Discover Studying Abroad

12 Most Important College Hacks for International Students

Itís highly recommended that students practice these seemingly benign tasks so that the juggling act of academia and chores donít turn into a train wreck.
BY Rakhi Bhandari |   27-04-2020

BrainGain Magazine
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

While most undergrads prepare for college with endless lists of bath supplies, bedlinen and protein bars, they often overlook another list that is more likely to sustain them through college. These 12 College Hacks may be a surefire way of securing the health, finances, social life, and academic success of any student preparing for college overseas. It may be especially helpful for Indian students who are accustomed to being waited on hand and foot by Mummy, a motley crew of family members and a battalion of household help. Instead of going cold turkey on American soil, it is highly recommended that students prepare in advance to practice these seemingly benign tasks so that the juggling act of academia and chores does not turn into a train wreck. This list applies to all aspects of college life outside the classroom as it is expected that you have that well under control.

  1. Time Management — Although this list was not intended to be in any specific order, it goes without saying that the most important skill of college life is effective time management. As undergrads arrive on campus and get their first taste of independence, it is inevitable that days and nights become a blur with little to show for it. With time, however, it is expected that you take control of the situation with a schedule; one that balances course work, chores and leisure activities. College is not meant to be a constant soul sucking, nose to the grindstone affair. It is an experience like no other and is often defined as the best years of one’s life. You are allowed to make choices like an adult without bearing the burdens of one. So, make those choices carefully.

  2. Laundry — Set a day and time for laundry that best fits your schedule to take care of this seemingly mindless and tedious chore. It pays to separate the darks from the whites or prepare to make a grungy grey fashion statement. Using the right amount of detergent and laundry machine settings is important too but let’s get one thing straight — there’s nothing like dirty sheets and damp smelly towels to turn the friendliest roommate into the enemy.

  3. Cleaning — If you’re fortunate you may share your tiny dorm room with a clean, organized roomie. The reverse may be true too, so come prepared to do your share of the chores like getting those dust bunnies out from under the bed. Desks covered in Cheetos dust and bottle caps that disappear mysteriously is not the way to go if you want to keep pests away. Yes, we have roaches in America and bedbugs too!

  4. Cooking — This skill may be overlooked at first but wait until you are into a month or two of cafeteria meals. The initial joy of unlimited burgers and ice cream dissipates rapidly once your jeans refuse to button up and the sight of dining hall pasta makes you want to hurl. There is no pressure to go gourmet but learning a few basic favorites at home will serve you well ­ — you get to eat what you want and stay healthy.

  5. Proper Hygiene — This one probably should be at the top of the list. There’s nothing like poor hygiene to turn you into a social pariah and you want to bring your best game when there is a campus teeming with potential dates and lifelong friends waiting to be discovered. Proper dental hygiene practices, regular baths and deodorizing will go a long way to keep you in the big leagues, and yes, scruffy beards went out with tie and dye back in the sixties.

  6. Prioritizing sleep — if you are accustomed to staying up all night and sleeping in the next day until all odd hours, it is inevitable that once in college, it will snowball into a catastrophe. Whether it’s your backlog of course work or your addiction to League of Legends that keeps you awake, it’s time to do a self-check and reset your body clock. Not only will it jeopardize your academic success as it is proven that sleep deprivation dumbs you down considerably, there is a chance it may lead to depression and is said to be a leading cause of college dropouts.

  7. Physical Activity — Take time out to play a sport while you prepare for college. Joining or creating your own team may be a good place to start once you’re there. If sports are not your thing, get a workout at the gym with a buddy. Physical and mental fitness go hand in hand especially as the semester progresses and the workload increases. The odds of depleting your energy are far greater if you are a couch potato.

  8. Taking care of yourself when you are sick — A sniffle and a cough can turn one into a hypochondriac now more so than ever. Get attuned to your body and learn to differentiate between a minor ailment that can be treated with a Tylenol and a nap and more serious underlying issues which need medical attention. Bringing a First Aid box is a good idea to tackle pesky cuts or bites and minor ailments.

  9. Budgeting and money management — This one’s a nobrainer as poor spending habits will leave you scrounging midway through the month if you are on an allowance. Making a budget helps alleviate that unnecessary stress. Buying second-hand textbooks and selling your used ones can help. Nobody pays for their online games anymore, so I won’t go there but every bit counts so use your prepaid meal pass and free resources at the library for copying and printing assignments. It is probably a good idea to keep a regular check on your monthly expenses to keep your finances intact.

  10. Getting a part time job — This may have you scratching your chin, but every campus has a plethora of part time jobs to keep the moolah coming in. Resist the urge to turn to Mum and Dad to support every desire with endless demands of money transfers into your bank account. It should be enough that they are paying for your education. Decide to be an adult and you may make them proud. Better yet — it may be pivotal in turning you into a responsible adult and one who laughs all the way to the bank.

  11. Good study habits - This goes hand in hand with time management. Procrastination with projects and presentations will be your kryptonite, slowly draining you off your energy and leaving you with no time for fun. Drinking endless cups of coffee and using toothpicks to keep those eyelids apart may be the norm, but this is not the time to cultivate a herd mentality. So, man up and set your own standards!

  12. Building discipline — This sums up every other point whether it be about hygiene, money, food habits, work or money management. It is up to each of you to foster self-discipline which in turn, by sheer force of habit will kick-start your journey into becoming dependable adults. As someone once said, “The more disciplined you become the easier life gets.”

Rakhi Bhandari

Rakhi Bhandari has been a contributor to Braingain magazine, India Abroad and Phillyfit magazine. A trained chef and entrepreneur, her writing career began with her passion for cooking.



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