Last week, I received a graduation announcement for my baby cousin in the mail. Well, I guess I can’t call her my baby cousin if she’s 18 and graduating from high school… Anyway! I know that when I was her age, I had no idea what I was doing with my life.
So here’s 9 things I wish I knew about college back then.
- Don’t worry that you don’t have it all together. You’ve got time to figure out what you want to do with your life. Hell, I’m almost 24 and I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
- It’s much easier to figure out what you’re doing at college if you go find your classrooms before the semester starts. Trust me, as someone who has walked through many a university building hallway, it’s SO MUCH EASIER trying to navigate through the throngs of people getting to class an ungodly amount of time early if you have an idea of where you’re going first. AND, don’t worry if you have no one to explore with, just ask your new roomie/floor mate/random person you see walking around aimlessly. They’re probably new and struggling to find their place, too.
- Join as many organizations as YOU feel comfortable with. I know it looks good to be extra-super-incredibly involved in college, but if you can’t handle joining intramural sports, a sorority/fraternity, glee club, AND the Colleges Against Cancer at the same time, don’t. Most colleges and universities have activities fairs each semester. If they don’t, that’s cool too! You can always join at the beginning of your sophomore year.
- Don’t be shy. If you think you’re the only one who’s dealing with beginning-of-the-semester anxiety, you’re delusional. You might be delusional anyway, but that’s not the point! Don’t be afraid to look at the person sitting next to you in class and say hi. The worst that can happen is they’re rude. If that happens, just shake it off and start a conversation with someone else.
- Go to your professor’s office hours!!! Seriously, go and see them. I have made the best connections with people because I went and visited them every once in a while. Of course, this only works with some professors. Some of them are very straightforward and say if it’s not for business, don’t bother. But if that’s the case, at least go once at the beginning of the semester and introduce yourself. The professor will see you as someone who is determined to at least make sure that you’re on their radar. AND, these people can be useful in the future–be that as a sounding board for ideas for a capstone project or for recommendation letters.
- It’s okay to eat by yourself. I know it’s intimidating to walk into a cafeteria that can seat a thousand people and not see anyone you know to eat with, especially when you’re used to eating meals with your group of high school friends. You will survive eating by yourself. I promise. People won’t stare at you, mock you, or make fun. Just go about your business, and they’ll do the same.
- Don’t be afraid to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone. I’ll use a personal example for this one. When I was a freshman in college, I was lucky enough to make friends with a senior who was in a sorority. Now, after having seen the media’s portrayal of sororities, I was wary, but I decided to go through recruitment anyway. It was nerve-wreaking. I was by myself, doing something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do, and I was so nervous. But at the end of that week, I joined an organization that I will never forget for the rest of my days. The women I met in Delta Phi Epsilon have changed my life forever. I’d never have the friends I have if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone.
- Taking longer than 4 years to graduate is perfectly okay. As long as you’re learning, you’re bettering yourself. So don’t be afraid to take that extra semester (or year) if you change your major or just don’t know what you want to major in until the last possible second. Just don’t turn into a Van Wilder. (Please tell me high schoolers these days have seen National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. If not, go watch it now!)
- It’s okay to NOT want to follow your parents’ plans for you. “Go to this school, join these organizations, get these grades, meet someone like this to be with, and finish your degree in less than four years.” Yeah, like THAT’s going to happen. You can do whatever you want to, parental plans be damned.
At the end of the day, just know that it’s okay to be you, it’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to be nervous. I’ve been there, and I’ll tell you this–you’ll find what works for you and fall into a routine that works. You can do it.