College is a time to learn and grow in many different ways. It’s when you get to experiment with different subjects and experience new things outside of your hometown.
As you head off to college for the first time, it’s hard not to feel excited and overwhelmed with all that awaits you. College is a whole new world of experiences and challenges.
It’s a period of self-discovery and exploration, where you leave your parents’ home for the first time.
One of the most important parts of your life is about to begin.
College is an amazing experience but it can also be tough. You might find yourself feeling homesick, struggling with difficult classes, or feeling like you want to give up on your dream.
But, it can be a little frightening too! Knowing what to expect in college will make the transition a bit easier for you. Here are some important things to know about going to college.
Learn to live on your own
If you’ve been used to living with your parents your entire life, the thought of getting your own place and making your own food may make you question everything. The best way to survive in college is by being able to make your own meals.
Of course, you’ll have to go out and eat with your friends, but if you really love cooking, there are a ton of free meal plans that will allow you to eat cheaply and healthy. Always make sure to budget your money and make a game plan before you go off to college to avoid any financial disasters.
Keep an open mind
College can be overwhelming for a lot of people, so remember to keep an open mind. Let yourself take in as much information as possible, and give yourself a day of rest once a week to chill. You might be overwhelmed by the thousands of options at your fingertips, so take a step back and evaluate.
Is this a path you’d like to continue?
Is this a distraction from pursuing your passion?
Make good decisions, and know your limits. Students will be meeting new people and trying new things, but you should make good decisions.
If you don’t know if you’re ready for something, don’t do it. Most things at college aren’t worth your personal health. Don’t fall victim to the “kool-aid” mentality that is too common at universities today.
Take care of yourself
I’m not talking about puking on a one-way trip to the nurse’s office in an attempt to get some rest!
I’m talking about taking a break from school when you need it. Don’t give up on yourself just because you’re not perfect or don’t have it all together.
Sometimes, college is just a life lesson and sometimes, it’s just time to sleep and reboot. Find some support. There are people out there who have been where you are.
You aren’t alone. Stop being ashamed and feel better about yourself.
Be proactive in your education
Your parents will likely help out with at least some college expenses. However, there is no guaranteed student loan or grant money.
You will likely have to find creative ways to pay for some of your education (and then pay them back), even when you’re only getting a 3.0 in an introductory class.
By trying to get a lot of credits before you register for classes, you can avoid paying the ridiculous campus security fees or moving costs (or anything else). Even a little extra effort can save you a lot of money. Knowing your peers is just as important as studying the course syllabus.
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself
The cliché saying “life goes by so fast” is very true.
Just look at your high school friends — how many of them are still in the same place that they were freshman year?
Many times, friends are in different stages of their life by the time they enter college. The most important thing that you can do is find your niche. While many of your friends are reading Psychology for fun, you’ll want to choose something that will be personally beneficial to you.
Don’t compare yourself to others, but rather, find the subject that best suits you. In high school, you likely focused more on boys and socializing than you did on your studies, but in college, there’s an enormous focus on academics.
You’re going to have a lot of homework
This should come as no surprise to anyone. I don’t think it’s possible to live a completely stress-free life, especially as a college student.
While you’ll enjoy some of the benefits of college – like being independent and having tons of free time to spend with friends – you’ll also have a ton of assignments that are seemingly mandatory.
Even if you feel like you’re getting ahead with your assignments, you’ll still need to turn them in. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how much work college has in store for you.
Find your own identity
While college may have seemed like a great opportunity to try out a variety of different styles, the truth is that most of us lose our individuality as we graduate.
Sure, we all live in a different residence hall, but no one else lives in our clothes. We all live with a roommate, but only a select few of us even have a bedroom.
This is especially true for first year students when most of us are trying to find our place in the world, but that process is often hindered when we’re getting used to being independent. Be comfortable in your own skin and try to find who you are on your own.
Be responsible for your education
As students, it is our responsibility to understand and apply what we are learning in class, and to show up on time for class and complete assignments.
Colleges are looking for mature students who have a history of succeeding in school and have a plan for their future. Make good decisions, make friends, and study, study, study!
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College can be extremely expensive
Your tuition costs, fees, books, and your living expenses will add up quickly. To help prevent these costs, plan ahead.
Before leaving for college, sit down and create a budget and stick to it. While it’s good to have a few fun things thrown in there, your focus needs to be on how you can use the money you have to best advantage.
Respect your classmates
It’s great that college provides an outlet for students to let out their inner drama queen.
But when you get into the swing of it and you’re still asking your classmates to answer your phone calls, you know it’s time to tone it down.
In addition, keeping in touch with old friends and family can be easier than it was in high school, so why not take full advantage of that?
Get involved on campus
Getting involved on campus will help you make friends, keep up with your classes, learn to live in a large dorm, and even get paid to help clean the bathrooms.
Yes, you read that correctly. Some universities will even pay you to work for them during the summer, holidays, or while you’re on break. You could also consider becoming a peer tutor if you are a hard worker and have the patience for helping people.
It is a great way to put your educational experience into perspective and to have fun while you’re doing it.
What to be aware of
Not every student needs the same things. I can’t even begin to tell you how many tears I shed when I realized I was buying nice clothes and shoes for a lifestyle that I could only be part of for two years.
Investing in nice clothes and jewelry isn’t a huge deal, but how do you know whether the cute hoodie and neon leggings that you’re purchasing for less than $100 are going to fit you well after school?
A budgeting plan can help you prepare and stay on track to make the most of the money you do have. It’s okay to talk to the help desk, and yes, it’s allowed to make phone calls home. If there is ever a crisis, your parents will be more than willing to help you.
Do you need help opening a locker, or know where to sign for housing and dining plan packages? Just talk to the help desk.
Being painfully honest
When you first arrive on campus, everyone is all, “Oh, you’re my new neighbor! So cool!” and in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “No, I’m your new neighbor!” Why?
College is a small community. Once you’re at a school for three or four years, you’ll meet people from all over the world and you’ll probably have long-lasting friendships with people you met in high school.
But when you’re a freshman, it’s easy to be fake. Or at least it was for me. After two years, you start to be authentic and if you’re not, it can get messy.
Don’t allow yourself to become too good or confident, just because you’re in college now. Once you find your footing in life, remember to always be as honest as you can.
The importance of academics
You don’t have to be a world-renowned scholar to go to college. No one is saying you have to memorize every fact about crickets or the Great Sphinx.
In fact, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to be a world-renowned scholar to go to college.
There’s no way to learn everything about anything in one day. Don’t cram for a midterm or stay up all night cramming for a quiz, especially when you have to wake up at 6 am to attend class.
The truth is, students take on too much of a workload and have too little time to learn for the sake of learning. It’s okay to coast your way through your first semester of college.
A budget is not just for shopping
When you’re first starting college, you need to be conscious of how much you have to spend. There is no free lunch at college; you’ll need to plan your meals in advance and find creative ways to get all of your necessities without going overboard. Planning ahead for the things that matter the most will take some time, but it will be worth it.
The importance of meeting people
It’s like the saying, “Love is blind,” and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. College is a life-changing experience and one you should never forget.
Life is better with friends and one of the best ways to find new ones is to hit the ground running. When the alarm goes off in the morning and you can’t sleep, grab a friend and go for a run.
Find your new bestie by sitting with them in class and inviting her to hangout. The more of those in your life, the better!
Everyone is unique
Our cultural differences are so vast, but the thing that connects us all is that we’re human. We all make mistakes and make decisions for what we believe is right. Life is meant to be lived, and while you may never be the same person, people can connect to you.
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There are hundreds of thousands of students, each having a different experience, and no one’s experience is the same as anyone else’s.
Before you jump to conclusions and complain to your parents, realize that you may have a completely different experience than someone who lived in the same home the past 18 years.
Who knows how many roommates you’ll be living with this year?
Who knows what other types of social groups you’ll join or how long it will take for you to find a roommate?
Remember that life can be easy or hard. Use the struggle to propel you to the next level and to become the best version of yourself.
What are you going to take away from college?
What struggles have you faced?
What did you learn from those experiences?