9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College
Having just graduated from college in May, I’ve been thrown into a state of reflection. I’ve had some really life-defining moments over the past 4 years, but there are a few things I wish I would’ve known beforehand.
1. The weight gain is real.
I had heard about the freshman 15. I’d seen it with my own eyes. I understood that weight gain, due to crappy campus food every meal, was a legitimate possibility at the beginning of college. No one told me about the senior 7 (or 17, but who’s counting?). That, my friends, is also real. With the stress brought on by finals, internships, huge papers, and finally realizing you actually have be a real grown up at the end of it all, comfort food is not an option—it’s inevitable.
2. The fraternity/sorority stereotypes are (mostly) on point.
Obviously, I can’t speak for every university. But the general rule of thumb is this: When people tell you what frat parties not to go to, don’t question it. They’re probably right. I once had to rescue a freshie from a party (whose hosting fraternity I will not name).
3. Your high school friendships will change.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn, and it took me all 4 years of college to finally accept it. I’m not saying you will lose all of your old friends, but the dynamics of your relationships will most likely change. If you expect your friends to stay the same, you will be in for a very unpleasant surprise. Because, guess what? The amount of change your friends will go through during their college experiences is immense, and you’re changing, too! Be open to the changes and expect them. Your overall happiness will be greater if you predetermine your mindset in this area.
4. You only learn as much as you try to.
Your professors can only do so much. You might have the greatest professors in the world, but if you don’t make it a goal to truly learn, you are literally going to graduate with nothing but a piece of paper. Granted, it’s like the most important piece of paper you’ll ever pay that much money for, but entering the workforce without any real knowledge could make for a slightly more stressful transition into the real world.
5. Finals week will come to an end and you WILL survive.
I exerted so much negative energy and allowed myself to feel so many irrational emotions…During those weeks that everything (EVERYTHING) was due, I literally thought I was going to die. I would cry and eat (and eat some more…senior 17, remember?), and then when the week was over I would feel really stupid for stressing that much. Yes, a reasonable amount of stress is good, but just know that when you are having a breakdown because you have a test the next day that you haven’t read the chapters for, LIFE WILL GO ON. Your future is not ruined. Your soul is still intact. Just chill.
6. The amount of practical skills you learn is minimal, so you’ll have to figure some things out on your own.
You won’t learn everything you need to know about life in your classes. They don’t teach you how to budget, or how to file your own taxes, or be a responsible grown up. That’s on you. Don’t wait until your senior year to realize, “Hey, I have to be a grown up now….so what’s a mortgage again?”
7. Pay attention in your writing classes when you learn about resumes.
College will come to an end, and you will (most likely) have to apply for big kid jobs. Let me tell you, it’s harder than it seems. I’m pretty certain I took 3 classes in which we covered resumes and cover letters in depth, and I now realize that I picked some bad days to skip.
8. Be involved on campus. A positive college experience just might depend on it.
Whether you commute or live on campus, get involved in something. I know that not everyone wants to go to college (trust me, I was one of those people). But if you actually want to be there, attend some campus events or join a student organization. I spent every moment I could off campus. Guess how many friends I made in college? Don’t get me wrong, I made a couple of really great friends, and luckily some of my high school friends went to the same college as I did. But by the time I graduated, I realized that I had been involved in nothing, and I felt a tiny impression of regret. If you’re there, be there.
9. You can always opt out.
As previously mentioned, I wasn’t bursting at the seams with excitement about college. I wanted to run off to LA and pursue my music dreams. Honestly, I went to college for my parents. I wanted to make them happy, but I felt trapped. My junior year, one of my professors said something I’ll never forget: “At the end of the day, you can always opt out. If you want to be the starving artist, do it. I will support you.” She told our whole class that when she was in college, she wished she would have realized that grades weren’t everything. Family, relationships, personal goals…those are also important. Really important. If you don’t want to go to college, don’t do it just because someone else wants you to. You have to want it for yourself, or your next 4 years won’t reach their full potential.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve realized that my parents didn’t make me feel trapped—I did that to myself. I let the fear of disappointment and the opinions of others determine my choices. But now I’ve graduated, and thankfully, it’s not too late for me pursue my true passions. Truth is, it’s never too late to start pursuing your passions. College or no college, make sure you’re happy about it. Remember the things you value, and no matter what you do, don’t ever give up on the idea of doing what you love.