Personal Development

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College

Heading off to college soon or perhaps you’ve just started? No matter how prepared you think you are, read on for insider tips.

As a recent college graduate, I feel an odd sort of anxiety anytime I see fresh-faced freshmen eager to move into their dorms, meet new people (including cute guys) and start working towards their chosen degree.

Maybe I feel anxious about no longer going to school after so many years of doing so, but seeing all these new freshmen reminds me of how I felt four years ago when I, too, began on that journey.

Now that I’ve said sayonara to early mornings, late-night studying and all the stress (and fun) that school has to offer, I have a chance to look back, relish the experience and wonder what I would have done differently given what I know now.

Here are 10 crucial pieces of information that I wish I had known before going to college.

1. Coffee is not always your best friend.

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Most days, I felt like Rory or Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls based on how many cups of coffee I consumed.

My daily ritual usually began like this: down a few cups in the morning, a few more during breaks, more at lunch and so on; I was drinking close to eight cups per day. While it helped me get through many late nights of studying (read: cramming), I was having trouble sleeping at night, had terrible anxiety and felt more exhausted than ever.

Coffee can be your best friend if consumed properly. Try and stick to one to two cups per day, if possible, and substitute for green tea or water whenever possible.

2. Don’t go too crazy on all the food in the cafeteria.

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One of the most exciting aspects about university was the food plan that came with living on campus. I vividly remember the first day I walked into the cafeteria: I was running around the room like a kid in a candy school, screaming and proclaiming my excitement over everything. Ice cream! Chocolate milk! Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

I was in complete awe that all this food was up for grabs, meaning I could eat as much as I desired. And believe me: I did. Looking back now, I wished I considered my weight and health more carefully as I am still trying to lose my Freshman 15, which, let’s be honest, turned into the Freshmen 25.

3. Your cute outfits will be replaced with sweatpants.

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Just like I did throughout high school, I picked out the perfect “first day of classes” outfit, along with other stylish items to wear throughout the year—or so I thought.

As soon as all the assignments and looming dates of midterms picked up, so did my inability to care about what I wore.

It only took a few weeks of classes for my cute outfits to be replaced with slippers and countless pairs of sweats. You can choose to go with the sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on Drake-approved look or you can try and dress up some days. Try to strike a balance that makes you feel most comfortable.

4. Experience as much as you can.

College truly is a time where you can break free and grow into who you are as a person.

This may mean getting involved with things you were afraid to do in high school or branching out and making friends with people outside of the ones you’ve known forever. It’s all about avoiding FOMO (fear of missing out), so try and experience all you can.

5. Experiment with dating.

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I started college having ended a bad relationship a few months earlier and was hell-bent on staying single and “just having fun.”

Well, as the saying goes, “love happens when you’re not looking.” I met my current boyfriend on my very first day of college. We’re still together and while I wouldn’t change a thing about the past few years, I do encourage single girls to go out and experience what it’s like to date while in college. You’ll meet new people, have new, exciting experiences and may even fall in love.

6. Get involved

I rarely got involved while in school. This was entirely opposite of my friends who had all run for the student union. I felt out of the loop when they talked about stuff like their campaign activities, and felt guilty whenever I passed by yet another flyer for a society recruiting new members.

If I had just sucked it up and got involved with something, I’m sure that I would have had a better-rounded university experience. Plus, getting involved with the student union or different societies looks great on a resume.

7. You’ll realize just how much you miss your family.

Yes, the thought of being away from the watchful eyes of your parents might be beyond exciting, but you will end up missing them. It’ll happen slowly, to the point where you don’t want to leave once you visit for Christmas break.

Spend as much time with them that you can and take advantage of our communication-filled world by making regular Skype calls, using Facetime, texting and so on.

8. You have to be organized.

In high school, you may be used to teachers keeping a list of upcoming assignments and deadlines on the whiteboard. This is not the case in college. Instead, you’re given a syllabus and are expected to ensure you finish assignments and show up for tests on time.

Because of this, being organized is so important. I made a to-do list every day and kept all assignment deadlines and other important dates in my phone as an added reminder.

9. Don’t let the success of others bring you down.

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After all the hard work, late-night studying and stress of school is done and over with, the sad reality is that many of us will be stuck living back at home, working a crappy part-time job until the job of our dreams becomes available.

Until then, your days are filled with binge-watching Netflix and scrolling through Facebook. Guaranteed, you’ll stumble upon the accomplishments of your fellow classmates on here, like someone getting a fabulous new job, buying their first house or even getting engaged.

It’s so easy to feel depressed over this or even as though you are behind in life. The key is not to let this bring you down. Use the success of others to propel your own forward and if it becomes a big problem, take a break from social media while you get your post-grad life together.

10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

If there were ever a time to make mistakes, it’s during your early twenties. Instead of letting mistakes bring you down, use each mishap as an important lesson.

So go ahead, enjoy your college experience fully. Striking a balance between work and play is your best bet to ensuring you truly enjoy what most call “the best days of your life.”

Is there anything that you’d add to this list? Let us know!

About the author

Sarah Kester

Sarah is a writer, editor and aspiring author. Her writing has appeared in Elite Daily, YourTango, Fox News Magazine, The Richest, The Talko and Feather Magazine. She has a serious love for rom-coms, pink wine and "that's what she said" jokes.

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