I’ve been home for the past month, when I’m not binge-watching Netflix and stalking my college friends on Facebook, I’m helping my sister with the college process. The other night, we were doing the College Board search to help you determine compatible colleges, and I realized that there was a lot I wish I knew before I not only started college, but decided which college to attend.
1. You’re not special
I know, I know. In high school, you were class president and led your team to the state championship, all while getting a 4.0. You were homecoming king/queen or you spent every weekend studying to get into Harvard. Not only did everyone else work as hard, if not harder, to get into your college, but no one cares about who you were in high school. Nor do they care about your SAT/ACT score. And if they do, they are not worthy of your friendship. While you may have done something extraordinary at your high school, there are probably hundreds of other students at your school who did the same thing. Now, you start over.
2. It’s hard being far away from home
If you told me this 2 years ago just when I was finishing up my college applications, I would have blatantly laughed in your face. I was so desperate to get out of my hometown that I decided to move 1,000 miles away. While I don’t regret my decision to move across the country, I never realized how hard it is to be far away. I don’t want to come home every weekend to do laundry, but it would be nice to come home to see my dog occasionally or be there for my sister’s birthday without spending $500 on a plane ticket.
3. Classes can be challenging
I thought that getting into college was the hard part. Boy was I wrong. And my first couple semesters showed that. The purpose of college is to make you think, challenge your beliefs, and help you learn. It isn’t supposed to be a repeat of high school. If you aren’t challenged, you may need to take more difficult classes or attend a more rigorous school. Because you are learning advanced information, it is expected that you produce high-quality work. Be ready to spend a lot of time studying.
4. You don’t need to drink to have fun
On the opposite side, it is completely fine to drink and have fun too. What I’m saying is to not spend every weekend blackout drunk and throwing up until 4am. Drinking is part of college, whether you choose to participate or not. But sometimes the best nights are the ones when you stay in watching Netflix with your best friend, talking about life.
5. Making real friends takes time
You will meet someone on the first day of college, or even the first week, and they will become your instant BFF. You call home and tell your mom that you found your soul sister. 6 weeks later, you awkwardly pass them on the sidewalk and wonder why you were even friends to begin with. THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. You don’t become instant best friends with someone in the matter of a few hours. Finding true friends who will be there for you might take even more than a year.
6. Go to your professor’s office hours
Everyone told me this fact: tour guides, orientation leaders, older friends (even from different colleges). Practically everyone I met left this tip of wisdom for me, but I consistently brushed them off. I was the girl that had her high school teachers’ cell phone numbers programmed in my phone. It wasn’t even a question that I would go meet with my professors. FALSE. THIS IS EXTREMELY FALSE. I didn’t go to one of my professor’s office hours until my sophomore year. Professors are intimidating, you don’t know where’s the building their office is in, you don’t have any time to meet with them, you are doing fine in the class. Excuses build up and before you know it, it’s the end of the semester and they have no idea who you are. Go to their office hours a couple days before the period where you can drop a class to talk to them about how you’re doing in the class. Before you know that, you’ll go back every week and your professor will be buying you coffee and you’ll be talking about the latest episode of Parks and Recreation.
7. Reread #6
Take me seriously. I didn’t and my GPA would be higher if I did.
8. Dating doesn’t happen as often as the movies portray
I thought I would have at least 1 boyfriend by the end of my freshmen year. Everyone meets their future husband in college, right? I mean, my mom met my dad when she was my age. Well, this isn’t true. Maybe in 1985 it was, but not in 2014. It’s mostly hookups – flings that last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks. This leads to awkward situations, such as a beginning-of-the-year hookup sitting one row in front of you in your political science class for the rest of the semester. Of course there is always that one perfect couple you know will be engaged in 3 years. But for the most part, you will be swiping through your Tinder feed, finding nothing more than a hookup.
9. You lose touch with people you think you will always be friends with
You throw your cap up in the air and you are officially done with high school. You begin to think about all the people you will never see again and then the people who will always be in your life. Well, think again. The people you are done with will be those people you awkwardly avoid at the grocery store when you’re home from break. And the people who you will always be friends with? Well, your daily texts and weekly Skype sessions turn into occasional Facebook messages and an hour-long catch-up session over winter break. Everyone becomes really busy in college and your priorities are different from what they were when you graduated high school.
10. Don’t judge a person by their Facebook profile
This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned about social media. In June, I received my roommate assignment: 3 strangers who I instantly went to Facebook to “creep” on. One seemed nice, normal, and super popular (she turned out to be crazy). One seemed to be a bit too wild (she’s now one of my best friends). And the last one appeared to be the weirdest person I had ever met. She was wearing overalls with a cat in her pocket; her interests were clogs and calculus; and she made weekly vlogs. Well she is one of the most interesting and good-hearted people I have ever met. And if I had kept judging her by her Facebook profile, I would never have gotten to know her. And vice versa, my roommate who appeared sweet and popular on Facebook, turned out to be one of the most spiteful people I have ever met. This is the 2014 lesson of “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
11. Tours purposely show the newest, cleanest, and best dorm rooms
Research the dorm rooms of your college, so you know what you’re actually getting yourself into.
12. Transferring schools is not the end of the world
Two of my roommates transferred schools. Yes, that would mean that half of my room from freshmen year left my college. And you know what? They survived. If you really hate your current college, transferring is a good decision. Don’t take transferring lightly, but it’s very normal to transfer colleges. When I was deciding on a school, I was terrified of the idea of having to transfer schools and put too much pressure on picking the right school. While it is very important to pick the school that is right for you, know that it is OK if you end up not liking it.
13. Everyone changes their major
I know that you’ve loved science since you were in 2nd grade and you’re pre-med because you want to become a doctor just like your grandfather. But then you fail your Intro to Biology class and begin to question everything. This is why general education requirements exist. They help you figure out if your major is the right one for you. Go from Biology to Philosophy to Psychology. Take classes outside your comfort zone and realize you have a new passion. Take classes inside your comfort zone and figure out you don’t want to do as a career. Changing your major, even more than once, is completely normal. It’s abnormal if you don’t change your major.
14. College is about making mistakes
You will fall down. You will fail. You will set the fire alarm off. But then you get back up, study harder, and learn how to cook. Mistakes are how you learn. Maybe taking 4 tequila shots the night before your chemistry final isn’t the best idea. Or doing laundry by Febrezing your clothes. Or eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting. You try and try again until you get it right. College is not only about learning in the classroom, but in life.