a tow, or you have to fly home on a moment’s notice. Because once you start digging yourself into a debt hole, it’s really hard to get out. And who needs the stress of debt on top of college?

  3. Talk to Your Advisor Regularly
  4. Whether you go to school online or on campus, you will be assigned a college advisor. When I went to college I knew people who never even knew who their advisor was until a scheduling disaster struck. Don’t wait until you need help to befriend the people that can help you. If you haven’t done so already make an appointment to meet your advisor either in person or at least by e-mail. Introduce yourself, talk about your major, explain your goals—in general, be pleasant. Make a good impression now when it’s clear that you don’t want something in return. That way when you do need help you and your advisor will already have some sort of relationship. (Which raises you to the top of the pile of people you’re advisor will help first.)

  5. Budget Your Time
  6. No matter how many years you’ve been in college that fall semester is always the hardest one to adjust to. You’re coming off two to three months of summer fun where you’ve been working, traveling, and probably NOT doing homework. Now all of sudden you have to figure out how you’re going to cram 30 hours of stuff in a 24-hour day. They key to getting it all done is good planning. Set a schedule that not only shows when you’ll work and go to school, but also when you will do homework, labs, seminars; whatever is expected of you. Also include pockets of free time to do things like take a walk or go for a bike ride. At some point you need to rest your mind and move your body.

  7. Check Amazon to Rent e-Books
  8. This summer Amazon announced that many of the textbooks assigned by college instructors will be available as e-book rentals. Check to see if your textbooks are on Amazon’s e-Book rental list. This is a huge cost savings if your books are in fact part of this program. Granted, your instructors will most likely know if the texts they assign are online, because they are usually the ones to ask Amazon to make them available. However, in some cases a book may be on the Amazon e-book rental list because other instructors requested it. Regardless of who stuck it out there, anyone can rent them, so it never hurts to check.

  9. Check Apple’s New Student Pricing
  10. This summer Apple revamped it’s education pricing and thus now more student discounts on more Apple items are available. Plus, until September 20, 2011, Apple is giving away a $100 Apple Store gift card to anyone who buys a Mac computer (even with the student discount). True, Apple is not known for heavy discounting but if you’ve have to get a new laptop anyway, and you’ve always wanted a Mac, now would be the time to get one.

Remember, when going to college every little bit of free advice helps. At the rate tuition is going up, advice is just about the only thing left that IS free. So take it while you can (and pass it on).

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