How to get the most out of college

College can be a wonderful time in your life, especially when you're enrolled in interesting courses and free to pursue abroad programs. Here's some advice to help you get the most out of your college experience.

How to get the most out of college

Feel free to change courses

There's no point in sitting through university or college courses that bore you, or putting up with professors with no gift for teaching. It's very expensive in terms of time, money and emotional commitment. If you're not getting what you want out of it, you should be looking for another course, another area of study, another instructor. Here are some smart ways to switch out of or drop courses:

  • Ask an academic advisor before dropping a prerequisite. Dropping a course can mess up your prerequisite structure, in some cases even adding a year onto your degree.
  • Follow the correct procedure to drop the course. Don't simply stop going to class. You will fail the course, and failures show up on your transcript for potential employers to see. Says McIntyre: "It becomes a question mark over you."
  • Act fast. Don't switch professors five weeks in, with mid-terms looming. Teachers have different ways of teaching material and the way they examine you is tied in to the way they teach. The vocabulary may be different, for example, and that's what will be used on tests and expected in papers.
  • Be aware that dropping a course could change your status from full-time to part-time. This might affect bursaries, scholarships and student loan arrangements, among other things. In addition, income tax savings for you or your parents will change, as the education deduction will be reduced by more than half.

Travel as education

There is no doubt that a post-secondary education can provide many benefits to young people, but in terms of understanding the demands of a global society and learning to think on their feet, nothing beats travel. Here are some options to get them out of the country without breaking the bank:

  • Hostels: Hostels are still the most popular place to stay for young people, at least in Europe, in part because they're inexpensive. For $20 or $30, students can get a bed for the night. An added benefit: they provide a social milieu for meeting young people from all over the world. The most common jump-off point for Canadian students travelling overseas is London, England, for English-Canadians and Paris, for French-speakers, mainly because the plane tickets are inexpensive.
  • Study abroad programs: Another way to see the world without bankrupting your family: most Canadian universities offer study programs abroad. For example, recent study-abroad courses in Canada have been offered in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. One example is a two-week sociology course in Cuba. The estimated cost: $2,900 (including airfare, accommodation and tuition).
  • Work programs: Through SWAP, the Student Work Abroad Program operated out of universities across the country, students can arrange working holidays in the UK, France, Germany, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, South Africa, China and Japan. While the program doesn't actually place the students, for a fee ranging from $230 to $1,825 they get a working visa, an orientation session, up to a week of accommodation in their chosen country, mail drop and forwarding services, a phone card, e-mail access and ongoing support. Check it out at www.swap.ca.

Keep this guide in mind and get the most out of your college experience by choosing courses that interest you and taking advantage of exciting travel opportunities.

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