1. The days of being a bright shining honors student with excellent credentials are over.
Everyone got A’s in high school. Everyone was their newspaper’s editor, the spirit squad captain, or the founder of the Youth for Obama club. In college, none of this matters. You have to work hard to make a name for yourself and you have to study in ways you never have before to earn a 3.5 GPA. Your school doesn’t need you. They’ve got 20,000 other people who do it just like you and 10,000 who do it better.
2. Living with someone can make you love them, but can also be super weird.
Roommates often end up becoming your best friends because when you spend time with someone constantly, you learn to value their idiosyncrasies. That, however, is only the case for people who were already cool. If you get a total whack job of a dude sharing your bunk bed, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the community lounge. It’s not always easy to be around other people, and most of us aren’t used to the intimate details of our lives being shared with strangers. But when you learn to appreciate these things, you form a bond with someone that makes them family.
3. Whatever you are, that’s ok.
College is one of the only opportunities in life to be unabashedly yourself. You can do cocaine, have sex in the library, or cry on the floor of your dorm’s lounge at 2 am, and no one will give a shit. Everyone is too busy focusing on their future or on the next person they’re matching with on Tinder to honestly consider your actions for more than a couple seconds. No one is watching your weak work-out at the gym or cares that you haven’t washed your hair in five days. The standards of living are just different on a college campus, but in an awesome way.
4. You are at the epicenter of a hub of cultural activities and the world is so much bigger than you ever could have imagined.
When you’re in college, it’s easy to watch Netflix all day and all night. But Gilmore Girls and The West Wing can only teach you so much about the world. The rest you have to experience for yourself. If you spend every free moment binge watching another critically acclaimed drama with a strong female lead, you’re going to miss out. There are people at your school from Brazil and Latvia and Rhode Island and they have perspectives and ideas about the world you never even considered. There are people who have experienced true poverty and oppression and turned their lives around in remarkable ways.
5. Your life is only going to get harder, more complicated, and increasingly stressful from this moment on.
Every second you tell yourself you’ll get on track tomorrow, you’ll figure it out next week, or whatever future, tentative mindset you have is holding you back. What the really lies ahead is more refined competition and more intricate relationship and professional problems. You have to find a balance if you want to be sort of happy. Growing up means taking whatever is thrown at you and dealing with it while trying to still manage to go to $8 bottomless at the bar downtown that takes Pokémon cards as identification. You have to start prioritizing time and making honest decisions about your future when you get to college, because people are serious about their careers and they will be your bosses someday if you aren’t. But definitely still have fun because nobody does it right like a college town.
6. If you want to change the world, start a company, or build a resume, you have to do stuff.
Almost every college has study abroad programs, Greek life, politically affiliated groups, environmental extremism organizations, secret societies, and literally any other sort of establishment a 20-year-old on Adderall could imagine. Involvement culture fuels the CEOs of tomorrow. Nothing is as essential as communication and no skill will get you farther than being able to connect and get along with different kinds of people.
7. The “poor college student” is a very well-founded stereotype.
Being even somewhat financially independent while getting acclimated to a completely new freedom of life can really inspire erratic spending behavior. For example, you may have never even thought of the fact that at certain times of the evening after consuming certain beverages you might be overwhelmed with hunger and for some reason offer to pay for the food of anyone who agrees to drive you through Taco Bell. Learn to lower your standards of fine dining and luxury textiles. Everyone’s wearing Velcro sandals and t-shirts anyway, so don’t waste your money on a Michael Kors wallet. Again, no one cares.
8. Your lame hometown isn’t so bad.
No matter what kind of hellhole you grew up in, you’ll find yourself missing it at 1 am when your roommates lock you out of the bathroom and you have to walk down 5 flights of stairs in a pair of flip-flops that aren’t even yours just to pee in the middle of the night. There are things about home worth yearning for besides the convenience and availability of restrooms. Dining halls seemed like a great idea during your campus tour, but you will learn to want for nothing more than un-frozen salad bars and fruit that is soft enough to chew. You might also occasionally miss the solitude of your quiet bedroom, because you know, people in college are really excited to have sex all the time loudly and passionately and sometimes in the same room as other people. It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of university life, but you’re kidding yourself if you say you don’t miss your mom and dad.