College Advice from Our Readers

College Advice

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.

–The Orangutan Librarian

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.

–Lila from Hardcover Haven and The Bookkeepers’ Secrets

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.

–Nandini from Pages That Rustle and Unputdownable Books

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!

20 thoughts on “College Advice from Our Readers

  1. luvtoread says:

    Great post! I found this very inspirational. I’m in my 30s, but have re-enrolled at my local JC taking web development and various adobe program classes in order to get a certificate. Since I also work full time, plus have my blog, I’ve been very stressed out about the upcoming semester (6 units) and being able to do it all. Sometimes I think I should just give up, or drop one of the classes, because am i really going to try to change careers at this point? This post helped me get inspired for the upcoming semester. I think I’ll bookmark this and refer to it when I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the schoolwork. I keep telling myself it’s only a couple of months and then I can reassess whether or not to take 2 classes again.
    thank you for this post!


    • Briana says:

      That sounds so exciting! Good luck with your certificate program! I’m sure you have acquired some time management skills and such that will help you out more than you expect. If not, you can definitely assess how this semester goes and then plan for the future courseload based on that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • luvtoread says:

        Thanks! Yeah, I took 2 classes in the spring and took an accelerated summer class, so am feeling burned out right now, and fall hasn’t even started yet! But I think if I really stick to my schedule I’ll be ok. I hope 🙂


          • luvtoread says:

            Thank you! Yeah, I’m glad I took the summer class because now I’ve got that class completed, but it was so fast and so much information I didn’t really have a chance to soak in the information.


  2. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    The first tip is very true! I thought everyone was really cool and confident, but most of the friends I made in the first few weeks of uni have told me that they were scared of me because they thought the same 😅 Uni really does get you out of your comfort zone, and it has helped IMMENSELY with my anxiety. Before moving to campus I could barely make a phone call, now I’m comfortable interacting with pretty much anyone!
    Also joining clubs and societies is a really good thing to do!! I made most of my good friends through both, and they’re just lots of fun 😃
    I think the tip about not stressing too much about uni in general is very good as well. So many people think that they have to do a degree, even if they hate it, and that’s ridiculous. Higher education isn’t mandatory, and deciding not to study should never be looked down on.


    • Briana says:

      Agreed! First impressions can be very misleading! I thought one of my now good friends from college was a complete jerk who didn’t like me because I approached her to chat several times and she kept brushing me off. (And apparently she did this to EVERYONE who was in eventually in our friend group.) It turns out she had no idea she was coming across this way.

      Yes, I’m all in favor of choosing a major you like and are reasonably good at. I have no problem with someone choosing something that’s on the more practical/employable side because that can just be good planning, but you should like the subject at least a little. Don’t be pre-med or pre-law just because it’s sounds cool, especially if you struggle with some of the subjects or don’t enjoy them. You will only continue to struggle to complete the material and continue to dislike your life if you get into grad school or get a job in an area you never liked in the first place.


      • Ravenclaw Book Club says:

        Haha that’s a good story tho! 😀

        Yeah, there are so many people who spend a lot of money on a degree like law or business because their parents want them to, or they think they will get far with it, but then they are really unhappy or even drop out. Obviously it’s not a black and white issue, sometimes students are sent to western countries by their parents to have a successful career/life, so choosing something that’s not practical isn’t easy. And a lot of people obviously just love those degrees, even if I have no idea why 😂


        • Briana says:

          My university has someone who, as part of his job description, has to sit down with the student are just really not doing well in their STEM courses and gently suggest to them that they should find a different major or shouldn’t be pre-med or whatever. Apparently the reaction is about 50/50 people who are devastated and people who are thrilled they can go tell their parents that they’re not pre-med anymore “because the school won’t let me.”


          • Ravenclaw Book Club says:

            Oh, that’s interesting! I didn’t know universities had people who do that. I guess the reaction makes sense tho 😅


            • Briana says:

              I’m not sure what his actual job is, to be honest. I’m sure suggesting people try another major is only one thing he does occasionally and hopefully not how he spends the bulk of his time. :p Probably some sort of counselor or advisor. I imagine some people who are failing or close to failing a lot of classes sometimes just need that extra push to try something different.


  3. saraletourneau says:

    This is all great advice here. My first year of college, especially the first semester, was really tough. Part of it was my roommate situation (my first roommate and I did NOT get along at all), and another was the group of girls I lived with (there was more drama in our hallway that year than a single season of a soap opera). And like Kerry from TPW, I was also painfully shy and had a major case of culture shock that year. I still did well academically, but I didn’t really hit my stride socially until sophomore year, when I had a much better living situation.

    And the school newspaper, too. I’m glad I got involved with it right away. That group, along with the new friends I made later in the year, was my saving grace during freshman year.

    If I had anything to add to the advice in your post, I’d say “don’t give up.” It’s OK, even normal, to struggle during your first year of college. But it’s very easy to make hasty decisions and want to transfer or even quit college completely if things aren’t going well. Instead, give yourself a full academic year to adjust, make friends, get involved in activities or groups that fit your passions, and find out whether your major is right for you. That’s what I did, and in hindsight I’m really thankful for it.


    • Briana says:

      I really go back and forth on roommates. People like to go on about how living with a stranger is “good for you,” but that seems to be coming from adults who are nice and comfy living on their own or with their families now and would never dream of living with a random person ever again because they don’t have to. (My school was so focused on this policy that you were literally not allowed to request a roommate freshman year and were not permitted to room with someone you knew before college.) This is all fine if your roommate is relatively normal. Sure, you may have minor issues, but you work them out and learn social and negotiating skills and blah blah blah. But I knew several people with really, really horrible roommate situations, several of which became actually dangerous, and at most colleges there is literally nothing you can do because they do NOT want to relocate you. I feel horrible for anyone who had a really bad roommate situation and couldn’t get out of it, or took months to be *allowed* to get out it. (And then of course YOU are the one who has to pack up and move your stuff, even if your roommate is a deranged knife-wielding murderer in the making. Like it’s your fault the school stuck you with them,)

      And “don’t give up!” is great advice! I saw a lot of people get homesick or stressed out and just want to leave, but you’re right that most of them got over it with some time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • saraletourneau says:

        I was actually fortunate in that I was able to get a new roommate. (Another girl in my building was having roommate issues as well, and we managed to convince the Housing Dept. to do the switch.) So I’m with you: anyone who had to put up with a bad roommate situation for a whole semester or an entire school year gets my sympathy.

        Thanks! I didn’t want to repeat anything that had already been said. And I wish I’d paid attention to your call for contributions for College Week. The past few weeks have been super-busy, though, so it probably just slipped through the cracks.


  4. robstroud says:

    Back in 1973, when I left home for college, I was ill-prepared. Not academically (I’ve always been a pretty consistent A- student).

    But, as the first person from either side of my family line to ever attend college, I had no one to advise me. I would have benefitted from a trusted adult friend who could have offered advice and been available to turn to when a question arose.

    It all turned out well, primarily because that first year I began dating my future wife (who was a class behind me at my high school). She too was the first generation in her family to go to college… but she was a far more serious, conscientious and devout student than I.

    This summer we celebrated our 41st anniversary, and she is still the steadfast “rock” (in the good sense, like St. Peter) upon whom I rely every day.


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