It seems surreal to me that I was a college senior just two years ago. Two years ago I never imagined that I would be living in California, working for myself or blogging. It’s amazing what time will do. The last six years of my life have flown by and I learned so many lessons that I want to share with you.
1. Choose your college wisely.
I decided to go to a small (10,000 students or less) liberal arts college about two hours from my hometown. Since I’m a first generation college student I only chose my college because the campus was pretty and it was far enough away that my family couldn’t just pop up on me. I didn’t think about curriculum or the fact that HBCUs exist. If I could do it over I probably would have chosen differently.
2. College is a time for experimentation.
Whether it’s food, friends, or dating it’s great to take risks and do something you’ve never done. I’m from a VERY small town in South Carolina and I had limited world experience before going to college. I’d never had sushi, friends who weren’t the exact same or nearly the same as me, and I had definitely never dated more than one type of guy. In college I made friends with people I never would have met at home and I became so open minded because of it. When it’s all said and done I’m so glad to have evolved into the person I’ve become.
3. Take freshman year seriously.
I really really REALLY mean this! I know so many students (myself included) who thought they were hot shit in high school. I thought college would be a breeze until Psych 101 kicked my ass and I had to re-evaluate my whole life. Take a variety of classes because it’s the only way you’ll explore your interests but make sure you still have fun. Find the balance.
Oh, and don’t get too attached to a major until you’ve taken a few classes. It’s ok to change your mind about what you thought you wanted to do.
4. The freshman 15 can actually be the freshman/sophomore 20.
I gained weight in college and I had to learn to eat healthy, exercise, and lead an active lifestyle to change that. Believe me it’s not fun having to suck in your gut and use money you don’t have to buy bigger clothes.
5. Get involved on campus.
I was always involved on campus and even got paid for it. I really believe this has been one of the factors that lead to my success after graduation. I already had more experience than most college students and that lead to job offers right out of college.
6. Network like crazy!
I’ve been networking since my freshman year of college. It’s important to know influential people in your city and the field you want to work in. In college I networked through school, volunteering, and randomly at coffee shops. I made good impressions and I always followed up. Those skills helped me so much when starting my copywriting firm because as an entrepreneur you really have to put yourself out there. You never know when networking can lead to an internship, a job offer or a great friendship so always be prepared.
7. Internships matter.
My major was Communication and at my school I had to have an internship to graduate. I think internships should be a requirement for everyone. My internships jump started my career, gave me mentors, and lead to my first freelancing client. It’s very important to get that first internship by junior year and to take it seriously.
8. People are smarter than you.
I thought I was the smartest person ever before college. It definitely humbles you and teaches you a different perspective.
9. Roommates Matter.
I never lived in a dorm because I didn’t want to share a room with another person. From my friend’s experiences living in dorms I know you will either love the roommate(s) you get freshman year and become best friends with them or you will hate them and secretly think about killing them in your sleep. If you get the latter just know it gets better and you’ll meet people you love who can be your roommates after your first year!
10. Free food/swag and school events are awesome.
You’re a broke college student and it’s free. What more needs to be said? I ALWAYS went to campus events for the free food and usually the events themselves ended up being really cool. This goes back to getting involved. I’ve met some of my closest friends by randomly showing up to school events and sitting with strangers.
11. Shyness and the fear of rejection will keep your from the best experiences.
Talk to as many people as you can. In class, in the dinning hall, or while walking around campus. Everyone is friendly in college because it’s one of the only times to get crazy and meet different people. I promise you won’t come off as crazy… unless you really are crazy but that’s another post.
12. You’re going to lose touch with high school friends
I’m sure there are rare exceptions to this rule but that’s what has happened to me and most of my friends in college. You grow in college and you will not leave the same way you came. That means all the things you use to have in common with your old friends disappear especially if they never leave home. It sucks but you’ll make new friends who are awesome.
13. Go to class.
In high school I was told college professors don’t care if you pass or if you fail and they don’t care if you come to class. I’m here to tell you that is bull. If you show you want to learn most college professors will go out of their way to help you whether it’s tutoring you during office hours, by email, phone, or making up new office hours just for you. Most of my college classes had attendance policies which suck, I won’t lie, but they keep a lot of students in check.
I worked during all four years of college and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Everyone can’t work because of sports or heavy class loads but I think it’s a good idea so that you always have money coming in. If you don’t work and you live off your refund checks or an allowance from your parents make sure you budget. I know some of you will read this and laugh but I’m serious. Don’t use credit because it’s not free money and don’t take out crazy amounts of student loans. You have to pay that money back.
15. Most importantly have the time of your life.
Being in college while you’re young is a once in a lifetime experience. Savor it and take as much from it as you can. I’m so sad to be done with my journey and I actually want to turn back time so I can do it all over again. Damn you Harry and Hermione for smashing all of the time-turners!
Have you gone to college yet? What lessons did you leave with?
If you haven’t what questions do you have about college?