We asked our readers to share some of the things they wish they had known before they went to college. Here is what they said!
Everyone is just as scared as you are! No one knows anyone, so you’ll all be trying to make friends (even if it seems like other people are more confident than you). You aren’t alone, so don’t worry, you’ll make friends and learn about how your classes work just like everyone else around you is.
–Victoria from Doodles and Scraps
If you want to take a class, take it. Don’t wait until “next semester” to take it. Don’t stick to the classes in your college department. Even if you have a small interest in some other department, take a class as your elective or “fun” class that semester. It might confirm your major, or encourage you to seek other avenues. There are a million classes I wish I would have taken/interests I would have pursued if I could have.
–Kaeley Scruggs from Spoilers May Apply
The only thing I’d say is- study hard but don’t forget to enjoy these years and have fun with friends. And always remember when lazy- you’re doing this for you. Not for the teachers/professors, not for your parents or society’s norms. You’re doing this for you!
–Liz from Cover to Cover
Be active on your campus but don’t get so busy that you neglect your studies. Get to know other students, advisers, professors, colleagues, and employers. Join as many clubs and organizations that fit into your schedule. Build your network now, so that you will have strong connections for life after college!
–Pinkspen from Ladyhood Journey
It’s not like school. This is something I was told before I went, but damn if it isn’t good advice- because there will be things you loved in school and hate in uni and vice versa. So try different things, because you might find something new to love (and back up plans are useful too!).
Okay, so before I went I was told “uni will be the best time of your life”- but what I really could have done with hearing is that uni isn’t the be all and end all. If it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned or you find yourself boxed in, there is the whole big wide world out there for you. Just keep a cool head and think of the bigger picture.
Don’t ever let your ambition outweigh your passion and/or your health and happiness. There are many paths to what you want, but taking one that punishes you physically and/or emotionally doesn’t do any good for anyone. Do what you love, regardless of others’ expectations and what they say will “make you go far in life.” After all, if you don’t like something, you won’t be good at it and that won’t get you very far at all and on top of that, you’ll be unhappy. Follow your heart, it knows the way.
Also, in the end, hard work *way* outweighs natural talent. It’s like the tortoise and the hare–the one who puts in the work gets ahead.
Set aside time to pursue your hobbies as they can be great stressbusters. What with the academic pressure and socialising, it’s easy to forget about the things you used to love doing in your spare time. Try to find groups that share the same interests so you can build meaningful relationships as well as make time for your hobbies.
Watch which catalog you are operating under. I have seen too many people get screwed over because an adviser updated them to a different catalog, because they missed a deadline they were unaware of, or because there was an argument about requirements based on a transition from one catalog to another. It is very easy to find yourself working on your major for an extra semester all because you did not keep close track of your requirements and because you did not use the catalog to help you figure out requirements. Particularly on the idea of a paper trail, the catalog determines your requirements and when you can graduate. You need to know the information about your degrees from the catalog inside out and use that information if there is a dispute about what your actual requirements are. Get your hands on a copy of the catalog and keep careful track of your requirements and deadlines. If you have the problem that I do where the catalog is only online, print it out and store it somewhere safe. If a dispute arises, you have proof that you are following the appropriate requirements. Here is one more piece of advice that ties with this one: do not always trust your adviser.
–Carrie from Cat on the Bookshelf
Get out of your comfort zone.
When I first left for college, I was scared and anxious. College life seemed so foreign to me; I grew up as an only child, and was used to having everything my way. I never had to share a bedroom or bathroom, and home life was always peaceful and quiet.
Moving into a college dorm was like a culture shock to me. I shared a tiny room with a total stranger, had to share a communal bathroom with ten other girls, and was away from my friends and family for the first time. I was so afraid of living in an on-campus dorm that I contemplated going to community college so that I could stay at home, in my comfort zone.
Moving away to college was one of the best decisions of my life.
Going away to college pretty much forces you to get out of your comfort zone. You are put into a dorm with dozens of people that are experiencing the same changes as you are. Most colleges have a welcome weekend, which is a great way to meet your peers (I’m still great friends from some of the people I met during welcome weekend). You will only be in college once, so I think its good to step out of your shell and experience things. Never been to a party? Try going to a few (just don’t be that freshman that blacks out in the middle of the quad in a puddle of their own vomit). Join a club or team- your college probably offers tons of on-campus groups, like a choir or team sports. This is a great way to meet people, and get yourself out there.
Introduce yourself, invite people to your dorm room, go out with new friends and explore the local town or city. College is a social experience and you shouldn’t hide in your dorm just because you’re shy or feel awkward around new people. I am BEYOND happy that I went out of my comfort zone during my freshman year. I made tons of friends, was involved on-campus, and even got a boyfriend that I am still with 3 years later. So my best advice to any upcoming freshman is to get involved, get yourself out there, and meet tons of people. Run away from that comfort zone and you will have an unforgettable college experience.
Also, don’t forget to pack your shower shoes.
–Kerry from The Petite Wanderer
Thank you so much to everyone who participated and offered advice for college students for the upcoming school year! I agree with so much of this: find a balance between academics and social engagements, be open to new experiences, and don’t put things off. College is a great time to experiment with low risk. (Seriously, the world will not end because you tried that statistics/creative writing/marketing class and didn’t get an A. Rather, you’ll have learned something new that’s better than a perfect 4.0 GPA). Also, yes! No one cares about your graduation requirements more than you; many advisors are good for very general advising but don’t actually know by memory exactly what courses you need to graduate on time. Trust only yourself with tracking this!