10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog! It’s that time of year again, when nervous first time students pack up their parent’s car and make the move into college. It’s been five years since I moved into my freshman dorm, and tomorrow my younger brother will be making that same move! Since I’ve been through my four years of college, I’ve learned a lot about campus living and surviving dorm life, so I thought I’d share some of my college wisdom! 

Do not bring your entire life with you to the dorms

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When I moved into my first dorm as a wee freshman, I thought I legitimately needed my entire childhood bedroom with me. Not thinking about the fact I’d be living in a triple bedroom, I brought my entire book collection, way too much food that needed to be cooked/prepared, and a massive amount of “decor” (i.e knick knacks). Before my mother had even left for home I had pawned my book collection back onto her simply because there just wasn’t any space. Think about the small room you will be living in and decide whats really important. While it is nice to have a few reminders of home, you will also be amassing a lot of stuff throughout the school year. Books to read for fun, I’m sorry but you won’t really have the time for them with your schoolwork. Food you need to cook, let’s face it as terrible as the dining hall is its fast and already paid for, so you probably won’t be cooking much. Really consider what you need to have vs. what you want to have.

Get involved in clubs and campus organizations

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Confession time: I had no friends aside from my roommate until I was a junior in college. I was a shy, socially anxious mess who attended one club but never actually socialized with any of the other members. Don’t be like me, I still regret the years I could have spent having fun and doing things I enjoyed instead of being sad in my room alone. Put yourself out there, step out of your comfort zone. I ran of hall government my junior year and made a lot of friends in my building and on campus, met my boyfriend, and learned a lot about myself. It can be hard for shy people to make a connection, but if you keep working on it and make an effort to be friendly with people, friends and social interactions will become more natural and easy going. Join clubs you have interests in, network with your peers in professional organizations, and make the connections that will stick after you have graduated.

Be weary of the dining hall

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When there is pizza served at all hours every day, it can seem pretty easy to binge on terrible food because it’s there. Try to make sure you’re eating relatively healthy, as the healthier you eat, the better you will feel – physically and mentally. Also, be smart about the dining hall food and it’s freshness. I managed to get food poisoning from my dining hall the first day of my senior year because the outdoor bbq wasn’t the cleanest and I didn’t think that caesar salad dressing that was sitting out in the hot sun for a few hours would impact my health. Then I spent the night puking all over my boyfriend’s house, passing out, and being carted off in an ambulance to the ER. Not to mention missing my first classes and being “the puke girl” to my boyfriend’s roommates for a month or so. Once again, don’t be like me, have some common sense about what is safe to eat and what has the potential to make you ill.

Take your studies seriously

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While you have so much fun away at college, making new friends, joining new clubs, and going out to parties, don’t forget the main reason why you’re there: to learn and get your degree. Make sure to carve some time out of your schedule to study and do homework, and take what you are learning seriously. The classes you take will hopefully support you in your future career, and you want to make sure you are learning everything you will need to be successful. Keep track of deadlines and meet them, find the best strategies for studying that work for you, and do your reading!

Take advantage of any opportunities that come your way

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If you see an opportunity pop up, don’t be afraid to take it! I went out on a limb my senior year and applied to be a Social Media Ambassador for my college, which in turn opened up internship opportunities and gave me some work experience in a field I found interesting, without having any prior experience. If you see something and think, “well I’ll never get that,” apply! Worst case, you don’t get the internship or job and your immediate life stays the same. Best case you get it and learn new things and get networking opportunities. I ended up being a YikYak Campus Ambassador as well with some minor experience, and it ended up teaching me a lot and giving me something good to include on a resume. Take advantage of any opportunities you see, you never know what will come of them!

Utilize the school’s mental health offerings

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As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve had my fair share of issues with anxiety and depression. It pretty much nearly ruined my college career and I almost flunked out after my freshman year. Luckily, my school offered therapy sessions on campus for free, which I began attending my sophomore year and continued throughout my junior year. In these individual and group sessions, I worked on my anxiety (both general and social) and began to manage my mental illnesses. Without these sessions I wouldn’t be the person I am today, someone who feels relatively comfortable in social situations and isn’t deathly afraid of meeting new people. If you need help with any mental illnesses or am just going through a stressful time in the school year, please check out what mental services your school provides. It can help you succeed throughout college and deal with the issues you are facing, as long as you are willing to put in the effort.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

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Everyone needs some help sometimes, and it is perfectly fine to ask for help. Reaching out to professors when you are dealing with a crisis, or just having issues within the class is perfectly reasonable and the majority of professors will work with you. If you are struggling to transition into college life, reach out to your RA’s or the director of your building. They want you to succeed and feel comfortable in your new home, and they often know about different services provided by the school to assist you further. I also recommend talking to the general advising office when you are confused about majors/minors and need an unbiased opinion. Overall there are just so many offices and people with information to help you succeed both in college and after, so reach out for any help you may need.

Get a campus job

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My senior year I got a work study job on campus and it was probably one of the best decisions I made. Seeing as it was an on campus job, I didn’t have to worry about commuting or finding rides, and my boss was understanding of my school work load and willing to work with me. It’s always great to have a little bit of extra spending money, and by working on campus you can make great connections while still getting schoolwork done and having a life outside of work. Check out you school’s job listings for students and see if there is anything that interests you!

Make connections with your professors

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Your professors are one of the best tools in your arsenal. Not only do they interact with you on a regular basis, but they know you and are usually more than willing to work with you. Reaching out to professors for recommendation letters is incredibly important for applying to grad schools or further education. Also, your professors usually have outside contacts into your field and can be helpful when looking for a job or an internship. Make good connections with your professors, it can make your life a whole lot easier both in school and after you graduate!

Take classes outside your major

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Something I advocate for a lot is to take a few classes outside of your major and general education courses. Finding something interesting that doesn’t have a huge impact on your future career can be a fun way to enjoy your semester. Look at subjects you usually don’t gravitate to and check out their courses offered, sometimes you will be surprised at what if there and what you find interesting! I took theatre classes, english classes, and even communications classes all the while studying for my history degree. I loved challenging myself with performance classes, like Radio and TV Performance, as I learned how to present and talk to people while feeling more comfortable. Just check out what your school offers, you may be surprised!

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Well there you have it, my ten pieces of advice for freshman in college. What are some things you’ve learned from your college experience, or hope to get out of it? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

xoxo jen p

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