As we’re transitioning back to school it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot!
The university bookstore usually only carries the most current version of books, which usually end up costing hundred(s) of dollars more than a previous version that has almost the exact same information. Historically, the bookstore has ran out of many ordered books due to the high volume of orders, which then requires students to wait for their items and provides no added benefit to ordering their books prior to the start of the semester. Sometimes professors don’t even use or require a textbook but the university may require them to post a recommended book. If you find out a book is in fact needed for the course, renting textbooks is the almost always the best investment due to the low resell value, particularly of binder/paperback versions. If you need an access code for online portions of the course, it may be necessary to purchase a new book. In this case, I would recommend exploring sites like Amazon, Chegg, etc. in order to compare options and find the lowest price. Many of these carriers have next day or 2 day student shipping, so do not worry about any delay.
The University of South Carolina has an immensely diverse course offering. Many people become fixated on the classes required to fulfill their major and minor degrees, without realizing the incredible array of interesting electives. I highly recommend that at some point in your college career, you take an additional fun class. These classes are typically only 1 credit hour and take place only once a week so fitting it into your schedule should be doable. Electives can range from Yoga and Fencing all the way to a Craft Beer course. With such a variety, you’re sure to find an elective of interest.
3. CLEP Exams
Scheduling courses can become increasingly difficult as you complete various major & minor requirements. Many students do not find out until its too late about the great opportunity that CLEP Exams offer. CLEP Exams are designed to test a student’s knowledge of a specific course’s material in order to determine whether or now they will be allowed to place out of the class and still obtain the credit for completing the course. The process is extremely straightforward as you simply register to take an exam on the CLEP website: www.CLEP.com and then can borrow or purchase a book to study and prepare. There are roughly 23 different CLEP exams available and there is a testing facility on USC’s campus where you can actually complete the exam. These exams can free up a lot of room in your schedule and allow you to earn credit for subjects you already have mastered.
4. Student Discounts
Many students aren’t aware that student discounts are frequently offered at retailers and food vendors. Take advantage of these savings while you’re a gamecock! Some examples of stores with student discounts include J Crew, Banana Republic, Apple, Dell, Fedex, etc. Even the university bookstore offers a percentage discount on fan apparel after a gamecock win!
5. Campus Involvement
You’ll hear this a million times, but truly take it to heart – get involved on campus. Joining organizations at USC allows you to create a sense of home here on campus and fully integrates you into the gamecock community. The university holds several welcome events, organization fairs and information sessions to inform students about the many organizations and groups available. Student organizations can help you create a sense of community here in Columbia and to be a part of something larger than yourself. Here is a calendar of some current campus events: http://www.sc.edu/calendar/uofsc/.
6. Local Volunteer Opportunities
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the events and activities around campus but it its extremely important to continue giving back to your community. Many students dedicate tremendous amounts of time volunteering in high school, only to come to college and suddenly stop. Many student organizations are dedicated to service, and even various nonservice organizations have a philanthropic or service component. Whether it’s through a student group or individually, volunteering will allow you to make a lasting impact beyond the USC campus and is sure to better your perspective and overall college experience.
7. Peer & Professional Mentorship
Mentors are key during this period of transition. College is a time where you are making decisions that can affect the rest of your life so having people to guide you along the way is imperative. It is best to seek out mentorship opportunities early on in your college careers. While there are some structured programs that the university offers, more common than not, mentors end up being people that you have encountered in your day-to-day life that you admire. Your new mentorship relationship can begin with a simple phone call, thank you note, or informational interview request. You can also have multiple mentors. For example, a peer mentor might be extremely valuable if you hope to learn from their internship experiences or leadership involvement in a club. A professional mentor might be a college or professor with years of industry insight that can help you navigate your career trajectory. Don’t be intimidated to seek out these types of relationships because in all mentor-mentee relationships, value is created and shared among both parties involved. The mentee gains helpful advice based on real-world experience, and the mentor gains a fresh perspective.
8. Study Spots
We are extremely fortunate to have a campus as gorgeous as the one USC offers. During your first few weeks back on campus, make an effort to explore the area. Instead of solely studying your room or the library, seek out unique study spots where you can relax and concentrate. Some common study spots are Cool Beans Café, the Thomas Cooper Library and of course, the Horseshoe. Other more unique spots include the roof of Gambrel, the State House fairgrounds, and the park beside Patterson Hall. Find your place on campus!
One of the most amazing aspects of college, and specifically a large state university such as USC, is the immensely large student body. Rarely will you have the opportunity to meet so many new people who all share a common denominator – their association with USC. Take full advantage of this! Make an effort to get to know people in your classes and the friendly faces you see walking around on campus. Networking with professors and building relationships outside of the classroom is also extremely important. Attend office hours so they know your name and ask for professional guidance and advice. Professors are incredible resources and they love to provide assistance to their students. Networking can also take a more literal form. Creating a LinkedIn profile is a great starting point to building your professional network. I highly recommend collecting business cards and storing them in a safe place where you can accumulate them for years to come. You also can create an Excel spreadsheet with names and contact information. Years down the road you will be extremely glad that you took the time to not only create this network, but also to maintain and cultivate these relationships.
10. Join AKPsi
Joining Alpha Kappa Psi has been the best decision I have made since coming to USC. The guidance, support, and friendships that I have experienced through my involvement have altered my college career in ways I never imagined. The values of the fraternity: Brotherhood, Service, Integrity, Unity and Knowledge, aligned precisely with my own personal values and I can honestly attest to the organization’s commitment to furthering member development in all areas. Whether serving with fellow brothers at community service outreach events or participating in mock interviews and mentorship initiatives, Alpha Kappa Psi has truly pushed me to become a better individual and member of the community.
by Brother Stephanie Isaacs