I’m sure you’re very well aware that your life is about to change. You know from conversations with your parents, guidance counselors, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, neighbors, random people in the grocery store, etc. that you’re about to start what many people refer to as “the best years of your life.”
It may excite you. You may have been waiting for this for years and nothing makes you happier to start the next chapter.
It may feel bittersweet. You may be sad about leaving high school, your best friends, your hometown, your bed, or your dog.
It may petrify you. And that’s okay.
I originally started this article with the intention of offering my own advice for those entering college as I leave it. I wanted to impart my wisdom and force you to be as involved and do all the things I did so that you could be as happy as I was. I had planned on sobbing in my local coffee shop from nostalgia as well as pride at the irreplaceable, life-changing advice I was going to give.
Then I realized that the best part of college is the main reason why I can’t write this article alone. The people you meet, the relationships you build, and the accumulation of little “big” moments are the best parts of college.
So I asked nineteen other college seniors for their advice, too. These are guys, girls, friends from high school, friends from college, best friends, people I don’t know very well, people who loved college and people who didn’t love college.
What they have in common is that they all made an impact on me in some way.
Warning: some of this advice contradicts other pieces of advice in this article. That shouldn’t be a shock, as these are all very different kinds of people, but it leads me into my three pieces of advice, specifically:
- Trust your gut, trust that things happen for a reason, and trust that people are better than their first impressions. But don’t stop questioning the world around you- not everything people tell you (including professors, advisors, and those older than you) will be right- or at least right for you.
- Understand that there are just as many bad days as there are good days. There are going to be days when you feel like you can take on the world, and there are going to be days when you’re crushing under the thought of it. Appreciate the good days so you can conquer the bad ones.
- An amazing experience will always be worth more than a grade. You won’t look back in ten, twenty, fifty years and think about the Tuesday night you stayed in to review for a quiz on Wednesday morning. You will, however, remember staying up all night with your best friend on a random Tuesday night just because. Learning doesn’t only take place in the classroom- if you leave college the same person you entered it, you will have failed.
“Say yes. To everything. Try it all. If you’re going through hell, keep going. But make sure someone knows.”
“Stay in with your friends once in a while…they end up being the best and most memorable nights.”
“The biggest regret in college would be failing to try or being afraid of failure. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the hardest but most important thing to do because it allows you to be exposed to a whole new world of possibilities.”
“Try to get in touch with the office of career services as soon as possible so you never miss out on a networking event. And SLEEP!”
- “ALWAYS choose pillow talk with your roommate over going to bed! I will cherish late night boy talks filled with just as many tears as outbursts of laughter for the rest of my life!
- Be you freshman year! Wear whatever ever clothes make YOU happy–don’t just follow the basic North Face jacket, Hunter boot, J. Crew necklace-wearing crowd if you rock the boho chic or the edgy rocker chick [look].
- Sit in the dining hallway after you’re done with dinner just to people watch. It’s amazing.
- Figure out where the athletes have their “tables” in the dining hall. You never want to be caught accidentally snagging the hockey table when they all stroll in after practice.”
- “Don’t feel discouraged if the first few weeks of college aren’t the best time of your life and you haven’t made a million friends (or even one) yet. It’ll take a little while for you to settle in and settle down. And so much of your experience is determined by your attitude–people will be able to tell if you’ve already given up hope, and they won’t want to jump on a sinking ship. Know that as hard as things might be at any given moment, time rolls on no matter what, and you’ll work things out soon. Keep your head up no matter what, and be the best you that you can be in every situation!”
“I think my biggest piece of advice to anyone coming into college is to meet as many different people as possible. It’s so easy to only hang out with the people on your floor or in your building freshmen year, but that isn’t how you make the most of your time in school. Branch out. It doesn’t matter if you’re super quiet or outrageously outgoing (like me). Join clubs, hang out with classmates, randomly go up to people and be friends. The more friends, the better college is. If anything, this is an opportunity to network. You never know who might have a connection to someone at your dream company, which could land you an internship or job. Meet as many people as you possibly can everyday. Friendship rocks!”
- “You aren’t meant to get everything you apply for whether it’s for a club, leader or job position. As long as you are working hard, the right things are coming your way!
- Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Someone else’s failure is not your success and vice versa!
- IT IS OKAY TO FEEL OVERWHELMED. YOU ARE NOT A REAL ADULT YET. BESIDES, EVEN REAL ADULTS GET STRESSED OUT!
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! The girl next to you in orientation? She’s just as PETRIFIED as you are! Say hi, make friends and it will all work out.
- Balance during your freshman year is hard – don’t be too tough on yourself. I promise you’ll remember eating that slice of pizza with your best friend at 3 am more than the hour workout you decided to go to instead.
- Only YOU can make this experience worthwhile – join clubs, make friends, jump into intramural sports, explore your new surroundings and make as many memories as you can.
- Find the best take-out places early (you can thank me later).
- If you don’t know something but want to find out then ask a senior or another upperclassman! Chances are they are sobbing thinking about leaving and want to pass on as many nuggets of wisdom as they can.
- You are strong, intelligent, brave, beautiful and able to handle anything that comes your way (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes).
- Roommate problems!? Talk it out! The worst thing you can do is not communicate a problem with your roommate. It’s your home for the year and it’s important you are comfortable!
- No one knows what they are doing. Not even the sophomores…or the juniors… or the seniors… or the administration half the time. It’s more of a fake it until you make it kind of a journey!
- If a new friend isn’t treating you right then they aren’t worth your time. College is about finding yourself and making friends in the process – one bad apple isn’t worth all the trouble and there’s so many other people who will love you for who you are around you.
- The cafeteria food might stink but in a few years you’ll be in charge of cooking your own meals and I PROMISE YOU WILL MISS IT THEN. Cherish that weird looking meat and potato combo while you can.”
“Don’t feel the need to be friends with people on your floor just because you live there them. Join clubs, or go to events that are in your range of interest. You’ll find more like-minded people there.”
“Be ready to defend your opinions, while still appreciating other people’s.”
“Wherever the free food is, is where you should be.”
“Intern during the year, save summer for fun stuff.”
- “Get involved on campus, and get involved fast! Don’t be afraid to dive right in. Step outside of your comfort zone and try something that “high school you” would never have dreamed of. I met some of the best people I know through campus involvement. It’s good stuff!
- Travel! Whether you have the money or not. Being a college student is the last time you will have breaks for weeks at a time. So hop on a plane and go somewhere you’ve never been, or jump in your car and take a road trip (sleep in your car if you have to!) Seriously, it’s good for your soul and you will learn just as much as you do while sitting in the classroom.
- Write it all down. Whether it’s once a month, once a week, or every day. Journal about your favorite moments. You’ll want to remember it all when you’re old and can no longer binge drink on a Tuesday.”
“Continue to make new friends every year!”
“Eat meals with people. Work hard early- it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to go from a 70 to a 90, but to get a 90 to a 95 takes so much. So keep up and don’t get stuck behind and it’s easier to get good grades throughout college instead of trying to get 4.0s in your later years.”
“The best advice that I could give would be simply to do what needs to be done. There are a lot of distractions in college–some good and some bad–but as long as you make sure that you do everything that you need to be a successful student, combined with the right mixture of fun and relaxation, it will be some of the best four years of your life.”
“My advice to freshmen would just be to say ‘yes’ as much as possible. When everything is so new, it can be super rewarding to branch out and try new things! Say yes, and figure it out later!”
“Love every single thing: love every moment in class, love every relationship made, love every meal with your new family, love every weekend (or weekday 😉 ) memory, and, most importantly, love who you have been, who you are today, and who you will become after this journey!”
“When I left for college, my dad told me to ‘use that school for all it’s worth.’ To this day, it’s the best advice I’ve gotten. Join clubs. Explore the surrounding area. Eat strange food. Talk to people you usually wouldn’t talk to. Step outside of your comfort zone, and take advantage of every opportunity (big and small) your school has to offer.”
“What had helped me throughout college is the understanding that there are always new individuals to meet and, as a result, new perspectives to be made aware of. Saying hi to a stranger may seem scary but the worst thing that can happen is they are not interested, and the best thing that can happen is that you make a new friend. It feels like remarkably good to put yourself out there, so good in fact that whether the interaction goes well or not you will be benefit- and I promise that once you do it once you’ll want to do it again.”
“Don’t play three card monte, never forget that 4 Loko IS your friend when you’re on a budget, know your local bodega, practice safe sex, know your body/know your friend’s bodies, befriend upperclassmen and let them teach you, always wear your shoes, look before you sit on the toilet seat (actually, in general, avoid sitting on it at all), put your grades first (especially those first two years!), form relationships with your professors, don’t mess around with your cellphone–people actually get robbed, stick to the buddy system (don’t leave your friends behind), if you have questions/are lost/need advice, just ask – people are friendlier than you think, make a bucket list (this is something you develop over time), volunteer and get to know the area because it’s your community for the next four years, move off campus, go out to eat often , try new things — seriously, get outside of your comfort zone because you have this entire new place to explore (among other things), respect and get to know your dorm/apartment security guards, don’t waste your time on f*ckboys and find the friends that won’t let you, go to sporting events and school-sponsored events because they’re more fun than you think and as fun as you want them to be.”
“There’s no other time in your life that will be easier or more important to be who you really are. There’s no more rewarding feeling than looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling as if you’re truly yourself. Be vulnerable and share the parts of yourself that you might feel inclined to hide – you’ll never believe how many people you’ll be able to relate to. That being said, don’t be afraid to do things on your own! Whether it’s going to a club meeting on campus or to a coffee shop downtown, you’ll be able to take a moment, self-reflect, and ultimately feel more comfortable in your own skin.”