College Life

15 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

Embarking on your first year of college can be quite stressful. There is plenty of packing and planning to make sure you are fully prepared for what may seem like the unknown. After you complete your first year there is plenty that you may learn along the way that you wish someone would have told you when you started out. After my freshman year of college, I had gained much more knowledge than I thought I would, and it wasn’t only in the classroom and some of it, I had learned the hard way. Here are a few things I wish I knew before I started college.

1) Organization is Everything

If you are typically an organized person, you already harness a vital component of obtaining college success. If you are somewhat or massively disorganized, come up with a system to maintain a bit of order throughout the semesters. Having color coded folders, highlighters for important terms and test dates are something you will need to make sure you are prepared for each week of classes. Organization within your dorm room is certainly something to strive for as well. Having a clean and organized living space will take some stress off of yourself and allow you to stay focused. This is one of the biggest things I wish I knew before I started college!

2) Make Sure You Get a Proper Tour of Your Campus

On orientation day, you may get a rundown of the most important parts of your campus. Pay attention to these spots and get a second tour from a seasoned student who knows their way around. There may be a hidden study spot or a vending machine with the best snacks and you don’t want to find out about it on your fourth year at school.

3) Being a Nerd is a Good Thing

Don’t ever feel ashamed of wanting to learn and striving to get that A+ on a paper. Being branded a “know it all” in high school is something to be proud of. Being a hard worker and landing yourself on the Dean’s List is something employers look out for. So don’t be hard on yourself for wanting good grades.

4) It’s OK to Not Know What You Want

Going into college, you may know what degree you want to go for. You may be fulfilling your dream of becoming a doctor or an interior designer. Or you may not know at all what you want to do and that’s OK, too. There are many, many instances of students changing their majors and figuring out what they truly enjoy in college. Figuring out who you are personally and academically is what the college experience is all about. This is definitely one of the things I wish I knew before I started college that everyone relates to.

5) Develop a Relationship with Your Professors

A true pro-tip for being successful in college is to befriend your professors. Ask questions and schedule meetings to discuss the lessons and the curriculum. Making your interest in the class known and developing this bond will let your professor know that you are serious about your studies and want to learn.

6) Know Everything Available to You

Getting a lay of the land and a tour of the campus is important, but knowing all of the programs and benefits available to you is just as important. Find out what kind of college-success programs they offer like counseling and tutoring. Make yourself aware of all the departments, programs and faculty available to you. Your college wants you to succeed just as much as you do.

7) Don’t Buy the Book if You Won’t Read it Again

This is one of the things I wish I knew before I started college so I could have saved money! If there is a class you must take but don’t want to spend an absurd amount of money, just rent the book. Sometimes professors require you to buy a textbook and you never end up opening it. So don’t infuriate yourself or hurt your wallet and rent the book instead. You can send it back early if you don’t need it, and if you end up really liking the textbook, some textbook rental sites let you buy the book at the end of the rental period!

 

8) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

I spent my first year of college purely as an observer. I was rather quiet and just waited to see how others participated in class and went from there. In your first year, don’t torture yourself and sit in silence. Ask the professor or the person sitting next to you. They say there is no such thing as a stupid question and you may think that yours is the exception. But you would be surprised how just as lost everyone are along side you.

9) Your Syllabus is Your Best Friend

In the first week of classes, you professor will give you a syllabus with important due homework, schedules and test dates. Transfer everything into your planner, or keep it safe in the appropriate binder or folder and don’t lose it!

10) Make Time to Make a Phone Call

This one isn’t just for you, but your parents as well. This is a big step for you and your family, so make time to call, say hello and give an update on how everything is going. Having that familiarity in you day will give you a boost and you will give your mother some peace of mind.

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11) Give Yourself a Break

It seems that sometimes college can be nonstop. Don’t burn yourself out by not giving yourself a little break every now and then. Make sure you give yourself a study or homework break and treat yourself to a snack or watch a quick episode of your favorite show. When in doubt, just go to bed. You could study all night but you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you don’t get a full night’s sleep.

12) Plan Ahead of Time

Having back-to-back classes can mean not having time to stop and eat lunch or dinner. The night before a big day, male sure you have some food prepared to take with you. A little fruit salad, some almonds and a sandwich will give you fuel to get through the day and it is always important to have somewhat of a balanced diet. This is definitely one of the important things I wish I knew before I started college!

13) Consider an Early Internship

At the tail end of your college career, you will start applying to internships, sometimes getting a bit of a head start on these will help you in the long run. On the summer in between your second and third year, check to see if there are any internships in your field to build up your resume a bit before the internship in your final year.

14) Register For Classes as Soon as You Can

In the months prior to your first day of the semester, you will sign up for classes. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you will be stuck trying to stay awake in a class you don’t like for the next four months. Always be proactive when registering for classes and pretty much everything else when it comes to your studies. Being one step ahead in your college career will save you plenty of headaches.

15) Put Yourself Out There

This is for all you introverts out there. I spent my first year of college in my shell, and if there is one piece of advice I would give my freshman self, it is to get out and join clubs, meet people, make friends and make memories because at the end of your college career you won’t only have a degree, you will have plenty of memories. This is one of the most important things I wish I knew before I started college!

Do you relate to any of these things I wish I knew before I started college? Let me know in the comments below!

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Erica Elbers

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