f you are getting ready to finish up high school and head off to college, it’s understandable that you may feel scared, overwhelmed, or even alone. But, remember that many people have done it before you, and many will do it after. These are the things that many college students wish they knew prior to starting college.
You don’t have to keep your friends from high school to have friends
College is all about meeting new people. If you and a few friends from high school are going to the same college, that is awesome, but you don’t have to worry if that is not the case. You are going to make new friends if you are willing to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to get out of your bubble, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and talk to people you’ve never met before. That is an important part of the college experience, and you want to make sure you don’t limit yourself.
If you do come to college with a lot of friends from high school, make sure that you leave space for new friends as well. Don’t let already having a group of friends hold you back from meeting new people, because the friends that you meet in college can be some of your best friends for life.
You don’t have to drink if you don’t want to
College drinking culture can sometimes be a bit toxic. Remember– you are in college to get an education and to get your degree. It is about building your future. Is it okay to go out and have fun sometimes? Of course it is. But, if you don’t want to drink or party, you don’t have to. Do not let anyone pressure you into doing things that you don’t want to do, because in the long run, you will be disappointed in yourself that you did not stand your ground. Actually, when people do hear that you aren’t drinking, they are usually pretty impressed.
If you do choose to drink, that is amazing too. Just make sure you are safe, you have a good support system around you that won’t let you do anything dumb, and that you still prioritize school over everything else.
Don’t just take your required classes
If you have room in your schedule, and you see a class that interests you, just take it. College is not just about what is required of you– it’s about learning about yourself, gaining the skills and knowledge that will help you to grow as a person, and having fun. Take the non-mandatory class related to your major, or that pilates class you’ve always wanted to take. If your advisor advises you against it, tell them that you think it will help you to grow, because it definitely will.
If you get all of your required classes out of the way ahead of time, that can also leave your final semesters to take classes that you think might be fun. Every school offers some interesting classes– pottery, bird watching, craft brewing, so choose some and have some fun.
It’s okay to change your major. And change it again. And again.
Changing your major is completely normal, even if you do it five times in your first year. You will change your mind, quite honestly, a lot. Your major is the least of your worries when it comes to changing your mind about things. You may even take an entire year of classes and then decide it’s not what you want to do, but that is what college is about. Be grateful that you realized during college and not after you got into the real world.
Get involved, even if it seems silly
Getting involved in on-campus organizations is the best way to get to know people who are different from you, but with common interests. Joining organizations that you think are cool will allow you to meet people from different majors, different parts of the country (and sometimes the world), and with different interests than you. The great part is, people with so many differences can come together with a common interest– whether this be a club sport, a club highlighting a niche interest, or something related to what you want to do for your future career.
Getting involved in clubs early can also help you to move up in the ranks and get leadership positions within the club later on in your college career. This can be a great resume builder and something to talk about in interviews later on in life. So, go to the involvement fair or resource fair, look at the clubs and organizations on your college's website, and find something that sticks out to you. You won’t regret it.
Focus on yourself first
One of the big things you will learn in college is that you need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else. This may seem selfish at first, but you can’t pour out of an empty glass. If you worry about yourself first– this means before friendships, relationships, family– you will see that you are able to give more of yourself to those people when they need it than you would have if you gave them all of yourself.
Learn how to manage your money
Spending all of your money on stupid things the minute you get on campus is a common mistake among first-year students. You do not need ten sweatshirts with your college on it, you do not need the fifty pounds of snacks that you think you will need for your dorm room, and you will not wear half of the new clothes you buy to go out in.
Furthermore, once you are no longer eating dining hall food, try not to eat out all the time. It may seem tempting– like, really tempting, especially after a long day when you don’t feel like cooking. But, learning how to cook for yourself is a life skill that you will need in the future, and your future self will thank you for it.
The friends you met on social media will likely not be your friends
You meet a bunch of people on social media before getting to college. Try not to be hurt when those people want nothing to do with you once you get there. It has nothing to do with you, it simply is just the way of life. People are a lot different in person than they are online, and many are not the same people at all. Social media is all a show, just keep that in mind when making friends with people. If you do keep some of those online friends once you get to school, be grateful that you found some of the good ones.
Your dorm will not feel exactly like home
No matter how you decorate your dorm room, you will not be able to replicate the same feeling that you get from your bedroom at home. But, that is okay, because your dorm is not your room at home. This is a new place, with new experiences. Lean into the fact that you are learning and growing, and that this new space should be used to foster those learning and growing experiences.
If you do start to feel homesick, you are not alone. Many students feel that way, especially during the first few months. Try not to go home within the first two or three months of being at school. If you go home right away, you are not going to want to go back. Stick it out until you have a break, you will be thankful that you did.
Now that you have a few things that will prepare you for college life, just sit back, relax, and enjoy it. College goes by so fast (which you surely hear all the time), so take it all in, and make sure you have fun along the way. Your entire college experience should not be uncomfortable and stressful for you. Find time to do things that make you happy.