Before leaving for college, incoming freshmen find themselves pelted with pearls of wisdom from everyone, from older siblings and high school teachers, to extended family members and nosy neighbors; But no amount of guidance can leave you completely prepared for all that college has to offer. Here is the advice that I received before I embarked on my college career—and what I wish I had been told instead.
What they said: Get involved and join clubs.
What they didn’t say: Not everything will be right for you.
The first few weeks of college are smattered with activity fairs, student group info sessions, and a slew of auditions and try-outs. During my first semester, I joined a bunch of student publications and dance clubs, but in between pitch meetings and rehearsals, I still wasn’t satisfied with my social life. Finally, when I went out on a limb and got involved in student theater, despite my lack of experience, I started making the friends I was looking for all along. Finding the right balance in your social life may take some trial and error, and will likely involve you stepping out of your comfort zone. Start out by signing up for any and every club that seems interesting to you, and decide later which ones are best for you.
What they said: Make sure you get along with your roommate.
What they didn’t say: Don’t be afraid to spend time apart.
You want to make sure you get along with your roommate—you will be spending a lot of time in your room, after all—but being besties with your roomie can make staying in, instead of going out, extremely tempting. If you find yourself becoming BFFs with your randomly assigned roommate, make sure you still venture outside your dorm to meet other people. It’s easiest to make new friends when everyone is the same boat, so don’t burrow in to your dorm room right away. There will be plenty of time for girls’ nights in a couple weeks into the semester.
What they said: Build up that resume.
What they didn’t say: Not everything has to be about your career.
Internships and leadership positions are obviously an important part of college, but the years you spend on campus should be about more than just prepping for your foray into the “real world.” Clubs that are related to your career goals definitely make a nice addition to your resume, but there are plenty of opportunities in college to try out things just for the sake of it. Pre-med but you love writing? Join the newspaper. English major but you’ve always had a green thumb? Get involved in an environmental science group. Never allow your career goals to limit the amazing opportunities that are right at your fingertips.
What they said: Get to know your advisor.
What they didn’t say: You’re the one in charge of your schedule.
Your academic advisor is there to make sure you’re on track, but they’re not going to make your schedule for you. In high school, the classes that you’re allowed to take are limited by course offerings and graduation prerequisites, but depending on your college’s core and your major’s requirements, you’ll have a lot more room for taking whatever tickles your fancy. Try out classes that sound interesting to you, but keep track of courses you need to take to graduate and when they’re offered. Staying organized with your classes from the get-go makes it a lot easier to have fun with your schedule without jeopardizing your graduation date.
What they said: These are the best years of your life.
What they didn’t say: Things will be tough sometimes.
Even if you’re super psyched for college and really put yourself out there, there are bound to be times when you get homesick, don’t feel like you fit in, and just want to go back to your high school friends. And that’s OK. Adjusting to college is different for everyone; some people feel at home after a week at school and others don’t find their place until they’ve settled in for a couple months. The most important thing is to give yourself time, to be open, and, most importantly, to have a good time. Everything else will fall into place eventually.
Rebecca Deczynski is a junior at Barnard College who loves long walks through the thrift store and trips to the bagel shop. You can follow her on Twitter @staygoldrebecca and find her personal style tips, DIYs, and recipes on her blog.