College 101: Tips On How To Start School Off On The Right Foot

About four years ago I received a big, fat envelope from the college of my dreams. With shaking hands, I cautiously peeled it open to find that New York University was pleased to invite me to join the class of 2008! I proceeded to run around the house, screaming at the top of my lungs. Once I convinced my parents to let me move 3000 miles away, I promptly realized I had no idea what I was in for.

The first thing you need to take care of before you head off to school is money (as if your parents will let you forget this). If you haven’t done so already, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Go to and be sure to check your school’s deadlines. Unless you're rolling in dough, you’re going to need some help paying tuition. Once your school sends you a financial aid package, always appeal it. There’s extra money to go around, and it never hurts to ask for more. You should also look for outside scholarships, especially ones awarded specifically to Hispanics. Apply to all the ones you can find and you'll increase your chances of receiving one. The less debt you have to pay off in loans, the better.

Next, start thinking about what you want to study. Take a list of the majors your school offers and highlight the ones that interest you. Do a little research on each and find out what careers you can get into. You don’t have to choose right away, but it helps to know what’s out there. Don't freak out if you can't decide! If you’re like most students, you’ll change your mind at least once. When you meet with your advisor, be prepared with specific questions. One of my biggest disappointments with my dream school has been the advising. They rushed me through it and sometimes gave me false information. Yes, they are busy, but helping you is their job, so be sure to get what you need from them.

The most fun part of going off to college (besides escaping the watchful eyes of your parents) is buying cute stuff for your dorm room. If you’re going far, though, it helps to limit yourself to just the stuff you’ll need right away. You can buy the rest when you get there. Plus, if you live with other people, you can split up what you’ll both use. I successfully made it through four years without buying a single pot or pan, thanks to my roommates.

My final suggestion would be to work hard and enjoy yourself. You can do both, but make school a priority. If your family’s anything like mine, education is priority number one! Good luck and have fun!

-Michelle Miranda