Reading Length: 6 minutes
I recently just graduated so I finally got my bachelors degree. I remember during my first year of orientation, a lady at my school told me that “Those four years will pass by so fast in a blink of an eye.” And man, she was right! But it got me reflecting back to what I had learned and wish I had knew before starting college. So here it is:
1. A lot of classes will suck.
I remember in high school, I was so pumped to start college and had high hopes for all the classes I would take. But I began to realize the classes weren’t as glamorous as I made it out to be. Many classes had long, boring, unengaging lectures. Even 8 hours of sleep and loads of coffee couldn’t get me through the class. So it’s good to keep this in mind to save yourself the disappointment later on.
2. Double check the professor.
Ratemyprofessor.com has been super helpful in determining whether or not a professor will be helpful and engaging. I found that most of the ratings and comments from previous students were very accurate. Avoid all the lower rating star professors as much as you can. You can also ask previous students what they think about the professor and class that you’re considering on taking.
3. Drop a class if needed.
In most schools, there’s a 1-3 week period where you can attend the class and drop it before the deadline if needed. If you could sense that the professor or class is already going to be terrible you could just drop it and opt out for another. But please make sure you drop the class before the deadline date or else it will show up as a “withdrawal” on your record. I also only recommend this as a last resort.
4. Take advantage of student discounts and free stuff.
Just like most college students, I was always broke (caption: still am) because I spent so much money on unnecessary things. You can find ways to saving money such as by joining Facebook groups, finding classmates and friends with meal plans, attending school events that handed out free stuff and finding stores that offer student discounts.
5. Find alternatives to buying textbooks.
Textbooks can be crazy expensive especially from the school book store. I made the mistake of buying all my textbooks in my first and second year which made my wallet suffer. But I would suggest hunting down for the PDF version of the textbook. Google and buy a cheaper version online or ask a friend if they have it. You can also consider splitting the cost of textbooks with them if needed. Or, you could even borrow textbooks at the library.
6. It’s okay to not have the full “college experience.”
The college experience I had in mind was constant fun, partying and drinking. But I later realized it’s totally fine to enjoy the quiet activities too. I found joy in just watching a movie with a few friends, doing small gatherings, reading a book or even just having nice alone time for myself. Don’t listen to those people that pressure you to “lighten up” more. Do what makes you happy.
7. You’ll question your path a lot.
You’ll often have an existential crisis about the path you’re taking. There will be difficult times that make you question many things about your major. You’ll question if you chose the right major, if it’s worth it, or if you can survive the next few years. It was especially brutal for me during midterm and finals week. I was so close to dropping out. But realize it’s completely normal to have this phase. Talk to someone about it, reflect a lot and keep searching for the path you feel is right for you.
8. Don’t settle for unhealthy school food. Bring your own food.
The school tends to have lots of food choices that are unhealthy. You’ll be tempted to just grab a snack or a slice of pizza but think of the compounded effects of that overtime. If you bring your own food, you can even save money and eat healthier. There’s most likely a microwave available at the cafeteria in school for you to heat up your food.
9. Build good habits and routines.
My cycle used to include binge watching Netflix, cramming for an assignment or exam, binge watching some more Netflix, sleep for less than 5 hours and go to school like a zombie. I wish I had been more disciplined in maintaining consistent good habits of getting enough sleep, having an early morning routine, eating healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and exercising. Because your body and mind will thank you.
10. No cramming and all-nighters.
Getting no sleep and pulling all-nighters was terrible for my productivity, happiness and sanity. I thought it was normal and ideal because I saw all my friends and classmates doing this. But it was counterproductive to effectively getting better grades. Please just avoid this at all cost.
11. Do an on campus work-study!
Work-study is so much better than a regular job. You’re conveniently on campus, the work load isn’t as intense and you get paid! I believe you can ask around for work-study opportunities or find it on your school’s website. I mistakenly opted out of work-study in my first year but I discovered it’s a better way to manage your time, energy and studies more effectively. And my closest friends worked with me there too so it made the experience even more fun and memorable.
12. Go to office hours. Talk to your professor.
Take advantage of those office hours from your professor! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Those hours spent reviewing material with your professor and asking as many questions as you can will be tremendously helpful for your learning experience. Not to mention, you also build a relationship with your professor. And maybe you’ll even ask for their reference letter later on.
13. Get more experience in your major and field.
I always questioned, “How can I get work experience if all the jobs require work experience?” Well, you can do an internship, volunteer opportunity, or find a part-time job related to your major. Take advantage of the summer to do this. It will give you an advantage over other applicants applying for a job. It will also make you stand out more if you plan on applying to graduate school.
14. Quality > Quantity in friendships.
I thought that I needed to join as many clubs, events and parties in order to get to know everyone. But I was later happier to just stick with a few close friends. You’ll feel much more content with developing deeper relationships with fewer friends. Less is more.
15. Enjoy being single.
After experiencing some messy relationships and observing my friend’s relationships, I learned that relationships can get disastrous, distracting and lead to heart break. But that’s normal. You’re still young and will need to experience those things sooner or later. But really enjoy the time when you are with yourself. There’s no better feeling than being at peace with your own company.
College really wasn’t as scary as high school professors made it out to be. I honestly loved college much more than high school. For college students, let me know if you relate to these tips I mentioned. And for incoming students, the main messages I would like to leave you guys with are pretty simple: Focus on studies, don’t forget to have fun at times and don’t neglect your self-care.
Join the weekly newsletter for more blog posts like these!
Leave a comment: What did you wish you knew before starting college?
Check out this video I made on this blog! Please like and subscribe!