Getting Your Money's Worth: How To Get The Most Out Of Your College Experience

We see it all the time, whether it's on TV or amongst our older peers. People reminisce about college almost every chance they get and usually regard it as the best years of their lives too. And why not? It's a liberating experience that is unlike any other, but one that is costing students more and more with each passing year that tuition inflates.

With that in mind, there have been a host of rich and successful people that advised students to consider foregoing college, especially if they want to be entrepreneurs. If anything, though, rising costs should inspire those who have chosen the university route to make the most of their four years. Here are ten of the many ways you can have a fulfilling experience in college and make sure your money was not spent in vain:

10. Do your freshman year right

Often, the best times during any experience come when it still has that new car smell. The same applies to college. No mistakes have been made, you're away from your home and parents for, presumably, the first time and everyone is new. Be sure to embrace those facts in your freshman year.

Everyone is open to making new friends and are leaving their doors open, so go ahead and make as many of them as you can. Enjoy being nocturnal, going to annual events for the first time and having a light schedule, because things will only get harder in the following years. For that reason, it's important that, while you're enjoying the newbie life, that you don't bomb your first year either. Playing catch up during your Junior and Senior years isn't fun.

9. Enjoy the pool of talent

Lets' get one thing straight. Never, ever, EVER again in your life will you as many attractive single men and women within a five-mile radius of you as you do now, and never will they be so accessible. And since beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder, your perfect counterpart might just be a rare breed. That gives you even more incentive to take advantage of the uniquely large pool of talent and scout accordingly.

After college, there's only work, the close friends that you'll keep in touch with frequently, and the few people that you'll meet on the occasions that you can afford to be free from grown-up responsibilities. Meeting someone you fancy by chance at your friend's client's brother's event might be a great story, but it's also improbable. In college, you can literally take your pick.

8. Just fill out the scholarship application already

It may sound clichéd, but there are people lining up to hand free money out to fund part of your college experience, and you don't have to have a 4.0 or be on track to graduate super-mega-ultra cum laude to win one. You really only need to do two things: (1) Find one that applies to you and your major (or skin color, or religion... one for everyone I tell ya') and (2) Write a convincing essay.

If you're feeling too lazy to do it, just consider your task in this context. If you dedicate 10 hours on a Saturday to find and filling out a scholarship and you get a $1000 reward for it, you just worked job that paid you $100 per hour. Not bad, huh?

7. Eat healthy

Assuming you have a meal plan at your school, every breakfast, lunch and dinner is an open buffet for you. Once in a while, lay off the burgers and chicken fingers. Get yourself some salad, eat fruit, have some orange juice instead of that weird mix of sprite and Tropicana fruit punch at nine in the morning. We all know why fast food is tempting. It's cheap. You might as well fill your body with things that will actually, you know, not make it deteriorate before you're tempted to penny-pinch after graduation. Which brings us to our next subject...

6. Go to the (free) gym

It may not have occurred to you while you played dodgeball in elementary school, did your warm-up laps before gym class in high school, or passed the recreation center on your way to class in college, but people have to actually pay to work our everywhere else. Most likely, it's at gyms that are less comprehensive or, to put it simply, less decked out than the one you have access to now.

For that reason, it's probably a good idea to keep those abs in shape -- or get them -- while you have free unlimited use.

5. Go to the games

This applies, especially to those who attend a school that is moderately in the national spotlight. Go to the games, enjoy the atmosphere,  Get on TV during one of the many fan shots and say "hi mom" or something. The games are worth your time, even if your football or basketball team isn't the best -- says this writer while wearing a Rutgers hat -- because you kind of, if you weren't aware, fund the team.

At least let your return on investment equal some fun. If you need motivation, consider it your chance to shout and let out frustration from classes. Oh yeah, and it's free.

P.S. If tailgating occurs beforehand, you shouldn't even need to be convinced.

4. Don't take any crap from your professors

The worst of professors really suck. You rarely get to hand in an assignment late, you get "the look" when you come to class tardy, and when you have that 89.999, you aren't given an A. They expect you to fulfill every obligation without any consideration for your troubles, so why should it be any different for them.

By all means, get on their case when they come to class late or don't respond to that email when you needed clarification on a subject. Let's not get things twisted. You're paying them to teach you, so that you can get paid yourself in the future. Demand the best for them, no lackluster teaching, especially from those who are the first to get on your case for a hint of lackluster performance.

3. Don't be so dramatic

This is more of a rule that concerns the way you handle your friendships. There's no credible reason why you should have ten enemies in college, especially if some of them used to be your friends. To avoid such a scenario, adhere to the following (1) Grow up (2) Learn how to have an argument (3) Realize that months of friendship shouldn't be undone by a few minutes of madness.

God forbid, if your friends ever criticize you or take issue with you something you did, just deal with it and move on. To tie this back into money, just remember this: College is definitely about what you know, but who you know will matter a great deal afterwards. Just being on good terms with somebody can get you that interview when you would be looked over otherwise, give you that first crack at a deal over your competitors or, for the journalists out there, get you on the inside for that story you need to write.

Do you really want to miss out on these opportunities because you couldn't forgive somebody after they apologized since offending you that one night?  If anything, you don't have to be besties. Learn how to be cool with everyone, just on different levels.

2. Suck up to a teacher

First and foremost, we must state the obvious. Do the work. Nobodies saying you have to be Stephen Hawking, but you came to get a degree, leave college and get a highly-respectable job, have a good credit score, the house and the car. On your way to getting all that good stuff, make sure you suck up to a teacher, seriously, especially if you plan on going to graduate school or getting an internship.

There's nothing like having to deny yourself the chance to apply for an internship because you didn't say hi to your professor enough -- either that or because they hate you. You want those letter of recommendations. Anything that will make you look good is worth working toward.

1. Enjoy the atmosphere

You're living in a community full of nothing else but 20 year olds that generally have the same mindset as you. You're at a place where every week some organization is throwing an event tailored to your interests. Even if you've accumulated an enormous amount of debt, you still have no responsibility to pay them now, it's not hovering over your head just yet (it's coming, but not at the present).

You get to go out frequently, any time you want to ball up the basketball court is within your reach with guys that can actually get up and down the court, you have some sense of control over what you want to do (e.g. elective courses give you an opportunity to learn something you're really interested in), you're away from home, all of your amenities are taken care of... did I mention you're young?

While you're walking around, just take a minute, whether you're in your first year or last, to enjoy being in this world. If you can envision yourself saying in the future, "I miss those years," realize this: you're in those years now. Soak it all in.

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