As a recent college graduate (as of this past Saturday, May 16th *tears*), I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the ups and downs of the last four years. Between the crazy parties, stressful papers and exams, unforgettable memories and the lifelong friends, looking back there are many things I wish I knew as a freshman.

Here are some words of wisdom and tips to know before college so you can make the most out of your next four years:

  1. Get involved on campus. There’s no better way to meet people than to find a club or organization that suits your interests! You’ll immediately find something in common with other students, and it’s a great way to make friends with people you normally wouldn’t meet. Whether it’s a sport, greek life, student newspaper, acapella, class cabinet, or others, there’s a student organization out there for everyone.


  1. Wait until after the first class to buy your textbooks. Find a classmate to split a textbook with. Download an eTextbook. Buy a used textbook off of an upperclassman. Rent a textbook off a website (such as that you can return at the end of the semester (trust me, you’ll never open it again). Sometimes, the professor will even say you don’t need the book!


  1. Learn how to manage your money. It’s no secret that college is expensive! You may think that there are things you cannot afford to do as a student, like travel abroad for Spring break or own a Macbook computer. One of the best ways to save money is to inquire about student discounts and where you can save money with your student ID. When it comes to travel, StudentUniverse offers discounted rates on  flights, hotels, tours, activities, and more! With the discounts you can receive, traveling abroad may suddenly be within your reach!


  1. Take care of your body. You only get one! Avoid gaining the freshman 15 by eating healthy and making use of your school’s gym. Vow to stay healthy with a friend; keeping each other on track will make temptations easier to manage. Also, don’t forget that drinking alcohol comes with hefty calories and hangovers to follow (bonus tip: pedialyte is an excellent hangover cure). Have fun, but drink in moderation.


  1. Catch some z’s. Getting plenty of sleep is also vital to staying healthy. Although you may be tempted to stay out till 4 am on “Thirsty Thursday” before your 8 am Friday class, lack of sleep will quickly take its toll on your body. Pulling an all-nighter won’t help you learn the material for an exam, so budget your study time wisely throughout the week to avoid being crunched for time. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and fit in naps whenever you can!


  1. Study abroad, study abroad, study abroad! There’s no other point in your life where you can spend several months in a foreign country, travel so cheaply, and have limited responsibilities while doing so. Being far from home and truly immersing yourself in another culture is an experience unlike any other. Plus, you can take advantage of student airfare while you still qualify. The number one regret many of my friends have is not studying abroad, so don’t make the same mistake!

Four Friends on Vacation Visiting Pisa

  1. Call your parents often. Whether you’re 50 miles or 5,000 miles away from home, your mom and dad miss you! Let them know how you’re doing and that you’re thinking of them. A few minute phone call will make a world of difference whether you’re homesick, having a tough day, need some advice, or just want to share something great you’ve accomplished!

Family unpacking minivan for college, Beijing

  1. Go to your professors’ office hours. It’ll give you a chance to get to know them one-on-one, especially if you go to a large school that holds classes in huge auditoriums. Not only will you understand the material better, but you’ll get sound advice from people who have a lot of wisdom to offer. Professors who know you well may also be able to write you a sound letter of recommendation for a job you are applying for, or refer you to jobs they hear about.


  1. Don’t stress about your major. Very few people know exactly what they want to be doing with their life at 18 years old. It’s okay to be undecided, and even change your major. Talk things through with academic advising, and try out a variety of classes! College is a time to figure out what you like and don’t like, as well as what you’re good at and not-so-good at.


  1. Get an internship. Your GPA is not nearly as important as you think it is. Employers want someone with real-life experience and good interpersonal skills. Internships help you apply what you’ve learned in your classes, make connections, and learn new skills. Try out a variety of roles to figure out what you are truly passionate about.

Portrait of cute woman smiling with panel of interviewers in background

  1. College will fly by. This one may seem like it’s over-said, but it really is the truth. One day you’re a first semester freshman moving into your dorm, the next you’re walking across the graduation stage with your diploma in hand. Take advantage of every opportunity you can and surround yourself with people who bring out the best version of you.

Students throwing graduation hats

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    About Danielle Dougan