Update Aug 4, 2020: The below was written for the publication Uloop. It has been preserved for authenticity.
Before you go to college, everyone you know likes to share their list of the benefits of being in college and what they think is important. Guidance counselors stress the importance of studying, work experience, and getting involved in clubs and organizations. Parents will probably stress studying and making good grades, applying for scholarships, and basically to stay out of trouble. After this, people start to tell you about the great things outside of the classroom. Freedom of being out of your parent’s house and getting to live with your friend or a new person. Being able to meet many other people that you normally wouldn’t be able to meet. Those are all great; now I’m going to share with you some of the lesser emphasized benefits of being a college student.
First off, you get a lot of free stuff. Except I’m not talking about the free food and t-shirts that people give away to entice you to come to their events. I’m talking about free stuff that’s far more expensive than a couple pieces of pizza. You have access to many industry standard tools and programs at our fingertips. Colleges and universities spent a lot of money to purchase licenses of popular software and invest in physical goods for us to use. They have gathered information and resources that aren’t available from a simple Google search.
While my examples pertain specifically to UT, every campus should have some form of free resources. Lynda.com is an online learning tool where you can watch videos to acquire skills that you can’t (or aren’t able to) take a class for. The library has computers with vast and very expensive software packages including Final Cut Pro and Adobe Suite, along with recording studios and video camera equipment. OIT even offers free training and workshops to help you learn how to use this software. Again, all of which is free until you graduate, then it’s going to cost you or your company a lot of money.
Next, is having a school email address. There is nothing inherently valuable about having an email address, they’re a dime a dozen nowadays. The real value comes with the .edu at the end. Being able to submit and validate an account with a .edu email address is a power most people don’t have. Many services give student discounts if you have a valid .edu email address. Spotify gives you half off the monthly subscription price, Squarespace gives you half off your first year to build your own website (for participating schools), and Amazon Prime is free for the first six months and then half off the yearly subscription. Suffice to say, if you haven’t been using these discounts, I encourage you to update your accounts.
Lastly, is holding the title of ‘college student’. While in some cases this can hurt you, like trying to get an apartment, applying for a loan, or really anything involving money, it can also be your foot into many closed doors. Starting an email with “I’m a college student at [school name here]” can go a long way when you’re trying to get into a meeting or event. Offer to take someone out to lunch so you can pick their brain and learn from them, and then more than likely they’ll end up paying for your lunch. People are usually a little more inclined to help when they know you’re a student.
Take advantage of it while you still can.