What We Wish We Had Known Before College
Many college students love talking about their school and sharing their experience with incoming or prospective students. Often, current students remember what it’s like having a million questions and the value of getting answers from a firsthand perspective.
Even though this next class will undoubtedly have a unique freshmen experience, some things hold constant about the college experience. Here is a list of advice that current students say they wish they had been given before their freshman year:
“There are no rules. You will be given a ton of advice, whether you want it or not, but at the end of the day, college is entirely what you choose to make of it.” (Amanda Mae Ashley, junior, Rice University)
“(1) Go to office hours, even if you don’t have a specific question. You’ll probably learn something and meet people. (2) Find a study spot that isn’t your dorm room. (3) Meet, exchange contact info, and befriend at least one person in each class. (4) Four years actually goes by really fast. Take advantage of your time. (5) Call your family every so often; they miss you. (6) Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help; there are plenty of resources at every university (academic advising, tutoring, wellbeing, etc.), that all want to help you succeed.” (Cynthia Gonzalez, sophomore, Rice University)
“Simple: don’t be afraid to live in the moment.” (Danielle Rhodes, sophomore, University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
“Before starting college, I wish I had known how important it is to ask for help. College is hard, and everybody needs help in some capacity. Asking for it is not a sign of weakness but takes a great deal of strength.” (Jarrett Prchal, junior, Rice University)
“Come to college with an open mind. Obviously, you may come with an exact idea of what to pursue career-wise, interest-wise, etc., but things can change very abruptly. If you tie yourself down to certain pursuits because of some naive promise you made to yourself 10 years ago, you will most likely end up very unhappy without any genuine motivation. Challenge yourself to learn and try as many new things as you can while you're here.” (Josh Bae, senior, Rice University)
“I wish I’d known my freshman year that you don’t always have to be friends with your roommates and it’s ok to have different lifestyles.” (Julie Liu, junior, New York University)
“Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone and start conversations with people that you don’t know. Don’t be intimidated by people you meet, because everyone is trying to figure it out also. You can see all of the advisors for Orientation Week or the upperclassmen and they just seem like they have their lives figured out but that’s really not the case. I think it took me a while to step outside my comfort zone and ask people about themselves or introduce myself to random people. When I did figure out how to do that, that really helped me.” (Loren Goddard, senior, Rice University)
“Don’t be afraid to say no to some opportunities. College is a time to figure out what you want and who you want to be, and don’t feel like you have to be pressured into doing things for others instead of for yourself. And if you get overwhelmed, reach out for help! Your friends and professors want to be there for you.” (Sarah Mozden, junior, Rice University)
“I wish I had known how little everyone cares about what you’ve accomplished. I was always trying to measure up to some impossible standard that no one was setting.” (Sarah Salvador, junior, The University of Alabama)
“Don’t be afraid to back out of things. There are definitely people like myself who were heavily involved in high school stuff, whether it be sports, fine arts, clubs, or other organizations. And a lot of students will feel like making that same sort of commitment in college, where you try to do anything and everything that catches your eye. My freshman year I dove a little too deep into extracurriculars and I ended up not being able to do anything in depth. So don’t spread yourself out too thin, and if you do, don’t be afraid to condense yourself back into a more focused approach. College is all about exploring what you want to do and what you’re interested in.” (Victor Nguyen, senior, Rice University)
My own advice: Care about your grades and classes. But don’t let that consume your life in college. There’s so much more to experience, even now when things are strange and uncertain. Work on finding a balance to all the different things college has to offer (and be patient with yourself if finding that balance takes a little bit of trial and error).
Editor’s note: For more on this topic, see this story on incoming college freshmen tackling new challenges due to Covid-19. Plus, see our annual “Where are they headed” story to find out where Buzz-area grads are heading to college.
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