College is a time of exploration and self discovery.. and I did it all wrong. I only applied to the local state school because I had a boyfriend that I wanted to stay close to (and I am no longer dating so that was pointless) and I didn’t want to give up riding my horses. My parents threatened they would pretty much disown me if I didn’t go to college but I had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I went in undeclared, nervous that I didn’t know what to do, and only selected my major because I didn’t know what else to study. I ended up unhappy in my major and took a few semesters off as I cycled through several majors until I finally found one.
I felt so unprepared and confused but I was so pressured to just pick a major and graduate. I know my parents just wanted to see me be successful, but I needed them to support my free spirit and self discovery. There’s times when I get really depressed feeling I wasted so much of my life in college and figuring myself out. So here is a list of 10 things that every high school senior should know before going to college:
You don’t have to go straight to college
My biggest regret of college was going straight out of high school. Most people don’t know what they want to study or do for the rest of their lives by the time they graduate high school. If people graduate in the expected 4 years, they are only 22-23 years old so how can you expect them to have their shit together already?! I wasted a lot of time and money going to classes I didn’t want or need to take, and then withdrew from a few semesters (with no refund). Many people end up with degrees they don’t want because they don’t know what they want to do yet. I really wish I had taken a year or two off before going to college to discover myself and find out what I liked and wanted to do with my life.
It’s okay to be undeclared
It is also perfectly okay to not know what you want to study and enter undeclared. You typically have until your junior year to declare a major because at this point you will begin your major courses. This means you have two years to take a variety of courses and figure out what you like and want to do! Take classes you might not normally take, explore a little.. you might surprise yourself. It is also ok to change your major. Figure out what you like and want to do.
College is the time to explore new friendships and experiences. Being in a relationship when you go to college might hold you back from these. Having a significant other might prevent you from joining a sorority/fraternity or attending other college events that take time away from your other half. You will learn a lot more about yourself when you are single in college and you will probably have much better memories being single!
Go away to school
It is hard to get the full college experience when you stay close to home. I ended up living at home because it was cheaper to commute to school and commuting makes it hard to make those amazing college friendships everyone has. You also learn a lot about yourself being away from your family and home – like how to do laundry, cook, and take public transportation alone. You learn how to be independent, self disciplined, and how to budget.
College is very different from high school. Most teachers will not remember your who you are after the semester. Your adviser will not seek you out to talk to you about whatever. If you know you are going to miss class talk to your teacher. They can be (and usually are) accommodating if you let them know ahead of time. They also really appreciate honesty – I missed a class one morning because I had slept through my alarm. Instead of coming up with some stupid excuse, I told my teacher what had happened and he allowed me to make up the work because of my honesty! If you wake up sick, email them and let them know you will be out and ask if you can turn in any homework via email or what your homework for that night will be.
Talk to your MAJOR adviser
Make sure you figure out who your major adviser is, they will be much more knowledgeable and helpful to you. They know what prerequisites and major courses you will need to take and when you should take them. They will help you figure out a plan and try to talk to them once a semester to make sure you are on track. You never know, they might be able to help you get into full classes or find a way to skip certain requirements.
Don’t skip class
It is so tempting to sleep through class after a late night of studying (or partying) or when you didn’t do the homework. But I cannot stress enough how important it is that you go to class every day! Teachers often make up their midterms and finals from information discussed in class that you cannot find in your books. Teachers also don’t care if you show up to class or not or if you are failing the class. They will be less likely to help you if you do not take class seriously or show up.
Respect your professors
Like I said earlier, be honest. Your professors aren’t idiots. The biggest way you can respect your professors is to show up to class on time (or a few minutes early) and don’t leave early, as tempting as it is. Teachers will often give quizzes or collect homework in the first few minutes of class that can’t be made up to ensure promptness. Don’t pack up until the teacher is done talking, I have had teachers say how disrespectful they find it that students stop taking notes and start packing up their bags before class is officially over. And don’t be that annoying kid who plays games on their laptop from the front row distracting the rest of the class.
Go to office hours
If you are having trouble understanding something or want extra help, go talk to your teacher during their office hours. If you want your teacher to look over your term paper or get their thoughts, go meet with them. Teachers can be very helpful and offer you great advice. Students rarely take advantage of office hours but getting to know your teachers can help you out in the long run. They can provide letters of recommendation or help you with other opportunities (jobs, internships, graduate school, etc.).
It is important to study hard and get good grades in college, but don’t forget to have fun! Go out with your friends, stay out all night, go on improptu trips, and just be spontaneous. Don’t let yourself get burnt out working hard all the time, get out and live a little – you’re in college after all!
What are some things you wish you had known going into college?