12 Things I Would Tell Myself When I Started College
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12 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started College

College is unique for everyone, but some things would have been good to know right away.

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12 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started College
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

College has been at times the most incredibly fun chapter of my life and at other times the most painfully stressful. Looking back, now about halfway through my undergrad, there are quite a few things I've learned outside of class that - had I known as a freshman what I know now - would have made the good times better and the bad times more manageable.

Don't beat yourself up

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Most of us go into college and really want to be the best of the best. With a lot of hard work and dedication, we can be. But if you're anything like me, you might go into your first year of college underestimating just how hard it is to transition into the much higher difficulty of college courses. Your grades might take a hit from where they were when you were in high school. The important thing is to keep doing your best and don't think less of yourself if you don't meet your expectations. As demoralizing as it can be to take some poor grades when you tried really hard, the worst thing you can do is quit trying.

Get to know your professors

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You should be kind to everyone you run into in college - after all, you never know who might be the connection you need to land your dream job! But it is especially important that you develop positive relationships with your professors. Ultimately, your goal is to be the student that the professors talk about and remember even after you've graduated. Coming into my third year, I have had the opportunity to prove myself in front of my departmental faculty and they know me personally. I cannot understate how important this personal relationship is in providing the extra support you need to be successful.

Lose sight of the shore

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One of the coolest things about college in my opinion is how may different things you can get yourself involved in. I just love how quickly you can go from being the student who goes to class and then home to being the student who always has something important and exciting going on. I know I always envied the people who were involved in all these clubs and activities that filled their planners while I only had classes and then whatever I could find to do in the meantime. Now, I'm one of those always-going-somewhere-doing-something people and all it took was for me to send a few emails indicating my interest in getting involved. These things not only look fantastic on a resume but are excellent ways to develop new things about yourself that you never would have discovered if you had stayed on the shore where you were comfortable. Get out of that comfort zone!

Counselors and Advisers are your friends

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If you're anything like me, it can be hard to ask for help. But your university has a ton of resources available to students that are there to help keep you moving in the right direction while you're here! You could try on your own to figure out which classes you need to take in what order to keep on track, or you could schedule an appointment to meet with an adviser who does that for a living. When they are there specifically to help you, there's no reason not to reach out and use those resources. Similarly, counselors are available for students who need help with anything at all, including just feeling overwhelmed and needing someone to talk to about it. You should never be afraid to reach out to these resources and a lot more people use them than you might think.

Undecided is decidedly okay

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I felt pressured to declare a major right away, to start in my degree-specific courses as soon as I hit the ground running. I even thought I had a really good idea of what I wanted to study, so I declared a psychology major right away. The thing is, you might get to college and find a general education course that makes you realize you never knew your true calling before right then. Personally? I was a psychology major until I saw a poster in Brown Hall for Professional & Technical Writing. All it took was a poster in a hallway on my way to class for me to second-guess my field of study. After finding some PTW majors and talking to them about the program, I found it was exactly what I wanted to do and I changed my majors. Luckily for me I hadn't taken any degree-specific courses yet so I didn't waste any credits. However, you shouldn't be too eager to declare your major and dive straight into credits that only count for that program until you're sure it's what you want to study.

Seeing friends infrequently

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College can be really busy, especially as we near finals week. It isn't uncommon for even really close friends to lose track of each other for a while, while both are taking care of their responsibilities. That doesn't mean we aren't close or something bad happened. I think it actually shows how close you can be with your friend that you don't have to be constantly together to know you're friends. In college, you'll develop a lot of friendships where your schedules might not work together from semester to semester and you'll find that just because you don't see them a lot, that doesn't make you any less of a friend to each other.

You'll change as a person

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I'm not the person I was when I was carrying my first boxes into my new dorm freshman year. Honestly I'm not the person I was last year either, and in a few months I'll be looking back on who I currently am and wondering what I think I'm doing. It's one of the greatest things about life that we have the capacity to change, and nothing incites change like our college years. Your time in college is going to be so full of identity-defining experiences that you might wake up one day and not recognize yourself. If you're good about reaching out to the positive resources available to you, this change should be positive. We're shedding our immaturities and developing the mature qualities we're going to bring into adulthood! And if you don't like something about yourself, there's no better time to improve.

Shopping for books

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Seriously, shop around for your textbooks. It might be easier to just pick them up at your school's bookstore, but you might be paying for the convenience. When the required textbooks get posted, look around for where you can get them cheapest. Just make sure you find the correct edition before you go buying a textbook that might not work for the class. Additionally, check to see if your school bookstore will price match. You might be able to get the convenience of picking up your books from the school bookstore at a lower price because somewhere else is offering the book cheaper.

It's not over until you say it is

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I've seriously considered dropping out of college before. As exciting as college is, I've had times where I felt like I couldn't get through and I needed to quit. I really did come close, but I think I realized that I still want what's at the end of this road. I still want the career that my degree will help me achieve. What I want will never be out of reach until I say I'm done, which is why I'm writing this as I prepare for my third year of college. With that being said, don't feel like you have to finish college no matter what.

If leaving is right for you

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As I said, I persevered through some very difficult times in my college career instead of giving up and dropping out. However, I don't mean to say that dropping out means giving up. I took a long hard look at my life and where I wanted to be and determined that I needed to continue with my degree to achieve that. If you want something different for yourself, college might not be the way to get there. There are some incredibly valuable and rewarding careers out there that don't require a college degree. Or if you don't know exactly what you want to do and aren't sure if a college degree will get you there, absolutely consider taking some time off to figure it out. You gain nothing by going into debt and stressing yourself out for a degree that doesn't take you exactly where you want to go in life.

Getting experience before you graduate

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So we have all heard about the entry-level jobs in our industries that expect us to have experience, right? How are we expected to have experience in a field that requires experience to get into? Well, college is a fantastic place for that. Remember those clubs and activities you should be thinking about joining? Many of them can be applicable to what you want to do for a career. My career field deals a lot with document design and marketing. Things I have done in different groups in my time here at college can be considered experience and I have already developed the makings of a strong portfolio even though I don't have a degree yet. Depending on your field of study, you might even have the opportunity to take internships or full jobs that only require you to be pursuing a degree.

#YOLO

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Yeah, you really should make sure to have some fun while you're in college! Make some memories, because this is the beginning of a whole new chapter of your life. College has the capacity to be anything you want it to be, so why not make it something worth remembering? Walk away from your college experience with the stories that end with "I'd do it again if I could!"

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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