Post One – September 2020
Hi, I am Chris, a freshman at the University of Southern Maine. I moved in on Tuesday, August 25th and I plan to major in Computer Science.
Throughout the next year, I will take you through the life of a college student– what it’s like, especially with this crazy time of Covid.
I started my journey late, applying to colleges around January of my senior year – just a tad bit late. When I first applied, or should I say, when I FINALLY applied, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to go for, or where, so I guess you could say I played it safe and applied to just about every college in Maine. If it had an online application, they got one from me.
Before too long I started to get letters of acceptance back. By this point, I was running short on time and I had to sit down and determine the best options considering factors like cost – this was a big factor – but also considering the campus itself. My parents reminded me that I would be living there, at least for a while, so it was important that I liked the campus otherwise I may not be as inclined to give it my best.
After looking over all of the schools, my two favorite colleges were Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and the University of Southern Maine (USM).
Here were some factors that I considered when narrowing it down to the two schools:
- Distance from home – I have to travel home on breaks and get my stuff to and from school; too far from home means additional costs.
- Major – Computer Science is what I want but, for me, it made sense to look at schools that offered other things I like too. If I want to change my major, I could transfer schools but it would be a lot easier to stay in one place.
- Cost – I have to pay for this.
- Campus – I looked at the layout and asked, “Could I have a car on campus? Would I want a car on campus? Will there be a lot of walking and did I like the look and feel of the place?” After all, this will be my home for the next four years.
With all of those thoughts on my mind, I decided on the University of Southern Maine. SNHU was offering the first year free to incoming freshmen, but even with that, USM was the best decision for me. Once the hard part was done, the exciting part began. I was able to make a list and go shopping. Creating the list was a lot easier than I expected. USM helped a lot by posting on their website what our rooms would already offer (e.g. desk, fridge, microwave etc.) and then what they recommend we bring. I did a little extra research and created a list and then talked with my parents to make sure I had not missed anything – then I got to shopping. This is where the excitement waned a little, as I began to shop with my own budget (The College Fund that I had been adding to for a while) was tight after I bought my text books. If you have not started saving – it is never too late. After shopping I am still reeling from sticker shock.
Do you know how much a power cord costs? Want a few snacks for your room, there goes $30.00. Also, with Covid, shopping just wasn’t the same. I did most of my shopping online, having package after package delivered to my house. Here is another question: why does shipping need to be so much? One broom with shipping was the same as buying two brooms. In the end, I used my parents’ Amazon Prime account to ship the things for free that I could, and then I did free in store pick-up with the other things.
Future students, if you are like me you will underestimate how much you have. Packing was not as easy as I thought it would be. USM also asked that we pack light, leaving excess furniture (e.g. fans, lamps, rugs, bean bags etc.) at home.
At the time of writing this, it is my second day on campus and if I am being honest, it is not the most exciting. Because of Covid, I do not have a roommate. That is great but it also means I am on my own to start. My classes start on Monday, August 31st, so I have a few days to acclimate. First year orientation has been planned out for me over the week. I like that USM has planned it that way, not too much excitement at once. I have unpacked and set-up my room, though I did forget my hangers, so it looks like I’ll be calling my mom soon. I am looking forward to having more freedom on campus and the beginning of classes.
Until next time.
Post Two – October 2020
It’s been a little while since my last check in. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. Before going to USM I had heard people say that college can be some of the best years of your life – that you make memories and lifelong friends and have a freedom you have yet to experience. They were right and with the safety measures in place I have my room to myself, so it really feels like I am living on my own.
Since I first arrived in August everything has kind of calmed down. When I first moved in we were all required to get Covid tests, and quarantine for three days until we all got our results back. Since then, we have been able to leave campus, as long as we carry a blue lanyard that shows we are Covid-free. Dining has also gotten better. When we moved in our breakfast was packed in a bag for us, which we would receive at dinner (for the next day). At dinner we had three food options; rice and chicken, rice and chicken, oooooor rice and chicken. Thankfully, that did not last long and our options for food are much wider and actually quite good. I say actually because I imagined it being like typical cafeteria food. USM has pizza, pastas and salad every night, but, if you like to spice it up, they have an open wok where they make fresh noodles and stir fry every night- which is pretty good. They also have a grill area where they switch it up between making either chicken sandwiches or burgers, and in some rare occasions they have steak or lobster. My personal favorite is the simple servings area. It sounds like they give out less food there, but they really don’t, they just cook food that doesn’t have common allergens in it, such as nuts, wheat, or soy. They usually cook chicken or pork chops with steamed veggies and pair it with a rice or pasta.
This year they are requiring all freshmen to get a 19 meal plan, meaning that each week you can swipe your meal card 19 times for meals, with a supplemental budget of $50 to use at the Husky Hideaway, which is a mini “restaurant” under the dining hall. This is more meals than usual because the school wants us to be incented to eat on campus more (and not leave as often). I wasn’t too worried about only having 19 meals a week, because I don’t usually eat three meals a day, but for others it could be hard, as 21 meals would be normal to have a week. I usually sleep in so I’ll grab a late breakfast/early lunch, and then dinner after practices. It has worked out well for me so far.
Another big difference for me, or really anyone, has been having to wear a mask everywhere. It isn’t a big deal, and I would 100% rather stay safe than get sick, but after three workout sessions and practices having to wear a mask, I contemplated rolling the dice with Covid (just kidding, mom). Sporting events have been so different this year with Covid, for basketball our season won’t start till January. Practices will also be so different this year, we will be split into two groups, so that until further notice we will not be practicing all together, which makes it more difficult for team bonding and chemistry, but we are making the most out of it.
The biggest difference for me, though, has been the complete freedom. I always had freedom when I lived at home, but I also always knew that if I needed help I could ask my parents. I know that I still can call them, but it isn’t the same. (Though I did call my mom about the hangers, and she came through – thank you mom. <3) Also, knowing that they would check in on me before, whereas now I’m completely on my own. It’s amazing, but my planning skills have been put to the test. I definitely will be working on those, by putting all of my assignments and practices into my calendar along with about a thousand reminders.
Speaking of homework, I may or may not have some, or a lot, but you’ll never know….
Until next time, this is me signing off….
Post Three – November 2020
Ahhh, and we.are.back!!
Last time we checked in, I was finally settled in with college life and reflecting on how fast time goes by here. In fact, when I last signed off, I had some studying to do (that never ends by the way). I have made better study habits, and thank goodness for that because before that, I may oooor may not have started to slip up in some of my classes. 😉 Time management is a skill that I have definitely been working on.
Covid-19 has changed the dynamic of everything: 75% of my classes are online now, and because of that I just join my classes on my laptop in my dorm room. First tip today, let us call it “a word from the wise”, is do not join your online class from the comfort of your bed; I may or may not have fallen asleep. With most of my classes online, focusing on homework in my room can be a challenge. To help stay on track, I will go either with friends, or by myself, to the library to study. It offers a nice break from my room but is still a quiet place to focus. Second tip for the day/insider secret: if you attend USM there is a nice study spot. Go to the second floor and walk all the way to the back right corner, where there are desks set up in front of a window. It is a comfy spot and offers a pretty view.
While writing, I try to think of things I can share to help make future college students’ experience the best it can be. I thought about the differences between college and high school. The two are not too drastic, but there are differences.
High School vs. College
- Professors are way stricter and more uptight than high school teachers; at least, that is what I had heard. The rumors just are not true, though. Professors are human, so if you do your work and participate, you will be good. I will say I do feel that the pandemic has played a factor with everything. For example, my professors are pretty understanding if you must miss an in-person class and the deadlines are more flexible as well, at least for now.
- The pace of the classes, and what work we are doing in the classes is different. In high school I wrote papers, but they were more at the end of a unit. Whereas in college I write 1-2 papers a week for each of my classes. The weight of work has also been something to take note of. In high school, tests and quizzes were [obviously] weighed higher than homework, but everything else was about the same. In college, there are a lot of things that are weighed differently. Some of the different areas are discussion posts (this is what it sounds like: students participate in online dialogue about a set topic), participation (level of participation in classes), exams and the regular homework – if there is “homework” – and they are all weighted different.
- Professors bring more reality to the classroom. The level of maturity and respect is different. We are spoken to as adults, because – well – we are adults, but it feels more like a conversation vs. high school where it felt more like a teacher talking at a student.
- Support is different and appreciated. Some of my classes have TA’s (Teacher Assistants) that are able to help out with the class work. If they don’t have a TA, you can always reach out to the professor as well and they’re usually pretty quick to respond.
Something new that I haven’t experienced before is that the university offers tutoring for every subject. All you have to do is email them to set up an appointment and they’re right there to help; you are able to get help from tutors twice in every subject twice a week.
I wish I had a car.
I miss transportation of my own. I do not own a car, and though it is not a huge setback, it is still a drawback. I would say that a car is important to have on campus. It is nice to be able to just leave whenever you like (assuming you have the money for gas), and if you have classes in Portland, not having to rely on the University bus would be nice. I have friends on campus who have cars, so I have been able to leave with them, or on occasion, borrow their cars to go to my classes in Portland. If you do not attend USM, this may not be a concern. Sure, I can do it without a car, but the bus requires coordinating the stops with class schedules. You may have to go early or get back much later when relying on the bus.
I have started to save up for a car, but until I started saving up and looking at cars, I did not realize how expensive cars are. Even if I buy an older used car I must pay for insurance and gas. If something goes wrong, then I need money for that too. Oil changes too – so ya, for now, I am on the bus. Over the summer I plan on getting a job to add to my savings for a car so that I can hopefully have one for next year and have enough to cover all the additional costs. Maybe I should probably start looking for jobs now.
What questions do you have? Post your questions on Trademark’s Facebook page (under my blog post) and I will answer them in next month’s blog. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!
Post Four – December 2020
Happy holidays everybody!!
What do online shopping and Cinderella have to do with college? – read on to find out.
This is my favorite time of the year – the festive feelings are in the air!! I don’t know about you guys, but personally, once November 1st hits, it is time to start celebrating Christmas. In my family it’s more than just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. With the holidays coming up, a lot is changing, on and off campus.
By the time you read this, I will already be back home for the holidays (and stuffed full of yummy home cooked food). Unlike non-Covid years, where I would come back after a week, we are actually staying off of campus until the start of next semester, January 19th. Not everyone on campus is able to go home. At least a couple of people on the hockey team are from out of the country, so they will not be going home for the holidays. USM does offer housing for people who cannot leave and will still have chefs on campus for those people. Neat fact – the kitchens will be opened so students can cook for themselves, which is not normal, but what is?
The workload has not been too bad this semester, but we are beginning to start reviewing for finals, which is exciting and a little nerve-racking.
Last month I shared some differences between high school life and college – here is another difference: signing up for classes is completely different. In high school, you typically sign up for your whole year of classes before your current year even ends, but in college it is by semester, and you have to be on top of it! The advisors say that as soon as the clock strikes midnight on the day of enrollment for classes, you should jump on it. Anyone else picturing Cinderella rushing back home before the magic wears off? No, just me?
Insider tip – let me tell you about the “wish list”. Nah, not a Christmas list (although I have one of those too). Most schools have a “class wish list” where you see what classes you need to take for your degree, and then look at possible classes (e.g. dates, times, etc.) to meet those requirements. You can add as many classes to the wish list as you would like, but on enrollment day, you pick through your list for the ones you will take. This is especially helpful if you have pre-requisites. You can put the classes on the list and make sure your schedule can accommodate what you need. If you like online shopping then you would love this; okay, maybe not love it, but there is still a rush and it is kind of fun to do. I cannot STRESS ENOUGH that classes fill sooo fast. When they do, you will be out of luck and stuck with a class you do not want, or you must wait until a later term- ugh.
This first semester has been a lot of fun, but it is not over yet. I am getting close to the second semester and I am excited for the next set of classes.
I cannot wait!!
Post Five – January 2021
I hope you are all doing well. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and coupled with the semester being over, these past few weeks have been nice.
Let me tell you, finals are a different beast in college. I remember during my junior and senior year of high school when finals were not easy, but compared to college finals, they seem like a cakewalk. For my first college final exam experience, the stress built up right till the final day of the exam. This year, I feel like the stress level was much worse after the exams. I should preface, in all honesty, I have not always been the best at preparing for tests. So, while it is heavier in college, one should plan to prepare.
Even with end of semester stress it is nice to be home with my family. Before going home for Thanksgiving and remote learning it had been three months since I had seen my family. It was nice to see them and catch up. I came home and…
*B O O M*
It looked as though a Christmas bomb had been thrown down and detonated, spreading Christmas cheer, loud and clear for all to hear (if you do not know that reference…). It was a warm welcoming home.
As much as I love this time of year, I am excited for it to be over. 2020 has not been a bad year, but it has been an interesting year. To start, my senior year changed completely by going entirely remote, graduation was more like a drive-in movie than an actual graduation, and my senior trip was canceled. College has also been different than expected, with social distancing and regular Covid testing. I was still excited, but it was a lot different than how stuff normally would have been in past years. I still got to experience a lot of new things on campus, like living on my own and meeting new people.
I have enjoyed this year and am ready for 2021.
Have a happy and safe New Year!
Post Six- February 2021
Welcome back to the blog!
It feels good to be back; I really enjoyed this break. I hope you were able to enjoy some time off during the holidays, too. As nice as this break was, I am looking forward to going back to school. If you are in high school that may sound crazy. It is not something I thought I would say. You can check in with me next month and see if I am still excited.
You might remember, when I started college in the fall, I was signed up for Computer Science. The truth is, Computer Science is not what I am excited about. So, I talked to my parents, met with my advisor, and I changed my major to… DRUM ROLL… Marketing- I could not be more excited.
Since changing my major, I have been busy. I am looking to get an internship for marketing and a part-time job (a have an interview for each this week – cross your fingers for me). I am also looking at buying my mom’s car soon (she wants a new one, I need one – it’s a win-win) so I will be needing some moolah.
I start classes on January 25th, and I think they will be a lot more enjoyable. This semester, some of my classes will be more tailored toward my degree, which is super exciting! I also made the decision this semester to live off-campus (at home). With having all my classes online due to COVID-19, it did not make sense to live on campus and it saves moolah!
I think that, for this semester, it’ll be fun if I make some goals for myself, and then see how well I did at the end. So, for this semester, I am looking to:
– Finish all classes with an A or B!
– Get a job
– Get an internship
– Work on certifications for marketing and computer science (never hurts to have more under my belt)
– Buy my mom’s car from her!
– Be smarter with my money.
I think it will be fun to have these little side goals for myself this semester and see how I do at the end, and even to do check-ins throughout to see how I am progressing. If you guys have any goals that you are looking to accomplish, you should let me know and we can do them together!
I look forward to this semester and talking to you guys soon!
Post Seven- March 2021
Happy March, everyone!!
I hope you are all doing well. I don’t know about you, but I was super busy last month. You may recall from my last blog, I shared my goals for this semester. I have already started checking some off my list!
I got a job at Home Depot; so, if you need any help, you can come to the flooring aisle at the South Portland location. Then we can look for someone to help us together, because right now I have no idea where anything is. I am learning a lot and I have some cool tools to help customers.
This semester has been way better for school since being home. I don’t know about you, but I am not always the best at managing my time. Since being home and getting a job, I have been more focused. I have to be. I have a job and a car payment to make. I also believe that after having that first semester to test out the water, I have a better feel for how to manage school. All of my classes this semester are online and only two of them meet on zoom [twice a week]. So, for the most part, it is a “here’s the work, have it in by this day” kind of situation. That sounds great, until it is 11:30pm on Sunday and it’s due at 11:59pm. (Mom & dad, if you’re reading this, that has never happened, it is just a great example.)
Even bigger news, in my opinion, I bought my mom’s car!! So now little old Scarlet (my mom’s name for the car) is little old…. well, I am not quite sure what I will name the car, but I’ll find a good name; maybe you can suggest something.
I am doing well with my other checklist items. My grades are looking good, though Accounting is giving me more difficulty than I would like it to. Sadly, I did not get the internship that I was interviewing for, but that’s okay. I will be applying for more and will keep you updated. As for spending my money more wisely, I will say this: I have been putting aside half of my paycheck into savings. For the other half – I could make improvements in how I spend my money. There is always next week!
I am enjoying this semester of college a lot; it is a different feel after having some time under my belt, but overall, it feels like it is going really well. I will make sure to keep you guys updated in the next blog.
Until next time, stay healthy and enjoy the Spring weather!!
Post Eight – April 2021
Happy Spring, Everyone!!
I hope you are all doing well!
This weather has been great; I cannot wait until summer arrives – I love the sun, the warmth, playing basketball and going to the beach. I could do that all day. I just need to find a job that supports that. Speaking of work, I extended an invitation to come see me at my new job, but no one has stopped by yet. Don’t worry, I finally know what I am doing. 😊 I had no idea how much I would learn. If you missed my last blog, I got a part-time job at Home Depot in South Portland (just up the street from the new Trademark branch). You would not believe how many different types of wood there are. It is a very physical job- there is a lot of stocking, restocking, lifting, and moving – and everything is heavy. In my first month I was awarded the honor of Employee of the Month. It is largely based on customer comments and reviews. I thought that was pretty cool.
Work has been good; it adds a little extra cash to my pockets and it also helps pay for the car. That reminds me, last month I talked about how I bought my mom’s car, Scarlet, and that I would be changing the name. Thank you to those that left name suggestions on Facebook. After careful consideration, I have decided to change the name to (insert National Lampoon drumroll) Lightning McQueen, Queen for short. My favorite movie growing up was Cars. Lightning McQueen was the star of the show and was red – my car is red, so it just felt right.
Last month I created an account on Credit Karma and made my first student loan payment. I am only making a small payment ($75 a month), but I talked with my parents and though it is only a small amount, anything I pay while in school will help to reduce what I have to pay later. When you are in high school, loans seem like another language. There are so many differences. Some student loans defer interest and others accrue interest from day one. It is important to know what your responsibility is before you accept. I have to say it was cool making my first payment, but I am sure that my attitude towards these payments will diminish over time. 😊
I mentioned Credit Karma. Credit Karma is a free online tool that my mom showed me. Now that I am old enough to have credit (and now that I have loans), it is important that I know how my actions impact my credit. Credit Karma can help me by:
1. Notifying me if credit is applied for under my name.
2. Seeing how my actions are impacting my credit (applying for credit, making on-time payments, making large payments, etc.).
3. Showing my credit score (or at least what it is approximately).
I should mention that Trademark has no affiliation with Credit Karma, it’s just a cool tool that my mom thought would be helpful. I am looking forward to seeing my credit score go up, up, up. If you (students) or your child (parents) do not know where to start with saving and building credit, I started with a savings account at Trademark. My mom brought me to Trademark during Youth Month several years ago (four years ago on April 17th). Here is a picture of me the day I opened my account (proudly displaying a youth month craft project I made while at the branch). I started with a savings account and when I got a job, I added a checking account and a debit card (with my parents). Since then, I have learned about online banking, loans and credit. I still have a lot to learn, but it all started at Trademark. Check out the newsletter to see what Trademark is doing this year for Youth Month. Tell them Chris sent you 😉.
I hope you are all having a great spring and can get out and enjoy the weather. If you have been following me since September, you know I have learned and experienced a lot this year. I shared my experience with Credit Karma. Will you share with me (and our readers) what other apps you are using (and what you love about them) to save money, track spending or manage your credit? I look forward to more of your suggestions.
Until next month, stay healthy and happy and get outside!
Post Nine- May 2021
Happy May, Everybody!!
I hope you are all doing well! I don’t know about you, but I can almost taste summer. With some days in the 60’s, that is shorts and sandals weather in Maine!
With only two weeks left of school, it’s been a busy but exciting first year of college. It is crazy to think that my freshman year is almost over. I did not expect it to go by so quickly. This whole blog is about me, but it is really for you so I thought, “if I could go back in time and talk to myself in preparation for college, I would tell myself…”:
- Get to know your professor, like reeeeeeally get to know them. Get to know their teaching style and how flexible they may or may not be. If you can, build a good relationship with them, for multiple reasons – for one, they may teach multiple classes of yours throughout the time you are in school; secondly, building a good relationship with them can save you in the long run. I was in an English class and I had built a great relationship with the professor. When the time came to take my final exam, I did not do so hot. The professor emailed me and said I may want to tweak it to get a better grade. Had I not had the relationship I did with him, he may not have emailed me and helped me out. Then again, maybe he would have – but why chance it?
- TIME MANAGEMENT!!! If you are someone naturally good at this, I applaud you. I am not. This has been my biggest struggle throughout the first year. It was a bigger issue the first semester, but it was still hard the second half of the year. College moves fast, it can be intense; more work, and all in a shorter period than high school. If you do not manage your time it will catch up to you. The better you are with managing your time, the better off you will be in college and life.
- The last thing I would tell myself: get out there and enjoy yourself. It was more of a challenge this year with Covid, but I was still able to get out and meet new people and it was amazing. I made new friends and a lot of memories.
You may remember in my last blog, I shared how I had made my first car payment. You might also remember how I said that I enjoyed making the payment – well, that lasted until it was time for the second payment. Being an adult is fun, but some of the responsibilities are not as enjoyable. I cannot complain too much because my payment is only $75 a month. I will say, while I do not love it (making payments), I am glad that I am doing this as it is preparing me for when I am older with more payments and larger bills.
Let’s jump to credit scores for a minute. I shared in my last blog that I had signed up for Credit Karma. I checked recently, and my score has gone up a whopping 1 point!! Not a lot, but progress is progress. I talked to friends and found they also check their scores through Credit Karma. My score is higher than theirs, and I will not lie, that feels good. I have learned a lot this year, and one thing that has helped me save money and pay on time is learning to set-up automatic transfers through my Trademark account. I have also set up a low balance alert that lets me know when my checking account is below a certain limit. It has helped me put money to the side and save up without having to think about it and also ensures I always have a good amount in my checking account.
Before I wrap up, I could not leave without reminding you about Youth Month. Only a couple of weeks left! If you need an account or want to save for a car (or school), you can set up a club account. A club account is like a savings account that you can have separate from your checking for something specific – you can even rename the account and have as many as you want, to save for a car, an apartment, a house – whatever. Just a cool tool to use.
Before I sign off, a little factoid about me- I love cows and I think I am pretty funny so here is a little joke for you-
How do you count cows?
With a COWculator!!
Next month we will have to see how well I did on the bucket list I made at the beginning of the year!! Stayed tuned and have a great month.