Things I Wish I Knew Going Into College
I distinctly remember my drive down to college freshman fall. My (worried and hiding it badly) parents sat in front seats, turning around constantly in attempt to strike up “one last” conversation before I went off to school. I was in the back, pretending to be oblivious to their concern, listening to this Blink 182 album and staring out the window. Harried parents, indifferent teenager, emo pop punk: Yes, this was the clichéd scene that I look back on semi-fondly when I think of heading off to college.
Anyway. Leaving home for college wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that car ride may have conveyed. My parents didn’t turn into crazy empty nesters and I didn’t spend my days and nights contemplating the lyrics of Tom, Mark, and Travis in a dark dorm room. I fared more than okay; aside from a pretty awkward freshman year (I challenge someone to say it wasn’t their least favorite year) I thoroughly enjoyed my run at school.
With that said, we know many of you all are heading off to school for the first time this fall. To that end, we’re hooking you up in two ways. One, we are offering all students (and teachers!) who show us a valid ID a 25% off discount on swbasics.com all month long if you send in a photo of you with your information. Confused? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take care of you. Second, we’re sharing what we wish we knew heading off to college. Hopefully it helps — or, if you’re already graduated, it brings back some memories. Read on.
Some people will think it is still high school.
The world of cliques, “cool” parties, and the “popular” crowd doesn’t automatically disappear once you head off to college – something I had a hard time dealing with. Here I was, ready to shed all of that bullshit and “become an adult” (LOL on that, in hindsight) and I was immediately confronted with a whole new array of insecurities, in-groups, and shameless social climbing. Don’t be discouraged that this is happening. Here’s why: For one, it never goes away. Now that I’m a sage old 30 years old, I can tell you that this still occurs in the real world. (And it’s lame.) Two, you will naturally gravitate towards the group of people who are right for you and, trust me, if you’re not into that high school mentality, they won’t be either.
Good friends take time.
With that said, it takes time to meet, make, and keep quality friends. Don’t be discouraged if your first semester is filled with a lot of transient semi-friends that are around one week and gone the next. I spent my entire freshman year trying to figure out who my friends were and, frankly, made new friendships each year after that. In fact, I didn’t meet one of my very best friends from college until my junior year abroad. (I had no idea she even existed!) This is all to say that you should be open-minded and patient – you’ll meet “your people,” but not necessarily during orientation.
Senior year with my room mates + best friends (they still are!)
Unless you’re really sick, go to class.
Sort of a duh statement, but seriously, this is the one piece of advice my dad gave me before college and I couldn’t thank him enough. From a purely pragmatic perspective, college is freaking expensive – don’t waste your (or your parents’) money by ducking out on class. Take advantage of the privileged opportunity you have, toss on some sweats, and get your ass in a seat. Secondly, attending class – even if you are brutally hungover or wiped out from a long night cramming – means that you’ll automatically know far more about the topics that will be covered in tests and papers. In fact, I would often encounter a question on a test that was never touched on in the reading materials and was solely covered in class. Simply being there made all the difference.
All four years of college I completely failed at breakfast. I would drink a huge coffee and (sometimes) scarf a granola bar and by noon I’d be grumpy, foggy, and ravenous. Boy, was I stupid. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day; I was cheating my body. Don’t be like me!! Eat breakfast before class and you’ll see a ton of benefits – it’s good for your metabolism, it will keep your blood sugar from plummeting, it will help you focus, and it will prevent afternoon snack binging.
You may struggle with physical appearance.
Although I might be unusual, I never thought much about my body / image until college. In high school, life had been pretty small-town and pretty simple; in college, I was suddenly confronted with women who obsessed over their diets, their workout routines, their clothing… I encountered women who I perceived were “perfect” and I wanted to be like them, too. It kind of messed with my mind a bit. I started caring much more about how thin I was, what I was wearing, what “going out” tops I owned. (EW.) I feel a lot of sympathy for my 18-year-old self then, because I understand just how much pressure I – and the community around me – was putting on myself.
And my story is not unique in the slightest. I don’t know any woman who didn’t struggle at some point in college with the issues of body image and physical appearance. It can be brutal and it can be very dangerous. While I don’t have all the answers, all I can say is that happiness is not achieved by owning a new shirt or losing five pounds. If you pursue that train of thought, you are guaranteed to be disappointed, lonely, and lacking in self-esteem. Try and find value in things like your studies, your accomplishments, your friends, and your experiences.
On experiences – do them!
Join a sports club. Become a barista at your student-run coffee shop. Go dancing with that Peruvian guy you like from Theology class. Get involved in politics. Volunteer. Hug your mascot. Attend office hours. Write for the paper. Go abroad. Drink a beer (or five) with a new friend. Cheer on the home team. Run in the rain. Do everything you can and learn from each thing. These four years are short, they are precious, and they can be incredibly life changing. GO ALL IN.
Good luck! 🙂
Image of St. Elmo’s Fire via People.com