Hello! My name is Andrew Dornan, and I’m writing this document to share my experiences over the course of 5-6 years and four colleges.
My first, and possibly most important, piece of advice is save all of your paperwork. Graded papers, syllabi, instructions for projects, notices from administration, EVERYTHING. Keep a binder and use either plastic dividers or print out cover sheets using Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
My second bit of advice is to always apply for the FAFSA. Even if you get only a few hundred dollars, that’s still good. You may qualify for loans from the government, but those are low-interest and have means of being forgiven. Third-party scholarship sources are also a good bet. Loans from third-parties like Discover or Sallie Mae are to be a LAST RESORT. Interest rates can vary and are hard to get rid of.
What about degree plans? Compare and contrast the degree plans of various colleges. For example, SCAD and University of Houston (Texas) both have a television degree plan, but University of Houston has a lot more wiggly room and focuses available. It’s also 1/10th the cost. A higher tuition cost doesn’t always mean better education.
Related to the above point: If you’re being forced to take on a minor in addition to your major, like with me at University of Houston (Texas), then go for a minor in a field that will either enhance your major or be a good Plan B (i.e. Accounting for a minor as a Plan B, or Package Design as an enhancement if you’re a Media Production/TV Production major).
Know the pros and cons of on-campus vs off-campus housing. On-campus is a straight cost and sometimes can be more or less than average rental for a house or apartment in the area. You may have to deal with asshole neighbors, but that’s just life.
Back to finances, Student Worker jobs are 100% better than working at a gas station or pizza joint, as the employer works with you and your schedule. Some may be strict, but some may be lax. You didn’t hear this from me, but I had a boss that was 100% okay with me coming into the lab at any point and I was allowed to clock in hours so long as I was just thinking about working.
Get to know your professors. Seriously. They can help you out in a pinch and be a great mentor. I got to know my Intro to Design/Color Theory professor really well, and she was able to help me out when I was struggling with big projects.
Related to the above point: Attend class. You’re paying for your education. Use it. Showing up every day and being an active participant can give you special treatment when grades are due. This has gotten me several A’s and passing marks that I desperately needed. If you need to miss a class, email the professor ahead of time. They may just help you out. Also, make friends with your classmates. They can also help you out if you miss a day.
I think that’s about everything so far. Keep checking back with this document every now again to see if there are any updates.