I went to Northeast Mississippi Community College for my freshman year and transferred to Mississippi State for my sophomore year. Overall, I made a lot of mistakes when it came to priorities and making time for having fun. I finished my freshman year classified technically as a junior because of all the time I spent in the books. If I could go back, these are some of the things I wish I had known or done differently.
Community college is NOT free like everyone tells you.
Community college is cheaper, but it is not free. I have a 28 on my ACT which gained a free tuition at NEMCC, plus I had other scholarships and grants, however, if you pick up extra classes or summer classes, those aids do not apply like they normally would. Classes were cheaper, but I paid close to $3,000 out of pocket to pick up summer and online classes.
Classes at a community college aren't always easier.
Rumor has it that community college is *normally* easier than at a university. This was not true for me at all. I was a Biology major at the time, and I doubled up on my maths and sciences. I will tell you that I have NEVER taken a class that challenged my mentality more than my first ever Chemistry class that was at NEMCC. I would go home thinking that I was an idiot because I couldn't make higher than a D on any test. No matter where you are, you will always have to apply yourself and prepare to make the experience easier.
Take advantage of being around people that you've known for years.
Take comfort in the fact that you know 80% of your classmates from high school. Get to know the people that you only just "knew of". Find out their personalities and you never know, you may of had a long lost best friend in them. This is your second and last chance to make connections with some of them, so don't waste it.
Being involved makes your college experience better.
While at NEMCC, I was only involved in two clubs on campus, commuted every day, and I took a total class load of 49 hours by the end of my freshman year. I didn't take the time to be involved in extracurriculars or fun things going on around campus. I was miserable there because I didn't try to assimilate myself. I would drive there for classes from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and drive straight home. College is enjoyable if you make it that way, and the first step is to be involved.
Don't be afraid to leave home.
As a high school senior, I was terrified to be alone in the world. I did not want to leave my home, my parents, my friends, etc. and move to a new city. Thinking back, CC was a great stepping stone for people like me, but I missed out on a lot of opportunities at MSU and making new memories on my own there. I wish I could tell myself that it's OK to fly the nest. There is a world of opportunities to explore if you give it a chance.
With more freedom comes more responsibility.
Let me be brutally honest with this one. College professors will not be like your HS football coach that was also your history teacher. They are there to get paid, not to be your cool adult friend. If you don't scan into class or turn an assignment in on time, they will not hunt you down. They could care less. You have to take it upon yourself to be responsible and plan things out. Learning how to schedule things early on at CC made it 1000x easier once I piled my class load on at MSU.
Do internships or shadowing early on.
Finding out what you want to do with your life will take some time. I would suggest to do as many shadowing or internship opportunities early to narrow down your field of possibilities. Also, doing them at a CC, you can earn certificates to add a few extra $$$$ later on to your paycheck.
College parking sucks everywhere.
The title says it all. Parking passes or not, every student parking lot will be full. Go ahead and be prepared for the frustration tears and a late scan in, or make it a habit to be very early. *sigh* Also, do not test campus police or parking services. Just. Don't. Even. Try.
Learn how to use a library and its resources early on.
I had never stepped foot in a real library until college. College is a whole new level of studying and all-nighters. Learn how to use a library and utilize study opportunities as much as possible. Also, be nice to the people who work there. They can help you with research in so many ways that you wouldn't know about on your own.
Make connections with new people.
Don't be afraid to talk to the people in your classes. You are all on the same struggle bus, so might as well make a new friend. The friendships I made at NEMCC followed me on to MSU. I was very blessed to have a great friend group that was there every night in the library with me struggling through Chem to moving to Starkville and having fun in the District.
All in all, I'm sad/happy that I did use my first year to get the hang of things at my local community college. I do feel like I missed out on the dorm life and perks of being a freshman at a University (Greek life, I'm talking about you and the wonderful house meals for a year). Even though I missed out, I needed that extra year crutch. As of today, I've accomplished so much: I rushed Phi Mu last fall, I am the vice president for the Transfer Student Association, I am an active person on campus, and I've gotten to work with Admissions at MSU and make videos for other incoming students. I love my major, I'm a Creator for the Odyssey at MSU, I am a part of so many other things, but, most importantly, I am happy. I'm exactly where I want and need to be right now, and I couldn't be any more blessed.