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Set Your Priorities

If you are not one of the few with scholarships and grants to cover college expenses, then all the money you just got from your parents, the government, and loan offices will be gone very soon. It may seem like a lot when you first get it, but the “cost of living” is something I can’t even explain to you. Just trust me when I say you need to set a budget for the PC you are building or buying after you have a place to shower and enough to feed yourself properly. Once you grasp the concept that everything from toilet paper to ice cream comes out of your money, you will have an idea of what you can spend on a PC.

Once you have a budget, you need to start with some basic questions that we’ve briefly touched on in the previous page. Are you considering buying a companion laptop for school work? Will you need some customizations done to your PC for your major? Why did you buy pots and pans when you don’t even know how to boil water? You need to set your priorities.

Once you know what you need and want, do not go over budget. It will start with $15 over to get a better gaming mouse, or quieter case fans, and then it will snowball into $500 over budget in no time. Resistance is not futile. It will get you through school.

Don’t Go Over Your Budget

When you are selecting parts, if you ever ask yourself, “How long would I have to eat Ramen noodles to get the ATI HD 6990 instead of a HD 6950?” The answer is long enough to start crying every time you open a pack to cook one of your fifteen recipes for them. Your academic performance means feeding yourself right as well. Jamie Oliver didn’t frack around with the school lunch systems for nothing. If you feed yourself well, you will feed your brain well.

All you have to do to maintain your budget is follow these 2 rules. First, buy the companion laptop first. A laptop in the $350 to $475 range should be more than enough to write documents, spreadsheets, work on Mathmatica, and Blackboard online enough to make you want to kill bad web designers. The second thing is to build what you want within reason and downgrade into your budget. If you have an $1100 budget, build your $1250 dream machine, then downgrade items to fit your budget. It may seem counter intuitive after telling you not to go over your budget, but it will help to put your final PC build in perspective.

Time Management Without the Management

Once you have your system situation figured out, how do you avoid letting time slip away while you are killing zombie-alien Nazis? The best way is to turn your time management into something that just is apart of your day and not something you have to force upon yourself. Let me show you some common mistakes college students make that you should avoid.

Do not stack all your classes one after another in the middle of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. First, going through 5 straight hours of college classes is more draining than you think. Second, it leaves little time to let what you have just been taught or lectured on to really sink in. Put 1 to 2 hour gaps between classes, especially your major specific classes. These are often in the same building, so you don’t have to walk anywhere to get to your next class. Take the one or two hour gaps between classes to study, clean up notes, start assignments, finish preparing for a test, etc.

The screenshot above is obviously not the ideal schedule, but it is a good representation of what you can expect you schedule to be. This is an example of how you mould some of your study and work time into your daily routine. This allows you plenty of time for other activities, gaming, additional study, and plenty of sleep. Maybe even a social life.

Do not use your games as a break from school work. When you take a break from an assignment, take an actual break. Relax for 15 minutes, watch a little TV, or taking an afternoon nap at 10:00 a.m. Use your gaming time as a reward for your work. Once you have finished an assignment and don’t have any other work that needs your immediate attention, reward yourself by powering up the gaming PC. A game is much more satisfying when you are schooling noobs because you honestly don’t have anything more important to do.

Final Thoughts

I know these tips may not be for everyone, but you should try to apply them anyway. I am sure people have told you that you are there to get your education first and foremost. This is true, but college is also a transitional period to help prepare you for real life. The degree and education is important and should be at the top of your list of tasks, but try not to forget to experience college. You have to maintain a social life, and whether it’s with other gamers, or with an entirely different crowd, these are the people that you may rely on to advance your career in the future.

Learning to manage your time, keeping a hobby in check while meeting new people, and finding that special someone are all a part of college life. Don’t fixate on one thing, especially PC gaming. If you do, you’ll forget to enjoy everything else. Even the college assignments can be fun when you are not too drunk or too sleepy to understand them and at the end of the day, when you’re done them, don’t forget to treat yourself to that game with your new friends and room mates. Everyone’s in the same boat so make sure you support each other. If everyone else is studying, you should be too.

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