With school starting back this time of year, I was reflecting on how much I’ve learned since I started college. There are so many things I wish I’d known from the beginning. And some of them took me much longer than they should have to figure out. I decided the best thing I could do with this knowledge was to share it, especially if it meant potentially helping someone else. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and much of this advice might seem obvious, but I hope it will help to hear from someone with recent personal experience.
- Start now. See all that homework piling up after the first week? Yeah, that’s only going to get worse with time. I frequently crammed the day before a test and pulled an all-nighter to write a paper in high school. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for a mental breakdown. It’s never fun, but it will be necessary when you have a test and two papers due on the same day.
- Make the most of your time. I probably accomplished more on the weekends when my roommates went home than any other time. There will be so much more free time compared to high school. By being strategic about when you fulfill your school obligations, you don’t have to miss out when everyone around you wants to have fun.
- Don’t isolate yourself. For shy people like myself, it’s too easy to let intimidation scare you away from social situations. If this is the case, please try to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while. I can’t think of a time I made myself get out there and truly regretted it. Overall, it’s about the quality, not quantity, of personal connections.
- Ask. One of the most useful things I had when starting college was older students I could ask questions. “Where is the biology building?” “How do you check books out of the library?” I had just left home for the first time, so I was learning not only a new school but a new town, and it can be overwhelming. Working on campus, I’ve been asked a lot of questions by embarrassed students. The truth is, I really don’t mind! We all had to learn from someone.
- Get to know your professors. Attending class and being engaged go a long way, especially once you get out of the huge lecture halls. If asking a question in class is too daunting, stick around after until everyone has left or send an email. When a professor knows you’re a good student, they will be much more willing to work with you should an emergency arise. Making connections now will also help down the road when you need a reference or recommendation letter.
- Take care of yourself. While they’re different for everyone, we all have our limits. Most likely you will get hurt or sick at some point. Don’t let it be because of something avoidable. Good health is something many of us take for granted until it’s gone.
- Buy a water bottle. This is probably the most specific piece of advice, so let me explain. I used to buy a water most days at lunch. It was cheap and convenient. Finally, it dawned on me how much money I was spending this way. I felt stupid. I’ve purchased two or three reusable water bottles. Even at $10 each, I’ve save so much money. Sometimes you need to think long term and invest now. The sooner you realize, the better off you’ll be.
Thanks to anyone who managed to read this whole post. I’ll try to have something more fun next time. Good luck to everyone starting school!