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Off to College

Discussion in 'Real Life Discussion' started by Lion, Jun 7, 2012.

  1. Nargles

    Nargles Seventh Year

    Apr 2, 2011
    New England
    About books:

    If you're studying Engineering, don't bother buying books for your science classes. I'm majoring in Chemical Engineering and I'm telling you that I never once opened my General Chemistry book. The same can be said about Organic Chemistry and Physics.

    However, you might want to get the more advance books. I made the mistake of not buying the Physical Chemistry book that I needed and I almost payed for it. I rarely use my books for Transfer Operations and ChemEng Thermodynamics, but I somehow feel safer with them.

    Also, your math books (Calculus and Differential Equations) are your Holy Grail. Those were the only books that I constantly used. You know, 'cause practice makes perfect and all that shit, and my Professors always used the books to make their weekly quizzes. Except for this one guy - he made his own quizzes that were insanely hard and nobody ever got anything higher than an 80 on the best of days. We affectionately called those things a "Mike Special."

    Speaking of math, if your are studying either the Physical Sciences or Engineering, taking extra math courses in Linear Algebra or Partial Differential Equations wouldn't be a bad idea. And don't get lazy either and start depending on Wolfram Alpha. It's a bad habit to have when you're taking your math classes. Use it afterwards in your last years when you don't have time to solve every little thing.

    Graphing calculators. Use them, but like Wolfram Alpha, don't depend on them. There was a guy in one of my classes who had to borrow a scientific calculator from the Professor because he forgot his own graphing calculator. The dumbass failed because he forgot how to integrate.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012
  2. Lungs

    Lungs KT Loser Prestige DLP Supporter

    Jul 16, 2011
    i love girl's generation tbh
    High Score:
    Welp, this thread seems to be getting more and more relevant for me as we approach the start of the school year.

    Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta debt-slave to Sallie Mae.

    I have a bunch of questions I guess:

    1. How are college-campus jobs, generally - what are the hours like, the pay, how much do most people work, etc? Would I be able to live off of it?

    2. How often did y'all usually go home during the school year?

    3. Does anyone know of a relatively cheap stereo system (100-200 bucks) that can play good bass? XD
  3. Oz

    Oz Heir to Hogwarts Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 31, 2008
    Baile Átha Cliath
    My experience is all from an Irish Uni, so...

    1. Shit, unless you get lucky. A friend of mine's managed to position himself as the SU's web designer/developer and he's gotten a lot of freelance work with contacts he's made through them. More and more of the campusy jobs are being out-sourced every year I've been here, but a few people manage to get jobs cleaning or in cafés. Or as TAs, but only towards the end of the degree or for post-grads. Wages are generally minimum wage I imagine, and hours probably aren't great (except my buddy).

    2. I only live 10 miles away so I cycle in and out every day. :>

    3. Get two of these motherfuckers. They fit in your bag, sound surprisingly awesome and last for ages. They've been the life-blood of dozens of parties, drunk camping trips and every caving trip I've been to.
  4. Silens Cursor

    Silens Cursor The Silencer DLP Supporter

    Nov 23, 2008
    The other side of reality
    Okay, stepping in to answer the questions from a Canadian POV:

    1. Oz is right, these jobs are generally shit. On-campus work, unless you get work as a lab tech or working on back end CS projects, normally pay minimum wage or worse. But even in terms of the 'good' on-campus jobs, they seldom pay much at all, and they expect you to work obscene hours unless you get extremely lucky and find a generous professor who somehow came into an influx of grant money. You typically can't support yourself on just an on-campus job - I recommend a co-op program if your school has one, or looking into off-campus positions however you can.

    2. I didn't - home was several thousand kilometers away (a couple provinces over), so I went home between terms. It's good for fostering independence, terrible if you get homesick.

    3. I bought a refurbished stereo system for $40 that served me well for the years I was university, and I wasn't complaining.
  5. Mage

    Mage Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

    Apr 18, 2006
    Washington, DC
    1) Agreed, on campus jobs suck and pay minimum and usually make you work at least one weekend night if they're open then. The only bright side is they understand that you have school work so you get flexible hours around your school schedule. If there's a downtown near you investigate there. Most likely they will make you work at least some weekends but you'll get much better money. Restaurants are always looking for more people to work. If you have any stuff you're really good at like electronics look for specialty stores like that.

    2) I went home for holidays and breaks, and that's it. I was about 400 miles away, and didn't have a car freshman year. It was a bit tough at first, but once I got over the initial homesickness I didn't have a problem. Honestly it probably helped me get over it because I didn't have any choice.

    3) What area are you looking for, your room? If so I reccomend these . I have these for my room and they're plenty loud though they won't give you the bass that a full subwoofer would. That being said they're much easier to transport then a full setup and don't require a receiver.

    Good Luck!
  6. Andro

    Andro Master of Death DLP Supporter

    Jun 23, 2007
    Check if your college has a listing of on-campus jobs on its internal student site. If they have requirements you don't meet, whatever, move on. Things like people wanting assistants in the lab, or in a clinic, or just doing grunt electronic work. They can pay quite well (relatively, I mean a few dollars above minimum wage).

    Try and contact people ahead of time. As in, a month or so before the start of term. Come on strong onto the person offering - they'll nearly always reply and if they like you from the mail, they'll arrange a meeting the first week of school. This will likely be a formality kind of thing, particularly if not too many people have asked about the jobs (which will probably be the case, since many will inquire about jobs after arriving on campus).

    That was how I got my job last year. It was a $11.00 an hour job, also I could do it on my laptop which wasn't bad at all for an incoming freshman. I still had to show my results, but importantly I could do it whenever in the week.

    Also, if it's a remotely library-affiliated job (for example, I did stuff for an open-rights access stuff, uploading research papers that had left copyright to openly accessible archives) you may be the only guy in the group, as was the case with me. This is a good thing, because 4 out of the 5 girls were pretty hot.


    -Working in the dining halls, doing catering, whatever, can be pretty cool, and social. However, I noticed that the dining hall student staff had to keep working, even during the crunch times like midterms, finals, etc.

    -I think monitor of study areas is an efficient option, because you're basically not doing anything but occasionally changing printers or giving directions to some other building, and can use that time to do your studies.

    -Most jobs that say "Useful for experience/to be put on your resume" are garbage, disqualify those immediately. A simple example would be a payroll kind of job in the math department claiming it's helpful for finance-majors - garbage. If it's actually helpful or relevant to you academically, they'll let you draw that conclusion yourself.

    -Finally, I found the pay ($11/hour, 15 hours a week, most of the year) useful for expenses like moving around the city, joining your friends at a restaurant outside the dining hall, buying the occasional item of clothing that catches your eye, checking out the aquarium or museum, and by second semester enough to pay for what books you couldn't avoid buying from the school bookstore. I had enough to pay for a summer storage service and have some left over, although I still relied on my parents to pay for my airplane tickets between home and school during the holidays, and at the end of the year.

    So, I was able to 'live off it', after the initial buying of books in the fall with money from my parents.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2012
  7. Vir

    Vir Centauri Ambassador Prestige DLP Supporter

    May 21, 2006
    High Score:
    To add to this. I'm starting my doctorate in September, does anyone have any words of wisdom/advice for me before I get myself in too deep?
  8. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman Prestige DLP Supporter

    Nov 11, 2005
    High Score:
    Vir, the only advice I can give you is from a story my dissertation supervisor told me about a doctoral candidate he had a few years ago. The guy drove himself near to burnout within a few months because he didn't know when to stop or how to spread his work load out. So basically, know when to take a break and know someway to completely take the pressure off on occasion. For the guy in the story, my supervisor ended up having to drag him out to the pub every couple of weeks and get him completely sloshed just so he didn't have a breakdown.
  9. Constans

    Constans Sixth Year DLP Supporter

    Jul 13, 2008
    This. I'll emphasize further by pointing out I do know one who had a breakdown and ended up taking 2 quarters off.

    Almost everything regarding food, lifestyle and academics I could think of has been said earlier. But I'll stress and try add things from my experience.

    Silens made some excellent points. Bring a fan. Seriously. If it is a public university, unless you're going to Alaska they probably believe in cranking up heating to Indian summer levels. And don't have cooling for summer. Added, the general stuffiness in the dorms, a fan is a good idea. Next, food. If you're into cooking really really good for you. Otherwise the microwave is your friend - stock up on microwaveable food.

    Have an basic organizer/scheduler of at least some kind (smartphone, notebook, computer, anything will do). Lots of Professors talk about homework/reading just before the end of class. It really depends - some are highly organized and have every single possible work to be done on the given Syllabus. Even if you're not the Organizer/Planner type it's a good idea to at least have some basic stuff down. You'd be surprised at how much you can forget, and remember right before it's due.

    Next, this one is very subjective but check RatemyProfessor before taking a class. I've never cared about it much - especially the "ratings" but every now and then you find a hidden gem in the comments about a professor's teaching style (unorganized/organized, participatory or not, attitude to technology, exam/midterm style, ticks, TA centric class, etc.). While choosing classes in freshman year, many of which have multiple Professors/Lecture, it can be helpful in finding the Professor that fits your style. That said, of course take every thing there with a grain of salt.

    Moving on, since academics, food, etc. has been discussed quite a bit earlier, I'm going to focus on extracurricular stuff/CV building. Granted it's a little early for that, but having spent the last year doing nothing but talking with recruiters and asking people I know personally, who are/were recruiters, I lot of what I've been told is really easy to make a habit of early on. Btw, these are of course my personal experiences.

    Someone said to join clubs/activities. I'll be more specific. Join 3 clubs.

    First, join one club on the more academic/dream-job/skill side - public speaking, debates, programming, your Major discussion group, etc. Try and find one which has competitive activities/seminars. They look excellent on your CV and will give the idea that you were serious about 'holistic' development/topic of interest (your Major/dream job) from the very beginning.

    Second, as someone said earlier volunteer/join a charity. Even if you don't like it suck up and do it. It's not essential strictly speaking but a lot of people/recruiters like it as a character reference/sign of social awareness. And in the hyper-competitive world, that little thing which made you look good like a decent person at worst, or at best, strike a connection with someone can make the difference.

    Last, join a club about something you like for fun. I think Silens mentioned cross-country in the beginning of the thread. For me it was photography. It'll be the one thing that'll keep you from going crazy under pressure. Freshman maybe a piece of cake and Sophomore doable but once you start taking major specific classes and most people are doing their own shit, it's relaxing. Especially cuz even if you're into partying/clubbing - time constraints. Bad day? Bored on a break/weekend? Bad grades on a midterm? Need to relax? Need some time for yourself but don't want to go crazy/into depression sitting alone? Go out running cross-country, shooting (photos), rowing, or appropriate for this forum - writing, for an hour or two even on a weekday. Whatever. Bonus: People love asking about your one serious hobby. This'll serve as that and could/should go on your CV. Side-note: Joining a club is not strictly necessary; you can do stuff on your own. But it's nice to know similar people so you can do group activities every now and then when you want company (+put on CV but here that's secondary).

    Here's the thing, you can absolutely join 10 more clubs and it's not bad strictly speaking. But as you advance you'll probably end up dropping all but those you're most dedicated t/w - unless you have an insane work ethic/planning skills. Thus, they end up being things you do/did to kill spare time. The essential 3 should not be 'fun stuff I did in college' but more like part of your routine - and hence be able to go onto your CV without hesitation. Which is why it's best to start early on them. Also take note that a lot of people (read recruiters, important people) these days, strongly believe that being in 10 different clubs is useless at best and bad at worst; lack of commitment, attention whore, nothing you're really good at, just a jack of all traits without any needed specialization/focus (basically all over the place and gimmicky) leading to no significant personality development.

    Finally, to sum up - Skills. The most important thing you need to work on to acquire from college. Sadly, this is what most colleges are the worst at helping you acquire. There three critical parts of a CV (the Fed even has an official test focusing on them): Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Knowledge is fairly self explanatory and what colleges do best: information you acquire, learn. You read The New Yorker/The Economist back to back? Pay attention in class, current affairs? Really get those Math/Science problems and can discuss topics at length? All excellent for your knowledge but haven't got a damm thing to do with Skills.

    Skills are talents you acquire that allow you to practically use the information/Knowledge you gathered. You usually need to work on them. Say, end of 1st/2nd/3rd year - what was that one useful Skill you developed properly in college?

    Examples: Writing is one; can you write large/short papers with a persuasive argument? Critical Reading; being able to proof read what others have written and find mistakes, as well as sort out bs from thesis. Planning/Organizing: are you proficient at time management, and can you plan for a group project? etc. etc.

    Next is, are those skills something you can make money from in your future?Not something you need to bother about right now, but the idea is work t/w developing those ignored skills. You don't need to ignore skills you're good at, but just know these are your already strong skills, and which ones are your weak ones to work on them.

    Abilities is pretty much explanatory too: how good are you at in applying those skills. Point is, the others (mainly Knowledge) are equally important but Skills are usually something you have to really work on your own more than the others. As someone else pointed out, every other person out there also wants to work for Apple/Google/Goldman and probably has an awesome GPA from a decent college. What makes you different?

    Notice the club thing I mentioned also tying in with skills. Sorry if a lot of this is job focused, but I've found that a lot of this stuff is easier to implement earlier on....(Or maybe I just spent too much time job hunting, etc. and OCD over the issue.)

    That's about it. Sorry for the wordiness/length.

    tl;dr: Bring a fan. Use a basic planner/scheduler. Check RateMyProf once in a while and read comments. Join 3 Clubs: Academic/Skill/Major related, Charity/Volunteer Work, Fun/Hobby you like. Develop at least 1 marketable/real life useable skill you can make money from in the future, per year.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  10. Perspicacity

    Perspicacity High Score: 3,994 Prestige DLP Supporter

    Nov 27, 2007
    High Score:
    Programs differ a lot by discipline and nationality, so I'll try to stick with things that are more or less universal. I received my Ph.D. in theoretical physics at a California university back in the 1990s and my comments draw from this experience. While some things may have changed, most of this should still be current:
    • Balance is key--don't burn out, but don't slack either. Getting a Ph.D. (or equivalent) means playing a long game.
    • If your program has coursework, recognize that it is likely to be far more challenging, nuanced, deeper, and demanding of self-study than what you experienced as an undergrad. You will need an ethic of self-motivation. Seriously, don't slack off--the stuff you're learning in these courses is foundational and serves as a common language among academics in your discipline. In physics, for example, everyone expects you to just know statistical physics, Jackson E&M, quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and thermodynamics. If you have gaps in your knowledge, you won't even be able to read the literature, something that would be a serious handicap.
    • That said, acquire a sense of learning for the sake of learning, of spending hours in the stacks outside the classroom finding your own way about your discipline. This is valuable always, but especially so early in your graduate career, before you've settled on a dissertation topic and/or academic advisor. The best topics are ones a student sets for himself based on his passions.
    • Exercise regularly and eat well. It's too easy to let the stress of grad school get to you and to let yourself go.
    • Take downtime during breaks between terms and get off campus, even if just to go camping for a few days.
    • Learn to spot the signs of acute depression, both in yourself and your friends. Mental health issues among graduate students are frightfully common (severe depression hits more than 40% of students in some studies I've seen) and most campuses provide counseling and other mental health services to students.
    • Maintain a social network of fellow grad students, postdocs, etc., academic colleagues you can chat with and bounce ideas off. If you go into academia, your social network will be key to success.
    • A Ph.D. is not enough. Go to meetings and conferences, present your work, and talk to people. Network. There's nothing worse than filing your dissertation, the capstone of your life's work, and not having a job because you started looking too late. Most of the junior scientists I hire are ones I've met in meetings or who have come recommended by my colleagues. Don't deny yourself this resource.
    • Work out what successful academics in your field of choice do and start doing it as early as possible in grad school, where you still have resources to ensure you acquire the job skills. For instance, in physics, one is expected to publish refereed articles in journals and present one's work in talks and posters at meetings. Doing either well is a learned skill and you have to give yourself time to learn it. This is part of your training as a grad student, so don't deny yourself this chance.
    • Choose your academic advisor carefully. He or she has to be someone you can work with for the next few/several years, someone who will mentor you on your career, someone successful enough and with enough standing in the academic community that his or her reference letter carries weight. Also, it's best if your advisor has a management style that suits your temperament so that you can have an effective working relationship. Talk with his or her former students about the experience of working for the advisor. Is he/she someone who promotes students, or uses them as chattel to advance his/her own career? How is co-authorship of papers determined? Talk to the vice-chair for academics in your department--if possible, find out if there have been any formal complaints filed against the advisor by students.
    • If you're a TA or lecturer and hold office hours, never close the door with a student inside. Few things fuck up your life more than an easily preventable sexual harassment suit.
    • This should be a no-brainer, but never date/fuck/hit on your students. (Wait until the term ends and they aren't your students anymore.)
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  11. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    (1) The only jobs I had on campus were working in research labs. I worked in a Polymer lab for one semester and an Analytical Chemistry lab for 2 years as an Undergraduate. Both were a minimum of 10 hours per week, with a maximum of 20 (hours were flexible, for the most part I signed in/out and got paid per hour on a two-week pay schedule). Pay was better than minimum wage but not by much (like rounded up to the nearest full dollar amount).

    (2) I lived about 1.5 hours from home, driving. At first I went home about one weekend a month, but in later years I started going home a bit less.

    (3) No clue.

    Edit: Pers advice on getting a PhD seems about right too. Picking the right advisor is important for sure. A friend of mine who graduated a bit before I did had an issue with the "closed door" thing in that two students came to see him and before he knew what happened one of them had closed the door and gotten out a camera while the other was trying to sit in his lap -- fortunately his OMGWTF response saved him when he leapt backwards, but yeah -- that stuff happens.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  12. insectamantidae

    insectamantidae Professor

    Dec 24, 2007
    Somewhere in central MA
    And remember, in Grad school, just like in creative writing, you write maybe 4,000 words and keep 200. And that's if you're lucky. So write as much as you can on anything even remotely related to your thesis, and put a brief synopsis and page length into an excel sheet you can update easily. I save myself a great deal of work knowing that on 9.21.11 I wrote a 5 page book review on Merchant correspondence carried by the Knights Templar on the price of pepper.... if I need that ever again, I can put my hands on it immediately. So back up whatever you write - and put the details down in a separate searchable document. Even if you think it's crap, later on when you're reviewing the literature, or need to throw in an extra assignment somewhere, you don't have to say "Oh, crap. I read this and reviewed it for Prof. Larson ages ago and now I have to do it again fml."