This post is about 9 things you have to know before college, based off my own experiences.
You’ve probably heard the saying,
College is the best four years of your life.– every old person
They’re not exactly right (you’ll have many great years after), but they’re also not exactly wrong, either. For many students, college is the first taste of freedom.
You’re living with your friends, free to explore the opportunities your school has to offer with the safety net of your campus.
You’ll experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I had an amazing college experience, complete with its many ups and downs. If I could go back and do it all again, I would without a doubt. But looking back, I wish I had been more prepared.
[Related: How To Email Your Professor In College]
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Here are the 9 things you have to know before college.
1. College Students Take the Opportunities
College will open doors for you. Take advantage of it.
Attend different meetings and events, check out the hack-a-thon happening on Friday, participate in the poetry slam Thursday night! The great thing about college is that you’ll find interest groups for almost everything. And if you don’t, start your own!
I wish I had stepped out of my shell a little more and tried all the different things that my campus had to offer. Some of my friends figured out their dream careers and completely switched their majors because they accidentally joined a hack-a-thon event.
College is all about exploring who you are. Take advantage of the opportunities, because once you graduate, they won’t come as easily anymore!
2. College Students Get Rejected Many Times–And Keep Going!
You might think I’m crazy–why would anyone go out of their way to get rejected?
Here’s why: Getting rejected gives you grit.
But don’t ruin your summer internship applications on purpose!
Try to get rejected at least once a week, for the smaller things.
Ask if you can get free whipped cream on your coffee at the student-run coffee shop.
Or ask your professor if you can get an extension on that assignment.
Or even ask the journalism committee if you can still join, even if the deadline has already passed.
The great thing about this is that you won’t necessarily get “no” as answer all the time. Free whipped cream? Yes!
Rejections don’t get any easier (it’s also contingent on situation), but over time, it’ll be easier to get back up again.
3. College Students Network to Learn!
This goes hand-in-hand with taking opportunities. You’ve got so much at your fingertips!
Reach out to your professors
Ask about internship opportunities, have lunch with your professors and learn more about them. They’ve led interesting lives!
Talk to your advisors
Depending on your school, you might have peer, career, study abroad, and academic advisors that are there to help you. Go in to see them as early as possible!
It’s never too early to start getting in touch with the people who want to see you succeed.
4. College Students Know That Life isn’t Set
Growing up with Asian parents meant having a heavy emphasis on studying and college. I was constantly told,
Once you get into college, your life will be set.– literally all adults
And that was wrong. So utterly wrong.
You may already know this, but I didn’t.
I stepped into college thinking I was going to be handed opportunities on a silver plate. After all, I had worked all those late nights in high school, just to be able to be free for the rest of my life, right?
You are going to have so many opportunities in college, but you’ll also have to work for them.
Reach out and ask your professors about internship opportunities and career options. Actively do your own searching. Even then, you might get rejected. But don’t give up. Get up and keep trying.
5. College Students Know That It’s Okay to Change Their Majors
College is all about figuring things out. A lot of students think they need to have their lives figured out by the time they get to college. No!
Most adults are still trying to figure out what they want to do.
I didn’t change my projected career path until senior year of college. I felt like it was a little late, but I ended up getting a great first job. And guess what–I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do!
Talk to professors and Heads of Departments. Learn about the different career paths that different majors can offer.
And in the future, it’s alright if you want to switch paths again. I’ve met my fair share of engineers who now work in sales or consulting, or medical students who now work as comedians in LA.
6. College Students Know That Classes Will Be Hard
Your classes in college will be harder than they had been in high school. The classes go by faster, and if you’re in any large lecture courses (think General Chemistry, Physics 101, etc.), it’ll be even harder to ask your professor to slow down.
Your peers will come from all different backgrounds and high schools. Your first time taking a physics class might be the third time another student is learning the same material. AP and IB students have an advantage over others who didn’t have those programs in their schools.
I was in the top 1% of my graduating class in high school, and my senior year GPA was a 5.0.
When I entered college, I was arrogant. Not gonna lie about that. I felt like I was smarter than everyone else. And the thing was–almost everyone else thought the same thing about themselves.
I see this every year with our incoming freshmen class!
When it came to picking out classes, I didn’t heed the advice of any upperclassmen and chose the hardest courses I could.
On my first exam, I scored a whopping 30%. The class average had been 67%. I got my first C’s and my first semester GPA was a 2.8. Yup.
Small note: Quizlet is an amazing study tool, even in college! I used this for a variety of classes including Ecology and Anatomy. It’s super helpful for memorization!
But don’t let this frighten you. The challenges are where you will learn the most.
7. College Students Ask For Help
It’s okay to ask for help. Your professors, advisors, and mentors are there because they want to see you succeed.
Everyone is struggling. They just hide it better.
My friend once told me that college is like swimming in a pond of ducks. Everyone looks peaceful as they float, but underneath the surface, their feet are kicking wildly.
If you need help–in anything–reach out. It will always be better than sitting alone in your room, trying to figure it out yourself.
Personal Story: I stepped into the office of my physics professor after two failed exams. It was much later than I should have, since the semester was almost over. I was incredibly surprised by his compassion and his willingness to help. He didn’t berate me for not coming in earlier, and didn’t ask me why my grades were so low. Even near the end of the semester, he wanted to help me do better.
8. College Students Don’t Let Studying Be The Only Thing They Do
A lot of college students struggle with feeling guilty if they’re not studying.
I felt this. You might too, especially if everyone around you looks like they’re always doing work.
It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to spend time away from your studies.
This can be a hard balance, but try setting time aside for breaks. For example, I dedicated my Friday afternoons to a “no homework” session with my friends. Instead, we watched movies and ventured off campus.
Try changing up your study space. My friends and I loved exploring the nearby coffee shops, and we would try to go to one at least twice a month. That way, we would be able to study and explore at the same time!
9. College Students Know That Friendships Take Time
I walked into college thinking I was going to be best friends with my roommate on day one, and that we would be godparents to each other’s future children.
Spoiler alert: That didn’t happen (we got along though, luckily!).
If you had grown up in the same city all your life, you’ll likely have known most of the people at your high school since you were five. In college, it’s different. You don’t know each other at all. You’ve come from different backgrounds, and led different lives.
It’s going to take some time before your friendships with these new people solidify, and it’s also going to take a hell of a lot more effort.
Be patient. Put in the extra effort. (Relationships take so much more effort than they did in high school!) Take time out of your day to ask about their days.
I graduated college with a group of life-long friends, but I’d say it took a solid year before I knew, for myself, that they were my best friends.
College will be a great experience. Good luck(:
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