1. Don’t pick a school based on where your friends are going
I’m sure it’s hard to imagine leaving your besties behind, but if you end up going to the same college as them, you most likely won’t make many new friends. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and talk to as many people as possible. The majority of freshman are just as nervous and excited as you, and looking for a new friend group as well! I only knew one person going into my freshman year of college, but ended up meeting my current best friend at a campus event for freshman the very first week of school. We lived in the same dorm that year and then went on to live together off-campus for the next 3 years. I consider myself lucky to have found such a great friend and someone who was so easy to live with (a rarity!). Also, I will stress the importance of going out-of-state if you can afford it. The more you can experience outside of your security bubble, the more well-rounded you will be.
2. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to study
I had no idea what I wanted to study until my sophomore year of college. It was overwhelming when I realize that all of my friends knew what they wanted to do immediately, but I quickly realized that many of them changed their minds in the time it took me to decide. If you don’t know what you want to do, talk to your advisor about your interests and passions and what you’re good at, and they’ll help you find the right fit (that’s what they’re there for). The first three or four semesters of college are usually just general university-required classes anyway, so you won’t be any further behind if you go in undeclared.
3. Live off-campus and meet people!
I highly encourage living off campus. Every year after my freshman year, I lived in various old houses with 4 or 5 girls and had an absolute blast. Making friends with your neighbors is important too! Some of my closest friends to this day are people I lived right next door to over the past few years. It’s so cool to have close friends next door so you can go hang out whenever you want, or party with them on the weekends without having to worry about driving anywhere! It also comes in handy if you ever need help with anything (for example if you suffer through an ice storm and run out of power, it’s nice to have guys next door who will help you make a fire, and to trade food with…in my experience).
4. Get off campus and explore the city you’re living in
Find out as much about this place as you can. Be sure to partake in all of the fun college stuff, but also get out of the bubble and explore the city. Another lesson I learned is that you should take weekend roadtrips and visit your friends at other schools as often as you can. You have more flexibility now than you will after graduation, so go visit your friends at other colleges (and enjoy getting to stay with them for free and not having to rent a hotel).
5. Make friends within your major
This is one of the most important tips because it’s probably the most beneficial. It is extremely important to make friends with people in your major so you can have someone to study with, someone to sit with in class, someone to work on projects with, and someone to take notes for you if you’re absent. It’s also just nice to have a friend who knows exactly what you’re going through in school and has the same things to stress about.
6. Study abroad if you get the chance
Coming from someone who never studied abroad, I really wish I had. Out of all my friends who studied abroad, every single one of them had a positive experience and met so many different people who they have remained friends with (a couple of them even fell in love). Just be sure to heavily research the place you’re going!
7. Get to know your professors
This one is cliche, but just as important. It’s difficult in the really big classes, but once you get into smaller classes it’s such a good feeling to know that your professor knows who you are. This will also come in handy when you need recommendations after graduation. Just remember, if they know who you are, they will also notice when you’re absent!
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
This is the last time in your educational career that you can study ANYTHING you want! Expand your knowledge! Change your major if you want to. Learn as much about as many different things as you can! Be the most well-rounded person you can be (it will pay off when looking for a job after graduation). Most importantly, tuition is steep so get your money’s worth!!
9. Take advantage of your breaks (and classes that don’t take attendance)
While I stress the importance of going to class and learning as much as possible, it’s also important to take advantage of your free time. Once you graduate and make your way into the corporate world, you will be waving goodbye to spring break and Christmas breaks and will only get “unpaid vacation time,” so travel and sleep-in when you can!!!
10. Work hard, play harder
I feel like this is probably the golden rule of college. Tom Petty sums it up best in one of my favorite quotes ever:
“You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time but you’ll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So, stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does.”
Do any of you current/former college students have any more advice to include? What are some things you wish you would have known about college? Let us know in the comment section!
I’m reading Organic Chemistry