Over the past five years I have attended four institutions of higher learning; two community colleges, one small liberal arts university, and a huge state university. I’ve changed my major three times and I’ve had more roommates than I care to count. When I look back at how naïve I was as an eighteen-year-old recently graduated from high school, I realize just how much I have learned since then—things that, if I knew all along, would have made college a lot easier for me. Below are the 35 things about college that I wish I knew going in.
1. You may not like the taste now, but coffee will be your best friend. Seriously. No human best friend would sit with you in class and help you stay alert and attentive.
2. You’re probably not going to be a doctor. Most medical doctors don’t begin making money until their thirties, after accruing hundreds of thousands in debt. If you’re not up for that, choose a realistic major.
3. Buy a mattress pad. A nice one. Most beds you’ll sleep on in college are hardly better than those mats used for naptime in Kindergarten.
4. Show appreciation for your parents. Contrary to what you might think, they don’t have to help you, so thank them every now and then.
5. Exercise. Every college has a gym that is free for students. Use it.
6. You’re probably going to eat like shit. That’s okay, but all the more reason to exercise.
7. Professors will NEVER accept the “my printer broke” excuse.
8. You can steal toilet paper from most public bathrooms. If you’re really strapped for cash, it’s a good way to tide yourself over. It’s more just frowned upon than “stealing” really, since it is free. Same goes for paper towels, plastic silverware, and hot sauce.
9. Dating in college is overrated. If the relationship is causing you any stress at all, end it. College is where you create your “self.” Don’t let someone else affect you becoming you.
10. Never miss an opportunity for a free T-shirt.
11. If you’re ever lucky enough to have a meal plan, don’t bitch about the food. You’re going to miss it when you’re cramming a soggy waffle taco down your throat.
12. Hate to break it to you, but you’re probably going to get diarrhea in the library. Bring your phone with you.
13. Taking a 5th year to graduate is nothing to be ashamed of. Getting a college degree is a huge accomplishment, no matter how long it takes you. Plus, if nothing else, it gives you more years of being 21 in college.
14. Talk to your teachers. Professors are more likely to help out the students who are friendly and show that they care. (Even if you’re totally bullshitting)
15. There’s going to be some assholes. Be the bigger person. The nicer you are, the more they look like assholes. Don’t stoop.
16. There is no need to look good on campus. Use that time before class to get some extra sleep.
17. Charge your phone before going out. Don’t be the drunk jackass that no one can find because you disappeared with a dead phone.
18. There’s going to be those weeks where you have tests and a bunch of stuff due. Prioritize. Spend the amount of time on each thing relative to how well you need to do on it. Bouncing between all of them every few minutes is just a waste of time.
19. Make friends with anyone you can, it’ll never be this easy to make friends. Plus, everyone you meet in college could be a helpful contact in the future.
20. Get an internship. Even if it’s unpaid. You can only watch so much daytime TV in the summer before going crazy anyways.
21. You don’t always have to buy the textbook. Go to the class first and get a feel for if you really need it or not. Also, most books have a previous edition that is virtually the same and is a fraction of the cost.
22. Some of your roommates will suck. Having a roommate who eats your food, makes messes, and vomits on the carpet is really just practice for having children. Get used to it.
23. There’s going to be people who are smarter than you. Who cares? Don’t get intimidated.
24. No matter how many times you rearrange your dorm room, you’re not going to have room for activities. Leave it be and just use your room for sleeping.
25. Go to your school’s sporting events. Even if you’re not into sports. It’s a fun social atmosphere and gives you an excuse to drink on a weekday.
26. If you think you’re going to get really drunk that night, take just the amount of cash you can afford to spend and leave your cards at home. Having a tab open sometimes feels like you’re drinking for free, but when you check your bank statement the next day, you’ll remember that it’s not.
27. Get a small umbrella and always keep it in your backpack. College campuses are not rain-friendly.
28. You’re going to fail some stuff. Albert Einstein got a C- in high school chemistry, Jeff Gordon failed his driver’s license test, and Barack Obama lost his junior high student council election. Fine I made all that up, but seriously, you’ll be fine.
29. Don’t drop out. Having a college degree opens up so many doors. Plus, I think Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates already made all the money available for college dropouts.
30. Don’t smoke cigarettes. Drunk smoking leads to sober smoking, which leads to that hole in your throat thing. Nobody wants that.
31. Don’t schedule an early morning class if you know you’re going to skip it. Be honest with yourself and choose a different class.
32. Don’t go home every weekend. Your friends from high school will be there on breaks. Make college friends and do stuff with them.
33. Use condoms. The movie “Knocked Up” is fictional. It will end badly.
34. If you are able to sleep in the following day, go out. This is the only time in your life that no one is counting on you. You can watch garbage Netflix movies anytime.
35. Don’t make things harder on yourself than they have to be. Use Sparknotes, skim, track down a test bank, borrow notes from someone who’s already taken the class; college is about reaching the finish line, do what you can the make the course as easy as possible.