There are so many things I learned during my four years in college that it can be hard to give advice to others. The good thing about school is that you always have peers who are going through some of the exact same experiences as you. Those experiences come just as you open the door to being an adult, which is why most of your college friends will stick with you long after graduation. Your college years will hopefully be some of the best years of your life but there are so many lessons that people are expected to learn on their own. Here are a few tips on things I wish someone had told me before I stepped on campus for my first semester.
The School Things
1. Choose the right professors and class times so you don’t have to struggle later
Use ratemyprofessor.com and try to choose professors who have a high rating (and professors who don’t require a textbook.) Register for your classes as early as you can so you’re not stuck with 8 am classes every day. Getting up early for high school and college are two completely different things- trust me. It’s okay to struggle with a class. Some classes are hard and you will need extra help, don’t be afraid to link up with a classmate or meet with your professor or TA. If you make a good connection with your professor early in the semester, they’re more likely to give you those two points between a B+ and an A.
2. Money is hard to come by and easy to spend
One of the main things you will be expected to pay for is books. DON’T BUY YOUR BOOKS UNTIL YOU SIT IN CLASS. A lot of professors say the textbook is required and you only open it twice during the entire semester. Wait until you know for sure that you will need the book and order it from a textbook rental website such as Amazon or eBay. Take advantage of free food and your meal plan — there’s a good chance you won’t have one as an upperclassman. Watch your spending habits. It’s easy to get caught up swiping your card and then being forced to spread $10 for the next week.
The Social Things
3. Be socially responsible and aware of your surroundings
If you’re out a party and don’t feel safe, then chances are you aren’t in a safe environment. If you don’t know or trust who made your drink, don’t drink it. If the party is starting to get sketchy, then it’s a good time to say goodbye before you get caught in a bad position or at the door when the police pull up. There are some sleazy guys in college who will try to sneak a feel or get you alone but be smart about who you’re left alone with. Go everywhere in a group and don’t venture out without at least one friend.
4. Have a good time BUT keep an eye on your GPA and your resume
Your classes will be the easiest your freshman year so take advantage of GPA boosters! That way when a hard class comes along, you won’t be as concerned. It is REALLY hard to bring up a low GPA, even after multiple semesters. Internships are always a great idea. I didn’t do any internships until my junior year and I wished I would’ve started my sophomore year and gotten more experience on my resume. The main thing about college is time management. College has its hard moments but if it were impossible to complete, no one would go. You can do basically anything but remember that school needs to be your top priority. If you know you won’t have time to study before your test on Monday except for Friday night, then stay in and study. There will always be another party!
5. It’s okay if you don’t love your first semester
A lot of people don’t enjoy their first semester for one reason or another. If you still feel like your true self is being mothered after your first year then consider transferring. College takes some getting used to and if you hate it because you never leave your room then transferring won’t help.
6. Keep your reputation up just like your grades
Everyone loves to have a good time but don’t be the girl who gets sloppy when she gets drunk or the girl who is constantly coming out of a different room in the boys’ dorm. College is the time to live it up, so no one expects you to be an angel. But just be mindful of the decisions you make. Social media can also make or break your reputation. We all have posted things that we would cringe at if they were read aloud to our parents. A little attention on social media is normal but if you have to get “likes” or “re-tweets” on social media to feel accepted, remember that eventually you’ll have to live a life that’s not behind a smart phone or computer and your real name will matter, not your username.
7. If you choose a Greek organization, choose it for the right reasons
Do your research and keep an open mind. Don’t choose to be in an organization because all of the members carry name brand purses and walk around campus in heels. Some organizations are more popular than others depending on the school, so look at the organization as a whole and not just by the chapter. You should have a conversation with a least a few of the members and see how comfortable you feel. If you feel overly judged then that organization may not be for you. In NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) organizations secrecy is the key. If you want to be a member of “x” organization don’t tell everyone. And sometimes if they know you’re trying too hard or want to join for impure reasons, they may overlook you.
The Friendship and Relationship Things
8. Make long-lasting friendships and honor them
I remember going into college thinking that the friends I had in high school would forever be my friends and I was WRONG. There are very few people I keep in contact with from high school and some of them I was glad I fell off with. A lot of your true friendships begin when you’re developing as an adult and start to become an individual and need someone who thinks similar to you. Good friends are essential to a good college experience. You need someone to tell you that “Johnny” was acting crazy at a party last weekend or that your dress is unflattering. You also need someone to call on when “Johnny” stops accepting your calls and you need a good cry and a glass of wine.
9. Speaking of “Johnny,” college is the time where people are rushing relationships or not taking them seriously
I can’t count how many times where I’ve liked someone and it goes nowhere. I’ve seen my fair share of “relationships” where at least one person is cheating or spending too much time with the opposite sex. My advice is to take all relationships with a grain of salt. Don’t invest until you know for sure that you’re investing in something that will last past next week. It’s okay that you’re still single and your friend just engaged. Young marriages are a touchy subject but being a certain age and being in love doesn’t mean you should get married. Most people are growing into themselves in college so it can be a rough time to be in a relationship.
The “You” Things
10. You learn a lot about yourself
The thing about college is that, as cliché as it sounds, you learn a lot more outside of the classroom than inside the classroom. You realize that you start talking about current issues, get passionate about certain things and discover things about other people as you become more of your true self. There’s a lot of self-discovery that happens in college so embrace it and don’t rush the process.
11. Travel, travel, travel
The good thing about college is that you most likely know someone else at another school who you can visit. A change of scenery is always a good excuse to reward yourself after a week of studying and homework. In your college years, plan at least one good trip with a SMALL group and enjoy being young and carefree. I went on some of the most memorable trips during my four years including trips to the neighboring colleges and places where I could only travel to on a plane. I never studied abroad but if given the chance I would go today. You can experience so much more in other places and cultures that you can’t experience in your college town so go out there and make memories.
12. Slow down and enjoy yourself
I developed a new philosophy about college by the time I hit my junior year: I’ll try my best but I won’t lose excessive sleep over school. Everyone gets stressed but you have to know when you get to the point of constant worrying and missing out on your college experience. Take a fun elective, take a day trip, have a drink on a Tuesday night, whatever it takes to just sit back and enjoy yourself for a few moments. Remember, these are years you will never get back!
The Random But True Things
13. Get a cheap hairstylist BUT don’t get cheap hair
This is a random tip but a good tip. There are plenty of girls who do hair as a side hustle in college and will charge you less than the area hairdresser. In college, you learn to cut corners and making connections with people who you can help and can help you is always the way to go. Some girls can’t afford top notch weave but I promise you a dry, stiff weave probably looks worse than your own hair. Spend a little money on good weave so that it lasts longer and so you can you can keep installing it and not weave that constantly knots and doesn’t move when you move. Thank me later.
14. Buy a lot of underwear so you don’t have to do laundry as often
In college, doing laundry is usually more of a hassle than it has been before. It’s not always free or convenient so there’s an easy solution to that: buy a ton of underwear. You never really have to do laundry until you run out of clean underwear. Yes, this is considered spending your money wisely!
15. Your sleeping habits will change
One thing that changes with almost every college student is their sleeping habits. You’ll stay up until 3 or 4 am talking to your friends or out at the club on the weekends and stay up during the week studying or doing homework you forgot was due. It’s the college way to do things at the last minute and end up losing sleep and everyone goes through it at least once. You’ll cherish naps and sleeping in (know you see why I said avoid early morning classes.)
The main thing about college is that you’ll be a different version of yourself by the end of it. College opens your mind to things and you learn some things you’ll need forever and some things that won’t ever matter. The key to enjoying your college experience is noting that the experience is yours and no one else’s. These are things that I picked up on but these may be things that you never encounter. Your college experience is yours and you only get once chance to live and make the best of it.