For the first time that I can remember, it is back-to-school season and I am not getting ready for school. It’s quite surreal. However, I couldn’t let this monuments season scurry by and not give my two cents. As you may know, I graduated just three short months ago. The post-grad excitement has begun to wear off and I’m ready to share all of the things I wish I would’ve done during undergrad. If you have any additional college tips to share, please leave them down below in the comments so other readers can benefit from them!
Label Everything With Tape
I blame it on going to camp for so many years – if you didn’t label your trunk, plastic drawers or your shower caddy with permanent marker there was always some chance that your stuff would go missing, have other people’s stuff in it or some combination of the two. In college (and the non-camp world), it’s not like that. You have your dorm room or apartment and your roommate(s). That’s it. You each know what you brought, you don’t need to practice spelling your name fifty times to articulate that.
The same applies to school supplies. I thought that writing the name of each class on the school supplies designated for that class would help me stay organized. It did not. You know what did? Color coordinating. When you have six blue folders in your backpack, it’s a headache to file through all of them only to discover that you left your seventh blue folder on your desk in your dorm room. Save yourself the frustration and color coordinate a folder and/or binder/notebook for each class.
(More on the blog: 22 Lessons in 22 Years)
Don’t Buy a Single Book
This is the only one of the college tips I’m sharing that still makes me upset. If I calculate how much I spent on textbooks alone throughout my four years of undergrad it comes out to a ridiculous $1500. And that’s using Chegg and Amazon whenever I could. Go to the library, split the cost of a book with a friend or five – seriously, do not spend $1500 on books. My last semester of school, I had the mindset of “I’m moving soon and do NOT have time to sell back ten books for one fifth of the cost.” I went to the library, I found free copies of e-books through my school’s library and if I absolutely needed a book, I rented it. How much did I spend my last semester on books? $80. Case and point.
Go to Things Even if it Means Going Alone
Throughout my undergrad career, I learned of many events and speakers that I thought were really interesting. How many did I go to? Maybe two. Regardless of the specific institution that you are attending, your college experience will provide you with access to a plethora of academic, cultural and just-for-fun events. Go to as many as you can, even if that means going alone. I didn’t start going alone to things until my last few weeks of school and it’s empowering. For me, it was like having an epiphany that only I can control my behavior and, related, happiness. It’s still exhilarating any time I go to the gym by myself or a happy hour by myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going to things with people, but I don’t need someone to go with me. After a while, your friends may get curious and decide to come along with you. At that point, you’ve hit the jackpot.
(More on the blog: Lessons Learned as a Camp Counselor)
Explore the Local Area
Depending on the size of the community surrounding your school, this may be easier done with a vehicle. That being said, I didn’t have access to a car my freshman year, but we had a really great public transportation system that students could use for free. If you have a similar situation where you go to school, consult your friends, your boss, professors, RA’s and the internet for places you could visit. I found a few great coffee shops, an apple orchard, a goat farm and many great restaurants once I got off campus.
Once you have these places, they can serve as an oasis for you if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed. For me that was the apple orchard in the fall. Sure, apples are great, but I love being around trees. It was so fun to get lost among the rows of different apple trees, not to mention to stop to take a cute picture (or twenty). Later in the fall, you could head out on their pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkin.
Understand Everyone is Flying By the Seat of Their Pants
How many times have you heard this one? It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized that truly, very few people actually have it together. My parents, my professors, my friends, my classmates, everyone I talked to – we’re all just doing the best we can.
Had I realized and truly taken this fact to heart, I think I would’ve saved myself from quite a few panic attacks that ensued throughout my college career. That being said, I think that colleges and universities can do more to get this message across to its students. Yes, you’re paying this institution usually an incredible amount of money for a degree that is meant to help you get ‘it’ together. Rarely is that actually the case.
It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to have a change of heart. It’s okay to take on a new project, part-time job, internship or any other large obligation. All you can do is try.
(More on the blog: Lessons Learned From ‘Friends’)
Pay Attention and Ask Questions
As far as college tips go, this tip is relevant in and outside of the classroom. Of course, I’m partially referring to class material and lectures. Pay attention to what your professor is saying and if you don’t understand something, ask questions. You and you alone are solely responsible for successfully completing your higher education. Take it upon yourself to ensure that you are truly understanding what is going on in class.
Outside of class, pay attention to current events. Ask questions whether that be on social media or to your friends, family, boss or professors. With all of the resources available to you, you have no excuse to have your head in the sand. Pick up a newspaper, check reliable news websites (my favorites are BBC, CNN and the Associated Press) or sign up using my referral link to get your news sent straight to your inbox via The Skimm. There is no longer any acceptable excuse for being unaware of current events.
As you’re learning about current events around the world (not just your country of origin), ask questions. If something is confusing, seems off or blatantly doesn’t make sense – ask someone. If multiple people I ask don’t know either, then I scour the internet for an answer. Stay curious and stay informed.
What are the two biggest college tips you’d give to incoming freshmen?