They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I guess that’s a phrase for a reason. Especially when it comes to your first year of college, there are a few pieces of advice that we all wish we got before stepping onto campus for the first time.
While some things you just have to learn from experience (and that’s the fun part), here are eight things I wish I had known before I started college.
1. You don’t have to join everything. I’m guilty of being that girl: I was the one wandering around the activities fair on the second day of school adding my name to almost every club’s email list. I signed up for every group that looked even remotely interesting or like a good resume builder (or had free food). It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was no way I was making 15 club meetings every week, so one by one I made choices.
College isn’t like high school; you don’t need to flood your resume trying to participate in everything. Rather, pick two or three activities that you really enjoy and can invest yourself in. You’ll get far more out of them, guaranteed.
2. Your friend group may change a lot. For me, one of the biggest surprises about college was that sometimes friends only last for a few days, weeks, months, or a semester. The fact that circumstances and classes change every semester means that your best friend or entire social circle may change right along with it–and that’s okay. In fact, it’s normal. Of course you’ll end up with a core group of friends eventually, but if they aren’t your first-year roommate or the people you met at orientation, don’t worry.
3. Don’t go home every weekend. I saw so many friends go home every weekend to hang out with their BFFs from home, high school boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. and miss out on some pretty fabulous bonding time. The first few weeks of college are crucial for finding your place and acclimating to campus. So if you can help it, stick around even if you’re feeling homesick. Home will still be there at Thanksgiving, I promise.
4. You don’t need to buy all of your textbooks. I cannot even begin to tell you how much money I wasted my first year by buying all of my textbooks. Unless you have an assignment due before the first day of class, wait until classes begin to find out from professors if you really need to invest in a copy of the reading material.
On a similar note: don’t be fooled into thinking you need to buy new textbooks. 99% of the time, used textbooks suffice just fine. After all, you were probably going to highlight the same stuff anyway.
5. Even when it seems optional, go anyway. In college, things aren’t always mandatory. Attending classes, lectures, recitation, office hours are often considered optional. Don’t be fooled. Professors will remember who shows up to office hours when they’re assigning final grades. Attending every class will definitely boost your overall comprehension of a subject. Paying attention and taking notes in lectures will help you study more than a night of cramming. (It’s not rocket science, people!)
6. Sleep: It sounds like common sense, I know. But between classes, clubs, friends, and having a social life, usually sleep is the first thing to go. While it’s tempting to only get four hours of shut-eye a night, don’t get sucked into that pattern. Remember to get enough sleep. Being well-rested for class is just as important as actually going to it, and getting enough sleep can also help reduce your chances of getting sick (which will inevitably happen anyway, but sleep will still help!)
7. Enjoy the convenience of the dining hall. After you move into your off-campus apartment, I assure you that you will miss the dining hall. Just take my word for it and embrace it while you can.
8. Go to free events on campus. There will be tons of free concerts, speakers, comedians, plays, and EVERYTHING on campus every semester. Make a point of going to as many of them as you can. How many chances in your life will you get to hear a Nobel Prize novelist speak or be front row for an amazing concert…FOR FREE? Trust me, when you leave college, you will long for the days of free food, music and the chance to see super famous people free of charge.
Enjoy the experience. Remember to breath, relax, and take advantage of all the opportunities college has to offer.