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11 Things I Wish I Would Have Known About College
Ahh, College. The volatile time between adulthood and childhood, sprinkled with the freedom to do as you please, with no one to answer to. What do you need to know to be prepared to enter this new and exciting time? Well really, it’s quite simple.
College (u) = Uparty… and that’s all the algebra you need to know. Right?
Wrong. There are A TON of things you need to know, a MILLION questions you need to ask, and a THOUSAND things you need to check on. And believe it or not, there will be things that are left off of your important to do list, and these things will later become some tough lessons learned. Take it from someone who is the Queen of figuring stuff out the hard way. So in the interest of helping a few poor, unfortunate souls out, I have compiled a list of 11 things I wish someone would have told me before I started college. And the great thing about this list? I don’t need your voice in exchange for the advice, and you get as many days as you need to make Eric fall in love with you. Thank me later.
1. Don’t rule out the community college.
I know. You and your narcissism just couldn’t handle going to the lowly community college for two years. Your mom wouldn’t be able to brag, and your friends would have awesome stories to tell while you would only be able to update them on your high school’s football season. It seems like the ultimate death sentence. This, however, is the tough part. This is where you have to think in the future terms, not present terms (devastating, right? SUCH an old person thing to say. Gross.) There are so many benefits of getting your basics done at a community college- the first one being money. Now, you’re probably saying “Who cares? That’s what loans are for." I know. Live, Love, Loans. My personal mantra in my first year (OK, maybe two) of college. It’s hard to see past those pretty little numbers in your checking account, but it’s imperative that you do. Loans eventually have to be paid back, and while you are living the high life right now, once you have to pay them back reality will hit, and reality is not merciful. That 300 square foot studio apartment on the bad side of town looks even worse in the glimmer cast by those police lights that are outside every night. A big fat bill for a loan doesn’t help out too much either. There is nothing wrong or shameful about staying home for the first two years while attending your community college. Yeah, it’s not glamorous, but then again, neither are those police lights. Ask your school counselor about what you need to know when the time comes to transfer, and keep your eyes on the prize.
2. Don’t let others influence your decision on where to go.
Finding the right college for you is tough. There is a lot to take into consideration, and chances are you will miss something. The last thing you need to worry about is pleasing a family member or friend. It is my firm belief that your success in college is directly related to your happiness, which is directly related to your environment. I went to college in a horrible, ugly little town, and it was a beat down. At one point, it just gets the best of you. Just because your bff loves one college doesn’t mean you have to too. And so what if your entire family went to Ole Miss? Don’t be afraid to break the mold; do what feels right and you won’t be let down.
3. Give it a chance.
You will be homesick. You will cry for your mama. You will hate your roommate. You will get a bad grade… or two. Such is life! Don’t let the negative emotions take up room in your head. Remind yourself that you are among the most privileged people in the nation, and moreover the world. You are receiving an education. BE HAPPY. Get excited! These years will be the best of your life. If you’re feeling homesick, grab a friend and go exploring around your new residence. Get lost, and be silly. Can’t find anyone to explore with? KIDNAP SOMEONE. No…but seriously, MAKE A FRIEND. Missing your mama? Call her. Cry a little bit. She’ll cry a little bit too, and then like a Mac truck, it will hit you that the study room on your dorm room floor has thin walls, and everyone can here you sobbing. Your attention will immediately be redirected to the here and now, and you will be cured of “Missing my mama” syndrome for the time being. Roommate from hell? The best advice here is to just try to make the best of it. It’s a waste of time and magic wax to try to turn a Malfoy into a Ron. Just impossible… especially if they don’t love Harry Potter. Smile and try to find some common ground, and make other friends. The person sleeping next to you isn’t the only acquaintance you’re permitted to have on campus. Made a few bad grades? It’s normal. Don’t stress. You’re acclimating to college classes and professors- there are going to be a few bad grades. Just don’t let those grades affect your scholastic mindset. I was a “smart kid” in high school, and I arrogantly thought that it would carry over with little effort into my college education. Wrong. So wrong. College is harder. You actually have to try. And word for the wise; cheaters don’t last long, and they don’t make many friends. The learning environment is different in college. You see, I think it has to do with paying $30,000+ a year for class that just inspires people to take it a little more seriously.
4. Have realistic expectations.
If you attend a big college, you more than likely aren’t going to make a bunch of friends in your classes, especially if your have large classes. People change seats, and are more interested in trying to decipher what the professor with a heavy accent is telling you about your upcoming midterms than making friends. Consider class time work time, and don’t count on making too many connections there. Instead, and as cheesy and mom-ish as it sounds, go out and join ONE club. One. Just one. In college you make friends through extracurricular activities, so the more you embrace em’, the more friends you’ll have to show for it.
5. Don’t fall for stereotypes.
Going into college, I had heard a lot of not so savvy things about sororities and fraternities. They partied out of control, were whores (boys too), and they essentially were paying for their friends. Now while I can’t speak for all sororities and frats across the board, I can say that this was generally not what I encountered at my university. Yes, it was a little Stepford wife-ish (and I would say this is especially more true for southern universities) but at the end of the day, it still is a great experience. You’ll just have to find out if it’s right for you. Also, don’t be fooled by the movies. College has its cliques too. In my opinion, where cliques are concerned, my college was worse than my high school. How does one bypass this? You don’t. There will always be mean girls and douche bag guys, now is just the time for you to find out that their opinion matters as much as you allow it to.
6. You really will have the opportunity to party every night.
My advice? Live it up. If you can, do. But, the minute your grades start slipping, and trust me- they will, you will have to put your big girl (or boy, I don’t discriminate) panties on, and trade the beer in your left hand for a book, and the beer in your right hand for a highlighter. Don’t get too sidetracked by trying to attend every party. Don’t lose your cool. Take it easy. The beer is going absolutely nowhere, I pinky swear. Keep your head on straight and maintain just a smidgen of self control, and you should be just fine.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professor.
Sounds generic, but the best advice is. Your professor wants you to do well. Your achievements reflect well on them. If you are struggling in a class JUST ASK FOR HELP. Go to their office hours and put your lack of scholastic aptitude on display. They will work with you, I promise- from someone who has been there. You will much rather sit in a dank office for a few hours each week than deal with:
1. failing a class
2. dropping a class
3. explaining to your mother why you dropped a class
4. telling your mother you failed a class.
8. GET THOSE SWEET CHEEKS TO CLASS.
There are a lot of repercussions that can come from not attending class. I think many students believe that their absence will go unnoticed, and that things like online notes or study groups can aid them in their venture to not attend a single class. While in some really strange, crazy instances this might be true, for most of the college world it isn't. I actually had a lot of professors that would take attendance, and when you missed too much they would start deducting points from your average, or you would be ineligible for some nifty bonus points. If your professor doesn't take attendance, you still aren't in the clear. Pop quizzes exist beyond high school too. You don't want to miss a quiz that is more than likely super-dee-duper easy just because you felt like sleeping in. You learn a lot more by going to class, and you don't miss any useful information that the professor might give about exams, quizzes, etc. The most beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to go to class. Obviously there will be times that going to class just won't work out- but don't lie to yourself. You know if you can afford to miss or not. Just remember, the only reason you are here is to get an education. Not to party, not to sleep, not to eat, but to read, write and learn. Go to class. Don’t skip. Go to class. Are you getting this? Go to class. Your grade suffers when you don’t go to class, so go to class. GO TO CLASS.
9. Buy the used book.
For some reason, and this may just be me, I was under the impression that books had to be brand spanking new. Other person’s highlighted portions? Eww. Hand written notes on the sides of pages? How ghetto. Post-it notes left in the book? Can you say contagion? This was my mindset for the first, oh I dunno, semester? No. The first few books? No. Oh wait I know. The first few hundred dollars I spent on one.stinking.book. All I saw when I looked at that bio book was a beautiful Michael Kors watch/purse/anything. Or food. Or alcohol. Mostly food. College books are expensive, that you won’t be able to escape. You can however drastically reduce the amount you spend by renting books or buying them used. Renting is sometimes frowned upon because one of the great parts of buying your own books is getting to sell them at the end of the semester for some quick cash. If you rent a book, you can’t do that, and that, is a buzz kill. However, what we fail to realize in our haste to liquidate our book collection is that we are getting back a fraction of the cost. Let me clarify this.
Regina George pays $160 dollars for a burn book. At the end of the semester, she sells the burn book back for $35 dollars. Please calculate how much money Regina lost.
Answer: The limit does not exist.
Yeah. It blows. So. With all of that snazzy mathematical proof that I threw in there, it should now be painfully clear to you to rent when you can, and always buy used. Those notes, highlighted portions and contaminated sticky notes will more than likely cut your studying time in half, as someone has already done the hard work for you. Embrace it, my child.
10. Don’t get too attached to your major.
I had wanted to be a doctor since I was two, so naturally I started my college years off as an arrogant bio major with no intention of changing. Whoops. Turns out, you learn a few things about yourself in college, and all that time spent away from your family and friends helps you to identify if it was really your dream or a group dream. I wanted to be a doctor because my entire family wanted me to be one. Their excitement and words of encouragement made me think that’s what I wanted too. When I left home and found out that it wasn’t, it was hard to deal with. I felt like a disappointment to my family, and this clouded my mind and caused me to be incapable of soul searching and finding out what I really wanted to do. This caused depression because I was stuck in a major that I didn’t want, but I couldn’t change, because I had nothing to change it to. This caused weight gain. This caused more depression. This caused impulsive online shopping. This caused debt. You see how quickly it can all fall apart? College kids are under a lot of pressure, and finding a right major plays a huge role in that pressure. The best advice I can give is to separate yourself from other peoples ideas and dreams. Find your own. One of two things will happen; your dream (and major) will remain the same, or you will be left with a gaping hole as it is suddenly horribly apparent that you in fact do not want to be a surgeon. From the latter, move forward, explore, and carry on my wayward son. Instead of seeing your parents’ hopes and dreams crushed, see the excitement and possibilities that you have just created for yourself. Embrace it, and everyone else will learn to embrace it as well. I, for instance, am now working to become a lawyer. While my family still sees it as unimpressive compared to their doctor dream, they have to deal with it because, uh, newsflash. My life. My choice. Suck an egg if you don’t like it.
11. Breath. Blink. Booze.
Take it easy. You aren’t a machine. Don’t find solace in the bottom of a Red Bull. You don’t need energy, you need sleep. My mom would always tell me that I could sleep when the semester was over. Boy was that some awful advice. I’m not saying get a full 8 hours every night; you are going to have to pull all nighters for parties (oh and studying), this I realize. I’m simply saying that when you feel near the brink of death, go to bed. It helps more than anything, and I mean ANYTHING else. Also, don’t forget to look around everyone once in a while. Take in the scenery and capture a few mental pics of your day to day life. Before you know it, college is over. Don’t let it end without ever having seen it. And most importantly, have a drink and laugh, and then hit the books.
These are the main issues I had, and while I know there is a lot left out, this is what stole the show for me. College is fun! Work hard, play hard. Don’t be shy or intimidated- this is new to a lot of other people too. Everyone is up for a new friend, and if they aren’t, forget em’. They’re probably Craigslist killers anyway. Find yourself and what you want to be. Allow yourself to get caught up in the moment. Most importantly, be safe and have fun. And if in your head you are screaming, “can’t do both!”, then you will be just fine. If you didn’t scream that or just don’t get it, you never made your parents horribly nervous when you left the house. Congrats. Now to all of you, go forth and conquer.