Everyone's a critic these days, college students included. And why not? With the average tuition at a public college having gone up almost 6 percent this year, students have a right to mouth off when things aren't to their liking. The trouble is that faculty and staff are overworked and, in many cases, haven't gotten a raise this year. What can you do? Here are our best suggestions about how to remedy the most commonly hated things about college.
1. College costs too much. What you can do: Be sure to research all the possible forms of tuition assistance, from the federal government, the state, the university, your major, and community organizations. Consider cheaper alternatives, such as community colleges or, in some cases, summer school. Take as many courses as possible (within reason) if you're paying by the semester rather than by the credit. Save on textbooks by buying online, renting, or sharing books, or by buying E-textbooks. And be sure to check out all the tax incentives for higher education.
2. I'm closed out of the classes I want. What you can do: Consider taking another section of the course at a less popular time. (Late afternoons, evenings, and, in many schools, Fridays often are less heavily booked.) Or take an online version of the course. If you're a charmer, it never hurts to go see the instructor of a closed class and try to talk your way in. This works particularly well if you have some need for the course, like you're a graduating senior or the course is a prerequisite for another course you plan to take next semester.
3. My professor is unbelievably boring. What you can do: Drop the course and find another one with a better professor. Every college has its duds, but there's no reason why you have to get stuck with one. Even if the professor is the only person teaching a required course, there are always possibilities of getting the adviser or the department chair to authorize a substitution for a requirement. Or just wait until the course is next offered, ideally with an instructor who at least makes a minimal effort to keep you awake.
4. The classes are too big. What you can do: Look for smaller sections of the same class, if available, or classes that have discussion sections in addition to the large lecture. Another possibility: Seek out seminars, which are often offered for both first-year and more advanced students. Even taking just one small class can help you feel less lost in the crowd. Of course, you could always transfer to a school where the student-to-faculty ratio is less than 19 to 1. (For these stats, see U.S. News's complete America's Best Colleges rankings.)
5. I keep getting lousy grades. What you can do: If you're not doing well in a course—or in all your courses—first diagnose the problem. If you're not going to class or studying, then you need to turn over a new leaf. If you don't have the necessary skills or brain power, consider dropping to a lower-level version of the same subject. But if you're really putting in the effort with nothing to show for it, see your professor and/or TA and ask what's going wrong. In this case, you need a genuine concern to do better in the course—and a willingness to do what it takes.
6. I hate writing papers. What you can do: Think about a paper as simple communication. Can you think up five reasons why the cop shouldn't give you a ticket when you were going 77 mph in a 25 mph zone? If this were a paper, the claim that you don't deserve a ticket would be your thesis statement, and your five reasons would be the ways you prove your thesis. Now apply this to your history paper assignment.
7. I freak out during exams. What you can do: You'll be a lot less stressed if you practice sample questions under test conditions before the actual test. Most professors provide lots of information about the type of questions you'll be asking on the exam, and many offer study guides or sample tests. Tests can actually be fun when you come in and see the exact questions you practiced at home—or at least ones very close to what you practiced. Also, be sure to go over your last test when preparing for the current one. Professors are known to have a "one size fits all" mentality when making up tests, so it's likely that the test you're studying for will have the same format as the one you lost your lunch over.
8. I can't get my courses to transfer properly. What you can do: If you're trying to get AP credit for courses you took in high school or course credit for work you did at another school, first gather all your material score reports, transcripts from your old college, transfer evaluation forms, and syllabi, and then hoof it over to the transfer evaluator. Be sure to keep copies of whatever you hand over. If the discussion is in person, make sure you answer (and, in certain cases, document) exactly the questions asked. If the evaluation is by form, make sure you print clearly and answer exactly what's asked. Advisers spend about a minute and a half on each transfer request, so it's important that everything is there and in the proper place.
9. My roommate would make Hannibal Lecter seem like a nice guy. What you can do: See the dorm counselor or resident adviser on your floor as soon as possible. They are trained in resolving roommate disputes or reassigning roommates in serious cases. Another (unadvertised) possibility is a roommate swap at the end of the semester.
10. Dorm food sucks. What you can do: See if you can eat some meals at other dorms where the food is more upper class, ethnic, vegetarian, low-calorie, plentiful, or whatever else you'd prefer. You could also bring food to supplement the available options. The costs are higher, but you might enjoy your meals more. Or you can go for the universal remedy: ordering pizza.
11. My dorm room makes the Motel 6 look like the Taj Mahal. What you can do: Visit other dorms to see if they have better rooms. At many schools, especially state universities, the dorms were built at many different times, and the quality varies significantly. Another thing to consider is living off campus. Lots of students live in apartments, some of which have amenities such as exercise rooms, pools, and even Jacuzzis. Your college housing office should be able to provide you with a number of housing alternatives.
12. I can't afford a parking space within 5 miles of the place. OK, we feel your pain. College parking fees are outrageous (parking is $500 a year, even in Arkansas). What you can do: Consider carpooling, parking at a more remote (and cheaper) lot, biking, and taking mass transit (especially university buses, which often are free). Hey, you can at least feel good about going greener.
13. This college is nothing like what I expected it to be. It can happen, especially when you've paid too much attention to the YouTube-style videos on the college website put out by the admissions office. What you can do: Seek out those places and activities at the college that attracted you in the first place. Going to a few fun activities—and meeting a few fun people—can change your perspective about the school 100 percent.
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