In your four (or five or six) years in college, you will meet people from around the country, learn a lot about yourself, and make some of the biggest life decisions to date, all while having the time of your life!
College is usually a person's first chance to live on their own and see what they are like without their parents or siblings nagging them to clean up after themselves and go to bed at a decent hour. You are fully responsible for the decisions you make and while it's exciting, it can be scary for some people, but you MUST embrace it all! You will learn so much about yourself in college through the ups and the downs if you keep an open mind. Learn from your mistakes, and surround yourself with positive people that will help you stand back up when a tough exam knocks you down.
While your professors, advisors, and other university personnel will teach you many things, you will soon find out a lot of your college learning and experience happens outside of the classroom:1.
1. Whether you can cook or not
When you go off to college, you will quickly learn that you can't rely on your parents to cook for you anymore. At first, this might mean you have a lot of fast food, microwave dinners for one, and order pizza a few nights a week. But you will soon realize that diet won't last very long and it's time to make some real food! This is when you should call up your mom or dad and write down recipes for a few easy go-to dinners like spaghetti, tacos, and pasta salads. Once you have the basics down, look to Pinterest or your friends for some inspiration on your next meal.
2. Do you really know how to go grocery shopping?
Now, this will take some time to master. The first few times you might come home with more junk food than you realize so limit how much crap you let yourself purchase. And know that grocery shopping when you haven't eaten all day is not going to be your brightest decision (you'll make it out of there with food that you haven't heard of and forget all the important ones). Try to remember to make a list of what you really need, and then remember to bring that list! Take a picture of your fridge if you need to remember what essentials you are currently without.
3. What your definition of "clean" is
When your parents aren't there to clean your dishes, do your laundry, and remind you to clean up after yourself, you will find your definition of "clean." However, when living with other people, make sure that you respect your shared living space and tidy up your things and put your dishes away. Your roommates will thank you.
4. Are you more of a morning person or a night owl
Knowing this can really help with studying for exams and signing up for classes! If your brain doesn't turn on until after 10, try to have your classes start later so you aren't constantly sleeping in and missing them. But if you are one of those people who like to get a lot done in the morning, take early classes and go to bed early on weekdays. For studying purposes, it is good to know when you have the greatest chance of retaining that information. Morning people: wake up early and study for a bit before your classes and the morning of exams. Night owls: spend the last few hours before bed studying your notes and preparing yourself for class and the night before an exam. They say you'll even continue to retain the information after you fall asleep.
5. What kind of people you click with
My freshman year, I had a random roommate and our personalities just didn't "click," which made it hard for us to become anything more than roommates. But after living with a friend during my sophomore year and roommates who turned into friends my Junior and Senior year, college was much more enjoyable! A lot of your "college" memories are made outside of the school hours so take a good look at who you want to live with because you will be spending a whole lot of time with them.
6. It's okay to be alone sometimes
In high school, if a person walks to class or eats lunch alone, they look like they don't have friends. In college, you'll notice that most people are walking to class solo and spending breaks in between class by themselves. Use this time to unwind, get some homework done, collect your thoughts, or whatever you gotta do! Then talk it up with your roommates when you are all done for the day.
7. Papers are much less stressful and intimidating when you don't leave them until the night before
Just about everybody has done this once in their life, whether it was on purpose or because you forgot when something was due. But I have found that those five-page papers are so much more intimidating the night before they are due, versus a week prior when all you have to do is a page a day and a night of edits. Do your best to spread out your workload so you aren't scrambling the night (or hours) before the due date to give yourself a chance to do a good job and edit your work.
8. Nothing cures monotony like a weekend road trip!
College can be very stressful and sometimes you need a break from all the stimulus around you. Take a road trip with your roommates, friends, siblings, or whoever will come along and let yourself forget about your long to-do list. It even helps to do a day-trip where you don't worry about upcoming exams, papers, and the ever-daunting "future."
9. Being thrown out of your comfort zone isn't as scary as you make it out to be!
While in college, I have rarely found myself staying in my comfort zone for very long. It's great! By spending time outside of this bubble, I have learned how to be a better leader, communicator, team member, and overall person. When you are in uncharted social territory you really learn a lot about yourself, and you won't learn these things unless you challenge yourself and go along with whatever comes your way.
10. College is more than just showing up to class and studying for exams
While you are in college, it is easy to get caught up in the classroom aspect of it all but that only plays a small role. It is important that you take advantage of all of the resources the university supplies to you as well as those provided by the people around you. Your classmates are great for networking (this will come in handy down the road in job searches) and they are also your competition in the professional world (what are they doing to bump up their resume/experience that you could be doing too?).
Most important, make sure you enjoy yourself while in college. Those four, five, or six years go by incredibly fast and all you can do is your best to make the most of it all!