It’s exactly ten years since I started college. I remember the first few weeks well, trying to navigate a whole new lifestyle in a fresh social circle. Parties, clubs, classes, books, it can be fairly overwhelming until you settle into the routine of it all. Looking back, I had a blast, but I’d certainly do a few things differently, given a second run.
Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started that journey:
1. Say yes to all of the opportunities that befall you. Never again in your life will you have so many affordable experiences land on your doorstep. Join the surf club, or the hiking group, hitchhike across Europe for charity, don’t worry about what you’re friends are doing, just say yes if it interests you!
2. Embrace the social aspects just as much as the academic. You only get to live the college lifestyle once, so don’t skimp on the social side in favour of the academic all the time. Just work out when it really counts and prioritise accordingly.
3. You will never again have so much free time. Seriously, once you get a job and become an adult it’s like time is never on your side any more. You barely make it from Monday to Friday and suddenly it’s Sunday and all you seem to have achieved is a load of laundry and a half-forgotten run to the grocery store. Make the most of having time on your hands whilst you can (reference #1).
4. Making friends will never again be this easy. Once you enter the “real world” you’ll discover that being in a confined zone with a bunch of people your own age is actually prime time for becoming a socialite. Meet everyone, build bridges, never burn them, and try to maintain those relationships beyond the college days too!
5. It’s actually a great idea to learn how to cook. It will save you a ton of money and you will be happier and healthier for it.
6. You aren’t poor, yet. As you consider how (not) to splurge your student loan on shoes, cute outfits and other life essentials, consider this, your loan is like a golden ticket, soon enough you’ll have to get a job. Living costs as a student are pretty much as low as they can be, so make the most of having a bit of cash to splash when the loans come in.
7. There is absolutely no way to plan out your future. That question everyone asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is actually an inside joke. No one, I repeat, no one ever knows the answer, and, no one who has answered has ever been right. It’s a hard fact, you have no idea what you are going to do. Keep your plans flexible so that you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment if they don’t go quite the way you imagined. If you make no plans at all, you will still find your way. Don’t waste too much time worrying about the long term.
8. A degree is not a magic ticket into the employment market. You thought landing a place at college was the hard part. Think again, finding a job is ten times more challenging, with all the more competition, and you’ll probably start out doing something you didn’t even need a degree for, just to get through the door for a chance at the next level. Life’s like one big game of Donkey Kong.
9. Career boosters are actually important. They don’t give you opportunities to go gain “real life” work experience and employability skills as a way of boring you and making you work even harder; those things are legitimately helpful, embrace them.
10. If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right. Check your priorities.
The truth is, I wouldn’t know half of this if I hadn’t gone to college myself, and even more of it I’ve learned in the few years since I graduated. It was a happy, wonderful, fun time, with a bunch of hard work thrown in, but if I could do it again, I’d definitely maximize on some of the things I missed during round one. Listen to the words of a wise-old-twenty-eight-year-old and live it up.
Featured Image via LaBelle