As a fifth-year student who will graduate in May of 2017, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my college experience. While many people will say that their college years were the best years of their life, I will not say the same. My years at the University of Montana have been the hardest, most emotionally trying years of my life; and while I will never take for granted the lessons I've learned, I still regret so many of the decisions that led to those lessons. Here are my biggest regrets from my college years:
1. Choosing To Attend With No Plans For The Future
I had no idea what I wanted to major or minor in, or even an inkling of what I would like to spend my life doing. Sure, that's what general education credits are for, but those credits may not offer a subject that truly inspires you. The classes that interested me ranged from Spanish to Statistics, Coding classes to Choir, and Creative Writing to Microeconomics. After I whetted my palette on just about every subject the University had to offer, I had less of an idea of what I wanted to major in than when I enrolled in the school.
My advice: If you don't think a gap year will work for you--start thinking about what interests and inspires you before you start filling out those college applications. If you are already in school, I say just major in whatever you have the most credits in, and spin that major into working for every job you wish to do. Most careers (unless in medicine or the hard sciences) just want a piece of paper stating that you have a degree and could not care less about what the degree actually is.
2. Settling On My Major
Once I finally decided to start thinking about the future, I panicked--I had no idea what I wanted to do, and only had a few credits in each department. I decided to choose the major that fit what interested me most at the time, which was psychology. I also figured it would be a good idea since my boyfriend was also in the same department and we would have classes together. Let me tell you, sharing all of your classes with your significant other does not make a major you are only semi-interested in worth it. Each semester is now a struggle to get through; while I do find the subject matter interesting, I have a really hard time putting so much effort into something that will only mildly affect my future.
My advice: Choose something you love and are passionate about--even if it takes an extra year or two! The excess money you might spend is not nearly as important as choosing something that you love. If you adore what you do in school, your life will be so much easier!
3. Joining Greek Life
I know there are a lot of bad things associated with Greek Life, but honestly, there's a reason for that. I'm sure that rushing for some people is the best decision they will make, but for me, it was the most detrimental decision of my college career. I joined a sorority because my two closest friends at the time wanted to--and honestly, I was lonely. I wanted to make a lot of new friends, and go to fun parties, and do something that made me popular.
What really happened was the disintegration of my friendships, depression, anxiety, my stuff getting stolen, and many bad decisions involving alcohol. It was so bad that I lost a significant amount of weight, I failed out of all of my classes, and I pushed away anyone who tried to get close and help me. After I quit, I regained so much happiness that I never looked back.
My Advice: Ask around about Greek Life, including opinions that may not be popular. I would also suggest about looking into what a formal rush requires (because damn, can it take up a lot of time), and what the expectations will be once you accept your bid. This isn't an easy thing to get out of once you join, so make sure it is something you really want.
4. Not Putting My Education First
A majority of my college years, at least in the beginning, were spent at parties, spending time with bad influences, and skipping class to sleep. I was focused so much on the present that I jeopardized my future--which is ironic because of all the anxiety that thinking about the future caused me during that time.
My Advice: While it is not healthy to maintain an "all work and no play" attitude, don't play too much. While the former may make you a dull boy, the latter will ensure that you have a hard time moving forward. Don't enjoy the present so much so that you kill any chance for a happy future.
5. Trusting Too Much...And Then Too Little
I had amazing friends the first year of college; however, we grew apart--and not always in a nice way. Many friendships ended on bad terms and it devastated me to lose the people I had spent years planning my future with, but that's what happens when everybody starts to follow their own path. However, I was so deeply affected from the losses that I didn't trust nor want anyone else to get close to me. My second and third year of college was spent in near isolation with only my boyfriend, and a few acquaintances to occasionally spend time with. It wasn't until just a few months ago that I gave into the need for close companionship, especially with other females.
My Advice: Your friends will be your rock during your four-plus years in college so make sure you make good ones. If you feel that some people are dragging you down, cut them loose--but don't let that prevent you from making new friends. You'll find your soulmate friends out there somewhere, you just need to look!
6. Not Finding A Good Adviser
OK, so a majority of college students will have no idea what they want to do for the first few years, that's where advisers come in. I suggest finding one you really like, one who understands your wants and needs as well as your goals for the future, and stick to them like glue. I flitted from adviser to adviser and never found one that got me--to them I was just another one of the 17,000 students on campus who wanted a degree. I never found someone who understood that while I was interested in Psychology, I was passionate about Writing and Business--and I wanted a degree that would be most beneficial for my future, not one that would get me out in the least amount of time possible. I spent four years having little-to-no help or guidance which is the main reason for my needing a fifth year--as well as the reason choosing a career has been such a struggle.
My Advice: Again, stick to whoever understands you best--college is confusing and tricky, and you can't do it alone.
College has taught me countless lessons thus far, but I still wish I could go back and change some of the decisions I made. However, now that I've made these mistakes, you don't have to! Take this advice to heart, I am a miserable college student who wishes she would have had someone tell her this when she was a bright-eyed 18-year-old college freshmen.