It’s that time of year again when families help pack and move their young adult to college in the hot summer heat. My family did just that this year for my younger sister as she moved to college to continue her education this fall. It always makes me smile seeing Freshmen move into college with the world at their feet, smiles on their faces, and the desire to fulfill their dreams – I was in the same position just three short years ago.
With my sister entering college this semester and me wanting to encourage her and give her advice, I had been thinking of things I wish I knew before I went into college to share with her. It’s one thing when your parents or adults tell you about their college experience and it’s another thing when a fellow peer has fresh experiences and memories under their belt.
So, here goes what I’ve learned after completing three years of college (three years down, one to go!):
*Before reading on, please understand that I am speaking from my personal experiences which are probably completely different than what yours have been/will be/is currently. If you want to share your experiences, please feel free to leave a comment down below! I think everyone can benefit from hearing other people’s experiences.
1. Freshman year is the year to:
Meet new people/make new friends (I’m sure you’ve heard this one before)
Learn how to share – unless you’re living on your own, you’ll most likely be sharing a place – whether it be a bedroom, an apartment, or a dorm – you’ll be in really close proximity to someone else (like, five feet away, at most). This close proximity will teach you how to be open to sharing your things, thoughts, time, food, etc.
Get involved – especially at the beginning of the fall semester, there is a lot going on. On campus, you’ll have the chance to go to free movies and concerts, get free t-shirts and food, and go to all kinds of events. Take advantage of this to meet new people or campus organizations!
Enjoy college sports – during Freshman year, you will be able to go to all the different sporting events throughout the year and most likely walk out with a free t-shirt because you’re a Freshman. How cool is that?
Find a new hobby – because Freshman year isn’t too demanding and is mostly becoming more adjusted to a new lifestyle, take time to try different things – you may find a new hobby!
2. Finding a career you want to pursue is not always found in ways you might think
I went into college wanting to own my own business, so I settled into Freshman year by studying Business Management. As I talked with my advisor (see #5), I expressed to her my passions, my dreams, and my strengths and weaknesses. She advised me to look into Human Resource Management – the HR field never crossed my mind before this day. After reading into HR, speaking with professionals in the field, and doing an internship, I truly found a profession I wanted to pursue.
3. You are the only one who can limit yourself and what you want to accomplish/it’s okay to ask for help
I’m not going to lie, college is tough – for many different reasons (I’ll explain further in #9-11). However, you need to remember that your success lies within your own hands. Life will throw things your way, but you have to make them all work together. If that means taking a semester off, take the semester off. If that means dropping a class, drop the class. If that means going to the tutoring lab, go to the tutoring lab. If that means visiting a counselor or your advisor several times, do it and don’t look back.
If you are struggling in a class, go to the tutoring lab! Most of the time, the tutors are your peers who can really relate to you and help you out. If your schedule is filled to the brim with studying, classes, and work, and your apartment/dorm is really stressing you out because you haven’t been able to clean it in two months, ask for help. Ask your parents or a sibling to come visit your for a weekend to help you straighten up your place and in return, take them out to dinner. There have been so many times where I get stressed out from my place being cluttered because I’m too busy to take a minute and clean. If Gary has some spare time, I will ask him if he’ll change my laundry out, cook dinner for the night, or type up my class notes for me. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.
4. Junior year is tough
I know that Freshman have a few years before Junior year, but I think it’s important to remember to build a solid foundation (see #16) because Junior year is difficult. One of my friends once said that his dad told him “Junior year is no joke. It’s make or break.” He couldn’t have been more right. Freshman year is so fun and full of adventures. Sophomore year is also fun, but also academically rewarding because that’s usually the year where you start your introductory major classes. Now, Junior year is very different. My Junior year was very difficult. My Junior year consisted of a very busy schedule consisting of all business courses that were very demanding – I’m talking group meetings for class, read multiple chapters, online discussion posts, work on this project, etc. Because I have the responsibilities of paying my bills, groceries, gas, etc., I have had a part time job since Spring semester of my Freshman year. During my Junior year, my schedule with working and going to school was very hectic, so I didn’t allow myself to really go to any college events because I was working hard to get into a professional atmosphere. Do I regret this? No. I don’t regret missing out on some college events because I had a job. The best thing I could do for myself during this time was to gain as much experience in the professional world so that I can further contribute to my career and course work (see #12 & #14 for further explanation about internships and part time jobs).
5. Go see your advisor
This may sound like a no-brainer to some, but you’d be surprised to find that a large portion of students don’t ever communicate with their advisor. Like I said previously, my advisor really helped me hone in my strengths to find the career that fit me and that I ended up really enjoying. Your advisor is the one person on campus that you know will always have your best interest in mind (keep in mind that everyone’s advisor is different, this is just my experience). My advisor has given me so much advice and is always keeping what I want for my college career in mind.
6. Going to your professor’s office hours is worth it & don’t be scared to talk to them
During my Sophomore year, I took a really difficult British Literature course (lit is not my cup of tea). My professor was extremely difficult and subjective – which didn’t work out in my favor. I tried my hardest and couldn’t get above a C on an exam which is very unlike me. Gary pushed me and pushed me to go to my professor’s office hours. To my dismay, I stalked over to his office one afternoon and talked to him about how I felt regarding my exam grades and that I didn’t quite understand how he was grading them. After a short discussion, I left not feeling much better about the situation due to my professors feedback and because I was fearing that I would come out with a C in the class. A few weeks later, I had one last exam to take and after implementing what my professor explained to me, I took the exam. Once I received my final grade back, I discovered that I had made a B in the class! I was so excited. I worked so hard in that class, talked to the professor (even though I was totally too scared to), and showed him that I genuinely cared about my grade and work – this made all the difference.
At the end of my Freshman year, I realized I was going to have a B in one of my business classes by one point. One single point! Once again, Gary pushed me to email my professor. Reluctantly, I emailed my professor about bumping my grade because I had never missed a class and thought that she might honor that. She emailed me back and let me know that she had already planned on bumping up my grade because I had been present during every single class period!
7. Try a class that you normally wouldn’t think about taking
For my core classes, I had to pick what UAB calls a “humanities” course. During my Sophomore year, I thought I’d choose something I would never normally take – I chose music appreciation. I am not musically inclined at all. I can’t read music, sing, or play an instrument (although I was pretty good at the recorder in fourth grade). I can’t tell you how much fun I had in this class! My professor was so knowledgeable and I learned so much about an area that I had never learned much about before. Take a class you never would’ve thought to pick! It truly gives you an appreciation for other areas, cultures, and perspectives.
8. You meet some great people in college with many talents and dreams – Network!
One of my best friends that I met Freshman year is still one of my best friends today. I met her in my Freshman History class and we’ve been friends ever since. Come to find out, she was majoring in Marketing and she has been a great resource for me when I’m in need of guidance. In college, you meet so many people with so many talents, so take advantage of your contacts and use them to bounce ideas off or to mentor you. You never know, you could really start something great together!
9. You lose friendships
One of the hardest things in college is dealing with other people. Sometimes you find a friend that you really think you will be best friends forever with. However, this isn’t always true. Sometimes, these relationships don’t work out because your friend doesn’t have the same major and interests as you. Thus, making it hard to relate to each other. Most of my best friends at college are business students just like me – which makes going to class and coming up with ideas so much fun.
10. People change
Going along with the last point, people do change. Please don’t do yourself an injustice and think that your roommate Freshman year will be your maid of honor or your lifelong best friend (although this does happen sometimes and it’s awesome!). College is a time to grow into a professional adult and people change. Simple as that. You can have a very best friend in Sophomore year who turns out to not have anything in common with you because you’ve grown into two different people with different interests. Don’t be upset with this – it’s how life works. Plus, it’s great to see that friend you were once very close to turn out to be so great at whatever career they choose to do.
11. It’s okay not to have it all figured out
I went into college on a high – after graduating high school, it’s very easy to feel on top of the world. It’s a great feeling to move out on your own and learn how to be self-reliant. You will learn so much by being in solitude and making new friends. But, at some point, you will have a mental breakdown, trust me. You will question everything you’re doing in school, whether it’s worth it, your friends will leave you out, you will question your friendships, and you will be stressed out. Just remember, it’s totally normal not to have everything figured out. Don’t pursue a path that you’re being forced into. Make your own decisions, because you’re the one that will be living your life!
12. Doing an internship (even without pay) is one of the best things you can do for yourself
I decided to do an internship the summer after my Sophomore year. I chose this time because I knew I was in a good place having learned from my business courses I had taken thus far and I knew I still had a lot to learn. I think that doing an internship, even for just a summer, is one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you go in with an open mind, you can truly learn so much more than you probably would in a class. Getting that real life, hands-on experience is irreplaceable. You can put this experience on your resume and even bring your experiences into your courses at college. This will show your professors and future employers that you really took your education and experiences very seriously.
13. Be open to new experiences – you could find your true passion
Another thing I learned along the way was that I became truly open to new experiences. Going into college, I knew that I wanted to own and manage my own boutique, but I didn’t know how to get there. After coming to the realization that I couldn’t just open a store right out of college, I found a career that I really love and learned the way a business works within that facet. Then, I began to take entrepreneurship classes that furthered my dream. Now, after going through this process, I have truly found a passion within entrepreneurship.
14. Finding a part-time job is another good thing you can do for yourself
Following #12, in my opinion, it’s really important to take on a part-time job while in college. I’ve met people who’s parents really didn’t want them to work and I think it’s crazy. Working part-time while in college teaches you time management, gives you exposure to a professional environment, and allows you to have mentors while having the chance to network – not to mention, you get paid. Take the time to find a part-time job and remember, employers will understand you can’t work 30 hours a week because you’re in college. Most of them are extremely flexible and willing to work with your schedule.
15. When you have exams, it’s worth it to put everything else away and just study – you’ll thank yourself later when you have four weeks off at Christmas or months for summer
Let’s be honest, we all know how easy it is to get distracted while trying to work on homework or studying. But, one thing I have learned is when you have an exam, just put everything away and focus for an hour, take a ten minute break, and get back to studying. Trust me, you will feel so much better if you just put everything you have into studying during those exam weeks. You will have plenty of time to sit at home on your computer and binge watch Netflix on Christmas break.
16. Don’t underestimate
One of the biggest issues Freshmen have is underestimating the amount of work it takes to do well in college. When your professors tell you how many hours you should be focusing on their class’ material, listen to them! Freshman year is the year to build a solid foundation when it comes to grades. Figure out how you learn and the best way for you to study and implement it. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to get things done, just get them done without any procrastination!
17. Don’t skip class unless you have to
One of the things I’m sure you’re parents will tell you is to not skip class! I honestly can’t harp on this enough. I had a few friends who would just skip class because they were lazy and wanted to sleep. Do not do this! Only skip class if you are sick. If you do have an event that you absolutely cannot miss, tell your professor as soon as you can and they will help you make accommodations. Skipping class is basically throwing all your tuition in the trash. You came to college to learn, so be present and learn. Make the most of your money spent!
18. Don’t buy all your textbooks just because your book list says “required”
I’m the oldest child in my family, meaning, I was the guinea pig kid. I didn’t have anyone to lead me or give me advice about college, I just had to experience it for myself, which got me into trouble Freshman year. One of my class’ textbook list said that my class required a book. Mind you, this textbook was around $240. Naively, I went to the bookstore and dropped $240 on a textbook and then opened it. Once I arrive in my class, my professor says the book isn’t required and that if you didn’t want to buy it, you didn’t have to. I felt sick after I heard that! I never used it once. A lesson for the wise: don’t buy any textbooks until after you attend class.
19. Work hard, but don’t forget to have fun
Make sure you work hard and put in all the hours required to do your best, but don’t forget to make a Krispy Kreme run at midnight with your friends or binge watch Netflix. College is a great journey in your life, so enjoy it!
Would you like to share something you’ve learned from college? If so, feel free to leave it in the comment section below!