College is the time for us to learn, discover, explore, and be challenged. Learn new knowledge, discover more about ourselves and others, and explore our surroundings. Although we may have older siblings and friends to give us advice on college and tell us about their experiences, there’s no way for us to know everything that we need to know about college. Even for upperclassmen, college could still be a mystery, with new things being learned and new knowledge being acquired every day. Below is a list of the most important things I wish I had known before college.
- There are hundreds and thousands of students who are smarter than you.
- Your high school GPA and SAT scores won’t define who you are in college.
- Naps will become your best friend.
- It’s super easy to procrastinate.
- It’s super easy to fall behind in class.
- You don’t need those brand new hard-cover textbooks from the bookstore.
- Your professors can offer very useful advice, if you take the time to listen and get to know them.
- You will change your major at least once.
- Freshman 15 is real and scary.
- Drinking is inevitable in college, but you don’t need to drink to have fun.
- As much as you hate it, exercise.
- You will need to keep track of your spending.
- You will fall in and out of love.
- Safe sex is important.
- Unless you live in an apartment and have your own bathroom, always wear flip flops in the shower.
- When you do your laundry depends on the amount of underwear you have.
- You will need some work experience by the end of your college senior year.
- You will treasure family time a lot more.
- True friendships take time and effort.
- You will lose touch with your high school friends.
- Everyone is in the same situation as you are.
- You will discover something new about yourself that you never knew before.
- There will be lots of ups and downs.
- College is the time to make mistakes and learn from them, so go outside of your comfort zone.
- College years will fly by extremely fast, so make the best of it!
You may be the valedictorian or salutatorian of your high school. You may be in the top 5% of your high school and obtain a perfect SAT score. But in college, there are hundreds and thousands of other students who are way smarter than you. So don’t be arrogant and think that you’re the only special/ the smartest one. Be prepared to challenge and be challenged by equally smart, or smarter people. You’re swimming in an ocean now (college), not in a pond (high school) anymore.
Honestly, no one really cares about your high school GPA and SAT/ ACT/ TOEFL scores in college. If you got a low GPA and failed your SAT test in high school, you can still obtain a GPA of over 3.5, be the president of 2 clubs and get a job offer if you try hard enough in college. Don’t let those low scores discourage you but instead, use college as a new beginning. So if your high school counselor insisted that you won’t do well in college based on your low GPA and SAT score alone, that’s just bullsh*t.
If you believe that you’ll get more than 8 hours of sleep every single day in college, think again! You will stay up past 1am, or will pull at least an all-nighter once every semester (either to finish that paper due at 8am that you completely forgot about, or to hang out with friends). So nap, nap whenever and wherever you can. Nap in your room, nap in the common room, nap in the library, nap outdoor on the grass. Trust me, those 10-20 minutes power naps will make you feel a lot more energized compared to drinking coffee and energy drinks.
There are so many things that distract you and prevent you from being academically productive in college, such as friends, extracurricular activities, work, parties, and of course, the Internet. You will always be tempted to procrastinate. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch that new episode of How To Get Away With Murder instead of writing a paper on something that you have absolutely no interest in!
In college, your professors won’t have the time to make sure that you’re on the right track, especially when they have hundreds of students. Your parents won’t be there to check up on you as well. It’s all up to you on whether or not to put in the effort and do well for all your classes. It’s really easy to ditch class and not hand in assignments/homework on time as well. No one will scold you, you’ll just get a really low grade for the class.
Yeah, I made the mistake of only purchasing brand new textbooks during my first semester of college. I ended up spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, only to resell them at 40-50% of the original prices. Don’t make the same mistake! It’s definitely not worth it! Instead, buy used textbooks from friends, your college’s Facebook groups, Amazon.com, eBay.com or Half.com. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save just by buying used textbooks! Another plus about used textbooks is that they sometimes contain very helpful notes and highlights from the previous owners.
Go to your professors’ office hours! Office hours are designed for professors to help you outside of class, whether it’s to answer any question you may have, clarify a difficult concept, help you get started with an assignment, and even advice you with career-related inquiries. For most of the times, your professors are extremely cool people with lots of experience, so definitely utilize those office hour times! Your professors are willing to share their knowledge and wise words with you, you just need to take the initiative and come to them first.
And that’s perfectly fine! Almost every college student changes his/her major once or several times. I went from Undecided to Economics and finally to Business Administration. You may believe that you’re born to be an engineer, but realize you hate coding and algorithm after taking an algorithm class. You may believe that you’ll become a lawyer in the future, but fall in love with music after taking a music composition class. That’s totally fine. College is the time for you to figure what you like and dislike. So take different classes and change your major if you have to. Follow your passion and major in what you’re truly interested in!
If someone tell you that he/she has never experienced Freshman 15 in college, that person is either a liar or a healthy-diet-fanatic. Freshman 15 is the weight gained by college students in their first year. All I can tell you is that yes, Freshman 15 is real, and yes, it’s scary. I gained almost 10 lbs in the first semester of my freshman year (thanks to the high in calories all-you-can-eat food at the dining hall, fast food, chips, and ice cream)! My tips to fight off Freshman 15 are (1) to eat healthy (always eat some vegetables and fruits in every meal), (2) stop eating starches and food that are high in fats and sugar after a certain time at night, (3) drink lots of water, and (4) exercise (refer to #11 below). For more tips on losing weight and staying healthy, read them HERE.
Everyone drinks in college. Depending on the occasion and your budget, you’ll either enjoy the fancy wines or cheap beers and liquors. But know that you don’t need to drink to have fun. You can still have quality times with friends just by eating fast-food, watching Netflix, or sharing stories with each other. A lot of my favorite memories with friends in college didn’t involve drinking or alcohol at all. If you decided to drink; however, know your limit and drink responsibly. I’ve seen a lot of people who got hospitalized because of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning and intoxication can be deadly! Never drink and drive, and remember what goes on the Internet forever stays on the Internet.
Go to the gym, go for a jog, play basketball/tennis, swim. Do some sort of exercise at least twice per week. It’s typically free to use your college’s gym and sports facility, so definitely utilize those free services. Sure you may hate it or think that it’s a complete waste of time. But exercise will help you tremendously in the long-term (I’m speaking from my personal experience). Exercise makes you healthier, sexier and builds your confidence!
Know your budget limit and keep track of your spending, whether it’s school-related or personal. You may need to resist the urge to buy that beautiful new dress to save money for this week’s grocery. You don’t want to have your card declined at the very important moment because you only have $10 left in your account! Develop this habit will help you tremendously when you start to have a job and make you become a responsible person.
You will be attracted to a lot of people in college, whether it’s the cute guy sitting in front of you in lecture, the attractive barista who constantly offers you free drinks “just because,” or the handsome European guy you meet at the gym almost every day. For a list of guys you’ll fall in college, read it HERE. Yes, you will fall in love. Yes, you will date, or hook up. Yes, you will be in a relationship. And yes, you will fall out of love, break up, and be heartbroken. The process will repeat. Don’t expect to find the love of your life, your future husband/wife in college. But don’t stop yourself from falling in and out of love either. Go out there and meet all the different people. Date if you want, hook up if you want, be in a relationship if you want, and if you have to, learn to move on.
Don’t have unprotected sex! It may seem “fun” for the moment, but the consequences could be tremendous. You’ll be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy from unprotected sex. Always wear condoms and take birth control pills if necessary. Most importantly, make sure to have mutual consent from both parties!
If you live in a dorm and are sharing a bathroom with 30+ other girls on the same floor, I highly recommend spending a few extra bucks and purchasing your own pair of flip flops to wear in the the communal bathroom. Here’s why: (1) You don’t know what could possibly be on the floor of the shared bathroom, (2) yes it’s usually very gross, (3) communal bathrooms are the ideal place for bacteria, germs, and fungi to develop. So unless you want to have athlete’s foot, never ever go barefoot in the shower!
Ask anyone in college and he/she’ll tell you that this concept is absolutely true. I mean seriously, who would want to wear the same underwear for more than one day?
Even if your current GPA is a 4.0, you still need some sort of work experience in your college years, whether it’s from an internship or an unpaid job. Excellent GPA makes you stand out, but impressive work experience (especially what you learned and how you’re able to contribute) sells a lot more. Gaining your work experience also helps you in deciding if the job is a right fit for you and whether or not you want to continue in the same position, the same industry for your permanent career in the future.
This applies a lot to international students who live across the globe. But it still goes towards students who attend a college in a different state or far from home. You won’t be able to see your parents face-to-face every day anymore. You’ll only see them and hear their voices through Skype or phone calls. As much as you like your freedom away from home, you’ll also start to miss your family greatly. There were times when I tremendously missed my mom’s homemade Vietnamese food and her reassuring hugs that everything will be OK, or my dad’s endless talks about business. Because of that, I learned to treasure my family time a lot more whenever I was able to fly back home and visit them during breaks.
By the end of my college senior year, I have tons of acquaintances but only a few good friends. Those are the people that I feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night just to rant/cry about something really dumb, texting meaningless texts and sharing whatever I feel like sharing. Those are the people that accept and support me for who I really am. But don’t just expect you’ll be able to find your BFF right away. True friendships take time and effort. Once you’re able to find these people, they can very well be your BFFs for life!
I thought that I would be able to keep in touch with all my good friends back in high school. But after a while, I realized that this was easier said than done. Your friends will travel to different cities or countries for college, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. They will change, and they will find new friends in college, and so will you. At some points of life, you will lose touch with your high school friends, and that’s completely normal. It may be sad at first, but you need accept the fact that we all have new journeys ahead of us now. Reach out to the high school friends that you want to. If they reciprocate your effort, let them back into your life and treasure the friendship. If they don’t, keep them in your memories and move on with your new friends in college.
If you’re worried that everyone already finds his/her own “clique” like in high school, fear not. College is a new beginning for everyone, especially freshmen. They’re all in the same situation as you are, and experiencing the same emotions that you do (e.g. excited, nervous, confused). A lot of people start college not knowing anyone, and thus are more opened to meeting new friends. Because of this, go out there and introduce yourself to different people. Say hello to the people sitting next to you in your classes, join a club and introduce yourself to everyone, or simply start a conversation with your neighbors who live right across from you. Your first year of college is the perfect time to meet a diverse array of people. Remember that you’re not alone.
Whether it’s a hidden talent or a developed skill, you will discover something new about yourself in college. For me, I discovered that I could sing in my sophomore year of college, simply by taking a vocal class and hang out with friends who are music lovers. If you have friends who constantly sing anytime and anywhere, you’ll eventually end up singing all the time as well! College is the time is experiment with new things, so take the opportunity, pursue your interests and even try a new hobby! Who knows, you may end up realizing your inner hidden artistic talent!
There will be both good times and bad times, whether they’re related to school, work, friends, family, or relationships. Sometimes you may be so stressed out that all you wanted to do is to say “f*cked it” and scream out loud. But there are also times where you’re really happy and feel like saying you love everyone and everything. Be prepared to go on a roller-coaster ride in college, and make sure to enjoy that ride!
Everyone makes mistakes in college. Don’t try to run away from them. Instead, learn from those mistakes. Be confidence, go outside of your comfort zone and try something new, something that you may never have considered before. If you’re a premed student, try taking a class in arts history. If you dislike going to the gym, try joining an archery club or a martial art class. Go outside of your comfort zone and befriend someone who’s very different from you. It’s OK to end up not liking them, but you’ll gain new knowledge, new skill and learn more about yourself by stepping away from your comfort zone.
Even after almost 6 months, I still can’t believe that I graduated and finished my undergraduate years. 4 years may seem like a long time, but trust me, it goes by extremely fast! My final piece of advice: Treasure your college experience and make the best of every opportunity that comes!
About Hue La
Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.