You've heard people say, "Before you know it, your kid will be in college." Time may seem like forever to you, because it's your whole life. But for your mom and me, your birth, the sound of your laughter, entertaining you on long trips, holding hands to cross parking lots and creating dumb songs seemed to have happened only a few weeks ago.
As you enter college, I thought I would suggest some college-related sites that may be useful.
I'm sure finances are a big concern. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average four-year bachelor's degree student debt was $20,000 for 2007-2008. Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette (Twitter: @ZacBissonnette) is a book with many good and often surprising ideas about preparing, paying for and experiencing college to get that diploma without a pile of debt. Read it.
Debt Free U (not related) by CareOneCredit.com assists you with financial literacy. FinAid.org is a guide to financial aid, featuring a free scholarship search. StudentLoanJustice.org shows the need for student loan consumer protection.
Search on "college" at DaveRamsey.com for useful articles. One is a book-DVD kit, "The Graduate's Survival Guide," written by his daughter, Rachel Cruze.
I know you are concerned about classes. On RateMyProfessor.com, 10 million students have rated more than a million professors and may help you find a good match for your needs.
Class textbooks are another cost. Sometimes you have to buy new, but check other options: Chegg.com, Amazon.com's used textbooks, Bookrenter.com and books for electronic readers that can be much cheaper options for non-critical texts. (See tinyurl.com/ForbesTextbooks.)
Once you've established a schedule, find a job. Check with your school's career center that can point you to campus jobs, federal work-study programs and area employers and that often help you polish your resume. If you get desperate, Bissonnette has an article on how to make extra money selling your body to science or for clinical trials (tinyurl.com/SellYourBody). Or try freelance writing for sites such as Suite101 and eHow (tinyurl.com/FreelanceSites).
Don't think it's impossible to save right now. Ramsey tells the story of Ben and Arthur. Ben, who only saves $167 a month from 19 to 26, can save more over time than Arthur, starting at 27 until he's 65. (See an illustration at tinyurl.com/BenandArthur.)
Take care of that new laptop. RevoUninstaller.com will get rid of the unwanted pre-loaded programs; Prey (preyproject.com) protects against theft. Other great (and, yes, free) programs and applications can be found at tinyurl.com/useful-1 (Make UseOf.com), tinyurl.com/useful-2 (PC Review) and tinyurl.com/useful-3 (PC World, with reviews) - expect some overlap. A neat find to download, install and update several programs automatically with one click and with no toolbars is ninite.com.
Finally, with all the new freedoms you will find, I can't stress enough to stay strong in your Christian faith. A LifeWay study showed 70 percent of young adults stop going to church for at least a year between ages 18 and 22. Get involved with faith groups and other Christians and spend time with God.
Find more advice at About.com (tinyurl.com/FaithonCampusTips) and vimeo.com/24187947, devotionals at tinyurl.com/About-Devo and tinyurl.com/CBF-Devo and Bible reading plans at tinyurl.com/YouVersionBRP.
I hope some of these ideas help you in the months and years ahead. You know we love you, believe in you and support you as you mold your future.
Ken Satterfield is advertising coordinator for Word&Way.