For new college students, whether young or old, navigating the college scene can be daunting or even confusing if they are not used to it.
Now newcomers have a guide that can help navigate the waters of student life and critical services to make their PCC stay an even more enjoyable one. We talked to a handful of student leaders with the Associated Students of Portland Community College (ASPCC), or better known as student government, and asked them what they thought would be the top things new students needed to know to make their lives at the college easier.
Without further fanfare, we present the “New Student Guide.”
Get a Deal on Textbooks
News flash: Brand new textbooks are really expensive. At PCC, there are ways to get a good price on required books for your core classes. The PCC Bookstore sells used books each term, but go fast. So, if you can’t find your book at the bookstore, try ASPCC’s book exchanges located at each campus (Sylvania, Southeast, Rock Creek or Cascade), or simply head online. In addition, talk to your instructor. Sometimes they can find alternatives or have produced shorter versions tailored for their class that are cheaper, according to the students polled.
“When they come here new students get surprised by new book prices; they’re really expensive,” said Da Hyun Kim, a student leader at the Rock Creek Campus. “If they look for a used book online it’s much cheaper; sometimes half priced.”
Sada Stavrum said he buys his used books at the bookstore or online at Amazon, Ebay, textbooks.com, or addall.com. He said Amazon even rents textbooks and they are all searchable by ISBN. “That’s a really good way to keep the cost down,” said Stavrum, who leads students at the Southeast Center. “I pretty much buy all my used textbooks on Amazon.”
Explore What Classes You Need Now, Not Later
“What helped me a lot is having an idea of what my major would be and where I wanted to go after PCC,” Stavrum said of when he first started at the college.
To do that, he targeted the university program he wanted to transfer to and asked that university what classes he needed to make a smooth transfer. He then came back to a PCC advisor and figured out exactly which classes he needed, saving time and money. Even if you don’t know which program you want to transfer to after PCC, it’s a good idea to flesh out what areas you want to target now to save yourself the headaches of having to switch gears down the road.
“New student should have a good idea of what they want to be and what careers they want in the future,” said Southeast Center student leader Thanh Huynh.
And, you should talk to an advisor; they are there to help you.
“A lot of students come here and don’t know what classes they need to take to get that two-year degree,” said Yollixpa Rios Martinez, a Rock Creek student. “If they didn’t need the classes it’s a waste of money and time. Advisors can help you out even if you have no idea what your major is.”
Take Advantage of Cheap Transportation
PCC is a very alternative transportation-friendly place. The PCC Shuttle is free and travels campus to campus and even stops at non-college locations in Portland in case you don’t live near a center. Plus, the shuttle offers free Wi-Fi and bike racks. Students say it’s a great place to get some studying done or meet fellow students.
In addition to the shuttle, the college’s parking office also offers discounted TriMet passes called the Student Select Pass. “Get it ahead of time,” Martinez added. “By the second week of the term they run out. It’s a good way to save money.”
If you use your own vehicle to get to PCC, remember that motorcycles park for free. If you use a car, especially the first few weeks, getting to school early is imperative as parking spots fill up by 9 a.m. at all campuses within the first three weeks or so. “And don’t get to campus five minutes before class either, it gets packed,” Martinez said.
Bicycling to campus is big at the Cascade Campus with its bike rental program, and most campuses have bike racks and showers for riders. Finally, another option is find some friends and carpool to school through PCC’s Ride Share Program. Permits for this program are $10 cheaper than regular student permits.
Best of the Rest
- PCC Foundation and FAFSA – Check out the PCC Foundation website for when application periods start for scholarships. Almost all of our student leaders we talked to earned a scholarship to pay for books and classes. Make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the Financial Aid Office, which can help you earn Pell Grants and other scholarships or loans.
- Get involved – ASPCC offers student clubs to join, or options to establish your own club to attract like-minded students. It’s a good way to meet others and looks good on the college resume. Also, check the campus bulletin boards, the electronic reader boards or the Potty Press flyers in the restrooms for info on upcoming events.
- Ways to Get Away – Stop by any ASPCC student Center and play pool, ping pong, video games, or lounge in a massage chair. It’s a great way to decompress after a hard test or study session.
- Check your E-mails – Students say PCC instructors expect you to check and read your PCC e-mails. Via e-mail, instructors will disclose homework assignments and when they are due and there’s no excuse if you don’t. “You have to check your e-mail,” Martinez said. “It’s your responsibility.”