Starting college is one of the most exciting and overwhelming experiences a person can have. You’re getting your first taste of adult freedom, which can be liberating, but also scary as hell. Because hindsight is always 20/20 (unfortunately), there are a lot of things I wish I could tell my 18-year-old-self. In an effort to help those just starting this journey, I put together this list of college advice. These are all things I didn’t realize until long after I tossed my cap in the air!
Go with your gut
This is a life lesson I learned, but one I didn’t totally understand until my twenties. Mainly because of fear. It can be really tempting to stick with what’s comfortable, especially when you’re out on your own for the first time, but if your gut is telling you to do something, do it! When you’re 18, you probably have a lot less to lose than post-college or even years later, so I recommend taking the chance. Worst case, you’ll learn from a mistake.
You’ll probably be presented with tons of opportunities to meet different people, join groups and learn new things—take advantage of this! If you go to college with high school friends, it can be tricky to veer away from what you know, however, I highly suggest it. Not because your old friends are no longer good enough, but because you have to give yourself (and them) space to learn and discover who you are. I didn’t intend on joining a sorority in college, but after feeling homesick, I did. To this day, it’s one of the best decisions of my life. One I nearly missed out on by clinging to friends back home!
This goes hand-in-hand with branching out and having new experiences. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to do something independently and make you just uncomfortable enough to really learn about yourself. Plus, it never hurts to travel and see beautiful places and expose yourself to different cultures. You really can be whoever you want in this instance because, for probably the first time ever, you’re not around anyone who has previously known you. Biggest regret so far in life? Not taking advantage of this—so please do it for me!
Don’t stress about money
Normally I wouldn’t encourage putting something off, but worrying about money is definitely something that can wait. I’m not saying you should make irresponsible decisions, but if you’re trying to decide whether or not to splurge on your first spring break or stay home and work—head to the freakin’ beach! You won’t have this opportunity forever—and you have the rest of your life to save. (Sorry dad, but it’s true.)
Give thought to what you’re learning (and paying tuition for)
Your freshman year (and in some cases your sophomore year or further…#beenthere) is meant for finding out what you’re actually interested in. Even if you don’t know how you want to spend your career, head into a major—or classes—that intrigue you. So much of finding your career path happens in the years after you graduate, but in the meantime, make sure you’re studying something that gives you marketable skills. You’ll thank yourself for this later when you’re trying to land your first job and have to start earning a living.
What do you wish you knew prior to college?
What would you do differently?
Photography by Kendall McLeod.