I attended college for four years. From the time I moved in to my freshman year dorm room to the time I crossed the university stage to get my diploma cover, I had learned a plethora of lessons. For those of you who are about to attend college for the very first time, I have nineteen pieces of advice to help make your experience extra special.
1. It is absolutely and one hundred percent acceptable to eat by yourself in the dining hall or at the food court. In high school, if you weren’t eating lunch with at least one other person, people think of you as weird. The opposite is true in college. People couldn’t care less what you’re eating, if you’re eating with other people, or if you’re studying while eating. If you want to sit by yourself in the dining hall and eat breakfast while you study for a political science midterm, you’re absolutely okay to do so. In college, I appreciated getting to sit by myself and complete an American Literature reading or study for an advertising exam.
2. Deciding to eat ice cream for breakfast is a potentially inevitable decision, and that’s okay. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should eat ice cream for breakfast regularly. Eating healthy is a key part of thriving in college. However, there will be those days where you’re just not in the mood to eat a real breakfast and just want to eat a big bowl of Blue Bell Buttered Pecan instead. I remember one morning in April, when I was a freshman in college. I ate some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, either Half-Baked or Fudge Brownie for breakfast. I was so satisfied when I ate it because it was so good.
3. Leggings, hats, soccer pants, sweatpants, and pajamas are lifesavers! At the start of college, I wanted to dress to impress on a regular basis. As time went on, however, I cared a little less about my outfits. There are days where you don’t feel well, mentally or physically, and there may be days where your hair doesn’t cooperate. Wearing leggings, hats, soccer pants, sweatpants, pajamas, and Nike shorts are more acceptable in college than high school. However, I do recommend dressing decently for presentations or speeches.
4. Morning classes are not for everyone. I started high school almost daily at 7:30 in the morning in high school. I thought that I would be able to survive having classes and a lab at 8:00 in the morning three times a week my very first college semester. I was quite incorrect about that, and I made it a note to steer clear of classes at that time. Some people are morning people, some are not. If you would prefer to take a class at 2:00 in the afternoon than at 9:30 in the morning, that’s perfectly okay. Create your schedule based on classes you like, are fit for your course of study, and are at times you feel will work best for you.
5. Keep in touch with family. All four years of college, I had a habit of calling my parents on the first day of the fall semester. I would vent to my parents and siblings whenever I had an annoying day at work or school. I also liked to reach out to my family whenever my grandmother came in so I could update her on school. I also really like spending one-on-one time with my family for lunch or ice cream. Whether you’re going to school closer to home or far away, I recommend keeping in touch with your family. They will appreciate it and they are a great source of advice and comfort.
6. If you want to change your major, it’s totally okay. For the first three semesters of college, I studied literature and writing. As time went on, I came to the realization that I chose the wrong major. When it was spring semester of my sophomore year, I began majoring in sociology instead, whilst minoring in communications and international studies. If you start out as a biochemistry major but decide you’d rather study political science, there’s no shame in making that change. If you realize you want to major in business administration instead of criminology, there’s absolutely no shame in switching. It’s better to spend a little extra time studying something you love than sticking with a path your heart isn’t in.
7. Absolutely take advantage of special lectures and fun opportunities. For my international studies minor, I had to participate in on-campus events. In addition, my international journalism professor and an anthropology professor suggested attending some special lectures. I really enjoyed the lectures and I found them very supplemental to my learning. If your school has special lectures or guest movie nights, there’s a big advantage of attending. It’s a great way to have fun and learn something new.
8. Take up any opportunity to volunteer with your college or university. I definitely was interested in taking up the opportunity to help people in my community. I felt wonderful getting a chance to lend a helping hand to those who need it, especially since my high school service learning project was for the Special Olympics. Not only that, but it’s a good thing to add to your resume. By volunteering through college clubs or on your own time, you will feel good by helping your community and set yourself up for a successful future.
9. Never be shy to ask your professors for help. They are there to help you. If I didn’t go to my anthropology TA’s office hours, I would never have gotten good advice on how to write my book report for the class. Had I avoided going to my American studies professor’s office hours, I might not have gotten the mental health help I needed. Without my political science professors’ and TAs’ office hours, I wouldn’t have gotten the report help I needed. Your professors will be more than happy to help you succeed in and out of the classroom.
10. Taking mental health days is always worth it. While I do recommend going to as many classes as you can, your mental health also matters, very much. There might be those days when you’re in such a bad mood that you don’t want to go to class and just want to lay in bed and watch your favorite animated movie instead. I have taken breaks from class to take care of my mental health, and it helped lead to better grades. Not only does taking a mental health day have a good effect on your health, but on your transcript, too.
11. It’s okay if you want to study on Friday night instead of going out and partying. College is a time to make new friends and have some fun. However, it also is a time to concentrate on your studies and prepare for your future. If you would rather study for a nutrition test or write a book report for British literature than go to a fraternity party, it’s okay. I was not really a party girl myself in college. I was one to study or watch Netflix instead of go clubbing.
12. Take advantage of any dog petting events your college or university puts on. Dogs are absolutely wonderful animals. I love seeing them, petting them, and being around them. If your school brings dogs to the campus for midterms or finals, take the chance to pet and play with the dogs. It is a great study break, it will cheer you up, and you get to spend time with some adorable four-legged friends. I spent time petting dogs every single spring semester. They were so cute and I loved spending time with the furry angels.
13. There will definitely be those nights where you stay up quite late to finish your homework. I don’t recommend pulling all-nighters on a regular basis, but even with the best intentions, you’ll probably end up working into the early morning to finish your assignments. As a master procrastinator, I can attest to this, having written an entire book report for a criminal justice class the night before the deadline after having known about it all semester long. Don’t worry if you end up staying up until 1:45 in the morning doing your homework, just make sure it’s only occasionally.
14. Coffee might become your saving grace, but be careful about how much you drink. Iced coffee is one of my favorite beverages. However, I only drink coffee when I’m having a really hard time staying awake or if I know I’m going to need a boost. While coffee can help you get ready for a big day of lectures, labs, and recitations and can help you stay up late if you need to, be careful not to overdo it. Being well-rested and well-nourished is key.
15. Duolingo is a wonderful way to learn a new language. Currently, on Duolingo, I am learning French, Spanish, Esperanto, Korean Russian, Finnish, Swedish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish, Chinese, and Czech. While learning a new language through classes at your college or university is a good idea, sometimes life is busy and sometimes you don’t have time in your schedule and course of study for a foreign language. Duolingo is a wonderful way to learn as many languages as your heart desires.
16. Never delete homework files until the semester is over. During my first semester of college, my poetry professor mentioned they have not received an assignment from me. Although I was convinced I turned in the assignment, I offered to give the professor a second copy. Had I erased my file; I would have gotten a zero on the assignment. You should always keep your homework files on your computer all semester long. Not only will you be able to re-submit an assignment if your professor notifies you that they didn’t receive your homework, but you’ll also have a source to study for finals.
17. It’s never to early to take advantage of career fairs. It’s a great way to make connections early and get a good idea of what you want to do when you grow up. Who knows? You might end up finding a great summer internship! I wish I had taken advantage of career fairs earlier in my college career.
18. Quizlet is your best friend during finals and midterms. I would not have not done as well as I did without Quizlet. It has been a major hero for me for tests. I have a formula for getting a kick out of the popular study site. First, write down the answers for the flashcards in your notebook, then write down the correct answer in parentheses next to your answer. Next, do a true/false test in test mode. Lastly, do the learn feature until you’ve mastered all your terms. You can try any of the study features Quizlet has to offer to see what you prefer.
19. Be open to making new friends in any situation. One of my favorite memories of freshman year was when a pair of upperclassmen asked me if I could swipe them into the dining hall. Because of the type of person I was, I gladly swiped them in. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. They were two of the nicest people I have ever met, and we even took a photo together. College is a great time to make new friends and acquaintances. It might be through work, a club meeting, classes, or chance campus meetings. Take an opportunity to say hi, or nod. You might make their day and befriend a new person!