5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me before I Went to College

5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me before I Went to CollegeFirst and foremost, I wish someone had told me not to wear purple-rimmed sunglasses on graduation day, but I’ll save that for a Regrettable Things I Wore in College blog post …

With back-to-school season upon us (woof) I thought I’d put together some college-related blog posts over the next few weeks for all those still in school or with kids that age. I should preface today’s post with: Of course hindsight is 20/20. I don’t regret anything I did in college because it brought me to where I am now, but if there were five things I’d want to tell everyone headed off to college this fall that would have really helped me out when I was that age, I’d say …

Figuring out what you don’t want to do can be a necessary way to figure out what you do want.

Some people know exactly what they want to be, declare their major the first day of college, follow that path to its end, get all the right internships along the way, and then enter into a fulfilling career upon graduating. Don’t be frustrated if you’re not one of them. Those people are rarities, although the highlight reel that is social media would have us believe otherwise. I switched my major six times in college and had a lot of jobs that weren’t right before finding the career that was (you can read more about that disastrous journey here). 

You have to consciously pursue workouts and activity now.

I talked a little bit about this in my post Pride in Appearance vs. Pride in Ability. After playing sports and dancing all throughout my childhood and high school, arriving at college was a huge shock to my body. I had always been active with organized sports so I didn’t really have to think about working out in a traditional sense. When I no longer belonged to a team in college, I gained 20lbs from the lack of exercise, booze and late-night pizza binges. It was a serious wake-up call. You certainly can’t out-exercise partying and unhealthy eating, but if I had gone to college with a plan to hit the gym, it would have helped balance things out a little.

Speaking of the Freshman 15 …

Don’t put your life on hold if you’re not feeling 100% happy with how you look.

This goes beyond college and applies to life in general. When I was rocking my Freshman 15, I started to avoid things like pool parties, beach days, group dinners and events that involved food (i.e. every social event ever) because I felt really self-conscious about my weight. I would tell myself that once I lost the weight, I’d start doing all these fun things again, but all that I accomplished was missing out on a ton of fun times with my friends. You don’t have to look perfect to make perfect memories. Live in the moment, enjoy every second you can with your friends, and seek balance rather than restricting yourself from fun in order to counter the too-much-fun sitting around your waistline. 🙂

It’s OK if it’s not “the best four years of your life”—especially right off the bat.

I remember constantly hearing this growing up: “College is going to be the best four years of your life!” But, while it was amazing at times, it was also awful at times. And in a weird way, that made me feel like a failure. I felt pressure to make college live up to this amazing expectation, and so I ignored a lot of the issues I was going through and tried to act like everything was fine.

Almost all my college friends (myself included) thought about transferring at some point during our freshman year. It’s not uncommon to find college a rough adjustment, especially if you don’t already have a high school friend or other acquaintance/group/team there. Making friends is awkward and humbling as you get older, and you might not find your rhythm for several months or even the first year. Give it time, and don’t be discouraged if it isn’t the solo-cup filled party portrayed in movies right from the start.

EVERYONE’S PATH IS DIFFERENT. You don’t need to go to college right after high school, and going to college doesn’t guarantee you a job (but the people you meet in college might). Furthermore, you don’t need to go to college to be successful.

I think the college system in this country is total bullshit, so this last point is admittedly biased (haha). Lots of people don’t know what they want to be when they go into college, so they end up spending 100k+ to get a degree that they don’t even end up using. I wish I’d waited a few years after high school before going to college so that I could have used my parents’ hard-earned money towards a degree that would actually have benefited me. Going to college right from high school is sort of engrained in us as the natural next step, but it doesn’t have to be.

Everyone’s path is different. It’s easier said than done, but stop comparing yourself to your friends. Figure out what your definition of success is, be patient with yourself as you learn who you are and what makes you happy, and remember that it’s ok if you have no clue what you want to do with your life.

For those of you out of college, what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

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Comments

  1. Love this post. I’d probably tell myself that those loans are real money tgat you will in fact have to pay back. And that a state school or even community while you figure things out is just as good, if not better, than the ridiculously expensive private school youll go to..

  2. Um hello. Number one is the story of my life. I think every single person that talks about college should say this, just so people know. My advice is to not focus so much on work. I could potentially be a terrible influence, but I’ve seen people get SO bent up about school that it hurts. I’m not saying don’t try. Try your hardest! But realize that you do deserve a break every now and again. And your college weekends aren’t coming back once you leave!!

  3. The college you think is your dream college might not be. Widen your net, and see what other places have to offer. I might have met the best friends I’ve ever had, but I think I missed out on a lot by settling on the school I stayed at, after I was advised to leave the theater program (I just changed my major to Creative Writing).

  4. oatsandrows says:

    Loved this post! I definitely would have told myself that the friends you make in the beginning, you may not necessarily stay friends with throughout the 4 years.

  5. I love your thoughts here, especially the last one. Our society has it engrained in our heads that if you don’t go to college right after high school you are a loser and will amount to nothing. Hustle and who you know play a much bigger role in success than college classes ever will #spoton!

  6. YES! I loved this post, I totally went to college just because that’s what I was supposed to do. Although I did learn a lot, I probably would have done things a lot differently! Loved this post! XO -Kim
    http://www.thethirtysomethinglife.com

  7. Great tips!! I can’t believe I graduated from college two years ago. Time flies. My advice to my younger self is everything truly happens for a reason, and sometimes what you don’t envision can be WAY better than what you do.

  8. I actually thought about not reading your thoughts on this because it’s been 20+ years since I was in college, but once I started I was very interested on your perspective. I applaud your 5 points; I think I whole-heartedly agree on at least 4 out of the 5 points. I hope that some college-bound young people read your post and take your perspective to heart. Well said! Thank you for sharing.

  9. I am from a different country so things work a bit different here but i guess the advice i would give any high school senior about to go to college is to actually understand what a job really entails instead of following courses to get a job which only exists in your head. I am a PhD student in Molecular Biology and i love my job but i can’t count the amount of people i saw dropping out which started on the same path saying that they never want to sit in a lab or an office. Guess what, this is what this job will nearly inevitable lead too.
    I also had friends studying art and languages because they loved studying it and then facing harsh reality when they noticed they hated every job they could possibly get with those degrees.

  10. How did you lose the Freshman 15? How did you become more confident after tghe weight?

  11. Completely completely completely agree with your last point! I’ve always thought college shouldn’t be immediately after high school. What 18 year old idiot knows what they want to do for the rest of their life??? I sure didn’t, and I ended up with a degree I hate and will never use!

  12. The last one is the best! I’m 19 right now and will be a sophomore, but I’m transferring and in a year of transition now and really have no idea what the hell I’m doing…and it’s scary.

  13. I definitely agree with the last point, the system is different here in England but it still costs a LOT to go to university and you can’t change your major as often as it seems you guys can.

    I was accepted onto a 5 year language course following my A levels. Then decided I didn’t want to go. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend 30-40k on a degree (at least, and it would all be borrowed) that I felt I was only doing because I should. I got a job instead knowing that uni was an option later if I wanted it.

    My advice would be that you don’t have to go to college if you have another plan – but the other plan bit is really important!

    I did an apprenticeship, which was so much better for me and I did better in that (Like ‘apprentice of the year’ award presented to me by Princess Anne better) than I ever would in a degree. Plus I could still get a degree now if I wanted to, everyone seems to want to rush you into signing your life away at 18. 18 is no age! I wore blue eyeliner still at 18 and had a boyfriend with a moped. I mean really, who was I to be deciding what to do with my life?!

  14. megan desbois says:

    I really do think that the last point is easily the strongest point. While I went to school right away and I met my fiancee (so I can’t complain) I know so many people that wasted money trying to figure out what they wanted or even what they are good at. Enjoy LIFE first, go travel. Go take some cooking classes. Volunteer. Gain some life experience and then maybe you will understand yourself a bit more to realize what you want to do with your life.

  15. College really isn’t such a big deal in the UK. My friends are I never went but still have successful careers without the huge debt! x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

  16. I wish I had read this post 14 years ago prior to starting my freshman year of college. If I could, I would tell my college-bound self to go to the school I want to go to, not the school my parents want me to go to. My dad actually bribed me with a car to go to an in-state public school that I knew wasn’t a good fit for me. But what 18 year old is going to turn down a car?

  17. I love this! I’m heading into my second year and have already learned some of these. I’ve learned to just take advantage of anything I can. Some people tell me I’m over-involved but hey, it’s what makes me happy. Thanks for the advice.
    xx, Pia

    http://gymbagsandjetlags.com
    @gymbagsjetlags

  18. Ugh, story of my life, this post. Would have definitely made my first two years better. But now I’m going into my senior year feeling much more confident than before!

    only for the sweetest. xx

  19. Love this post! I really connect with the piece about putting your life on hold. I never thought of it that way. I’m “up in weight” right now and really have felt that way! Thank you for sharing this <3

  20. You have pointed out some great points that will definitely help all of one, thanks for writing and sharing this post.

  21. 100% agree that the college system in this country is total b.s.! Good advice in general, but that one sentence was the one that made me comment. 🙂

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