Looking back at old pictures and reading your journal or old blog posts can be slightly embarrassing. You can’t believe you actually wore those clothes – in public, nonetheless – and the things you wrote about back then seem whiny or ignorant.
But life goes on, and you’ll start to realize that your attitudes and beliefs will change as you age. They’ll change a lot. The person you are today is probably much different than the person you were just three or four years ago.
If you’ll be starting college in the next year or two, you probably have a lot of misconceptions. College seniors usually look back to their freshman year in amazement—and it wasn’t even that long ago! Here are some things that most wish they had realized sooner:
Easy A’s aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be. Taking a bunch of easy classes to earn a bunch of A’s and make your senior year of high school less stressful might sound like a good idea, but all it will do is make college-level work seem even harder than it is.
Be a people person. Grades are important, but good grades alone won’t help you get a job. If you spend every waking hour in class or studying at the library, you won’t have a chance to participate in clubs or have a social life. Communication and social skills are a must once you start job hunting. Most employers will not ask about your GPA.
Take your professors’ advice. Recommended reading is recommended for a reason. Do it.
Take notes in class. Even if you are confused at the time and not completely certain what you’re writing down, your notes will come in handy when you are studying later.
Don’t make excuses. If you’re late with an assignment or didn’t make it to class last Monday, don’t lie. If you have to ask for an extension, apologize without making up a crazy story. Your instructor won’t believe it anyway.
Everyone else feels just as self-conscious as you do. If you’re embarrassed, try your best to get over it! Ask questions if you don’t understand something and ask for help when you need it.
Everyone from your grandmother to complete strangers tells you that time flies as you get older, but you don’t believe them. It really does. Make the most of your time in college. Have fun. One day, when you’re working full-time and paying a mortgage and taking care of your kids, you’ll look back on this experience and wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.
Procrastination will come back to haunt you. You won’t want to read that book or write that paper tomorrow, either. Or the day after tomorrow. Keep track of due dates on a calendar and learn some time management skills. Your stress levels will thank you.
Pay attention to how much student loan money you’re borrowing. Don’t just sign the paperwork and blow your refund check on beer and clothes rather than school supplies. Calculate how much your monthly payments will be after graduation. Will you honestly be able to afford those payments?
New textbooks are overpriced and overrated. College freshmen usually purchase every book for every class from the campus bookstore. After the shock of spending four or five hundred bucks on books you most likely won’t use again wears off, you’ll realize that used is the way to go. Who cares if some of the pages are already highlighted? You can usually get them for half the price. Textbook rental programs are still relatively new, but they are another great way to save.
You don’t have to be a star athlete to participate in sports. Most colleges offer intramurals, which are recreational sports teams, for students who don’t participate in competitive NCAA level sports.
You’ll fight with your parents. Whether you are living in the dorms, in your first apartment, or still living in your own bedroom at home and driving to school, you will have at least one major battle with your parents over something college-related. It might be your choice of major, your seemingly lacking ambition, your party hearty attitude, your decision to spend the holidays with a boyfriend or girlfriend…something. And it will be a huge fight.
Watch who you date. Hooking up with anyone who buys you a drink or smiles at you might seem like fun at first, but you’ll get quite the reputation around campus.
A degree does not guarantee a job. Far too many people assume that graduating from college equals instant success. That may have been true at one time, but these days, it’s not. You will have to work hard and stand out from the crowd. Majoring in something as useful as basket weaving won’t do you any favors, either.
One person’s college experience can be quite different than someone else’s. Life also throws a lot of curveballs along the way! But realizing that college is usually a lot different than in the movies means you’re already a step ahead.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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