by Ethel Navales
1) Find the Balance
Your first year of college is similar to a trip to the buffet. You’re excited, you’re hungry, and you want to eat as much as you possibly can. The more experienced buffet-goers laugh at your rookie mistake as they take just enough food to feel satisfied. You on the other hand? You’ll try to pack towers on that plate of yours.
When entering a new chapter of your life, it’s understandable that you’re trying to do it all. You want to do amazing in your classes, join as many clubs as possible, make life-long friends (or at least enough friends to avoid eating meals alone in the dining hall), and have an entertaining social life. The excitement will take you far, but you are warned- keep this up and you’re on the path to burn out. There’s no point in overwhelming your schedule if you sacrifice your grades, your health, and even your relationships. With the adrenaline of entering college, it’s easy to think we can handle it all, but you’re only human. Make sure you understand your limits and manage your time wisely.
2) Go to Class
Having the choice to attend or skip class is quite the change from high school. Inevitably, the option is taken advantage of …a lot. I will admit that I had my share of mornings where I just didn’t feel like getting out of bed- so I didn’t. This is a trap. Don’t fall into the trap. Trust me when I say that life will be much easier for you if you’re not scrambling to catch up with lectures or irritating others by asking for their notes. While you may find a way to pass the class regardless of attending, years later you’ll regret this. Look at it this way- calculate all the money you would waste by not attending a single class. Yeah, not worth it.
One of my most favorite parts of college is the chance to really look into yourself and explore. A lot of people view college as a final time to do what you want to do and be what you want to be before stepping into the infamous “adulthood” stage. It’s a chance to test your limits and discover what you’re really capable of. So step out of your comfort zone- take that yoga class you’ve been dying to do. Talk to that cute person you normally would just admire from afar. Explore your limits and be fearless. Why not?
4) Take care of your health
It’s easy to put health in the backseat with so much going on. Sleepless nights to cram for a test, unhealthy “apartment” food (i.e., a diet that consists primarily of ramen noodles, frozen pizza, and mac & cheese), and having so much to do that visits to the gym happen about as often as journeys to Mordor. These are only a few of the many ways that your health can take a big hit if you don’t take care of it. A lot will be going on, but you owe it to yourself to make sure your health is a priority. Go the extra mile to do this. Let your roommates help keep you accountable to a strict bedtime (yeah, turns out we need this reinforced even more as we get older). Buy on-the-go breakfast food so you don’t rush to class on an empty stomach. Walk the long way to class. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but repetition of these little things will go a long way.
5) It’s okay to be confused
A lot of people I know ended up changing their major during college and that’s okay. A lot of people decided on an entirely new profession and that’s okay. A lot of people left college without knowing where exactly they were headed and while that’s scary- that’s okay. This was a lesson that I very stubbornly had to learn as well. We’re all accustomed to knowing the next step. We’re comfortable because we’ve been guided up until this point. Middle school led to high school and a set high school schedule led to college . But here, the babying stops. You have to make the difficult decisions and choose your path on your own. It’s important to take a deep breath and not be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to need some time to figure it out.
6) Relationships are hard work
When I entered college, I happened to find a group of friends who, like me, were in long and serious relationships. By the end of the year, almost all of us were single. By no means am I saying that relationships in college are impossible. I am also not advising that you break up with your significant other just because you two will go to separate schools. I’m simply pointing out that relationships in college are hard. With a significant other potentially being far away, schedules packed with new adventures, and “temptations” everywhere you turn, you two will have to test your trust of one another. Effort is key and with so many distractions around, it’s easy to forget that a relationship is also a responsibility. I am a firm believer that relationships in college can actually be some of the best ones, but it will only prevail if you are willing to put in the work.
7) Go to office hours
A lot of students tend to avoid office hours and fail to see the point of it. Trust me, you’ll want to take advantage of this- its never a bad thing to make a good impression on your professor. You’ll be surprised at how much information they’ll divulge about the midterm/final and its the ideal way to get a letter of recommendation. Unless you have an absolute jerk of a professor, they tend to be happy that you just took the time to see them.
8) Be brave- Make friends in class
Congratulations to those of you who have a super-human immune system, but if you’re like the rest of us, sickness is inevitable. The thing I’ve learned is you ought to make at least one friend in class who can save you from the dilemma of missing notes from an important lecture. Keep in mind that this is still a friendship and friends shouldn’t take advantage of each other. Don’t be that person that obviously missed class all week because of partying and expects “friends” to take notes for them. Keep your favors to a minimum to maintain that relationship.
9) Drop the drama
One of the beautiful things about graduating from high school is that you’re allowed to drop all the mess that accompanied it. Drama, sticky situations, exes, you name it! While they may not be out of your life completely, you can look at college as a place to start over. A lot of things that stressed you out in high school will no longer matter and ideally, college is supposed to be a place where people around you are much more mature. And if they’re not? Then you can let go of them. The pressure of getting along with everyone in high school has been depleted so go ahead and drop any unnecessary drama. You’ll be surprised at how much better life can get.
10) Take it Slow
Whether you’re in college for two years or five years, college finds a way to feel like you’re rushing through time. One minute you’re a freshman looking over a map to make sure you don’t get lost, the next minute you’re in your cap and gown taking graduation pictures. Many people have said that college can be some of the best years of your life. Needless to say, I suggest soaking it all in and taking it slow. If these really are the best years of your life, make sure they count.
This post was originally posted to http://audreymagazine.com/10-things-i-wish-i-knew-before-i-went-to-college-2/ on July 2, 2013