One thing I wish I had when I headed off to college, was a conversation with someone who had been through it before. Of course, at the time I felt like I *knew it all*, and who knows – perhaps I probably wouldn’t have listened, but I thought for the sake of possibly helping someone avoid the pitfalls I fell into, that I’d share 5 lessons I wish I knew BEFORE heading off to college.
5 Things I Wish I Knew, Before Heading Off to College
There’s No Harm in Not Knowing Your Major
“What’s your name? What’s your major?” The two opening lines of any conversation at college. For me, defining my major was a circuitous journey. I entered college as a Computer Science major, which then changed to English, then an exploration in Journalism before finally settling on Communications with a focus on Public Relations. It was a roundabout ride, but eventually I did get to where I needed to be. My advice? Don’t choose your major immediately. Wait! Earn your credits by taking a variety of courses, to explore areas of interest you may never have thought of. I wasted so much time boxing myself into majors that I never felt passionate about, and I wish I chose to shop around more before declaring one and wasting time and credits going down the wrong path.
On Pledging a Sorority – Follow Your Gut
As a legacy of a long history of sorority girls in my family, it seemed only natural to go through formal rush. And so there I was, trekking up and down sorority row at Ohio State, trying my darnedest to be impressive – while the whole time, wanting to just go back to my dorm. I then went through initiation and pledged a sorority my heart wasn’t in, because it felt like something I ought to do. There’s that word, “ought”. It rattles us, leading us to make choices we know in our gut aren’t right for us. Do I regret pledging my sorority? Absolutely. I quit in the end, and so the whole thing was an exercise in wasted time (and money). I don’t, however, regret going through the formal rush experience. If you are a female heading into college, my advice is to go through rush to explore your options – but very closely listen to what your gut is telling you. Are you finding yourself really ‘clicking’ somewhere? Or, are you simply going through the motions because you think it’s what’s expected of you? Follow your instinct and make the decision that’s right for you.
Room with People You Do Not Know
I went off to Ohio State with a whole slew of people I knew from high school, but lived in a 5-story dorm of people I never met. Best experience, ever. Was it easy? Oh heck no. Going into the unknown like that was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. “Butterflies in my stomach” doesn’t even begin to describe that rattling feeling of moving into a new place where I knew no one. Once situated in my dorm though, it was the easiest place in the world to make a friend. Literally EVERYONE was in the same boat as me, making us all immediately eager to connect and build friendships. Within just a short day or two, I knew every single person well enough that I never felt alone. I think thrusting myself in a new environment where I had to start from scratch was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life. It taught me so much about myself, and immensely built my confidence and level of independence. It also helped me make great friendships with people I otherwise would never have met. If you are going to the same school as one of your friends, my advice is to room separately so you can both branch out into new chapters and expand your tribe. Then, you can reconnect and make friends with her friends – and vice versa. It’s a great way to build a network of friendships that will carry you through college, and beyond.
Go to Class!
Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to let your attendance record fall through the cracks. I made the mistake of thinking I could read the textbook and study on my own schedule outside the classroom, which absolutely butchered my success. My success rate after a couple years dramatically improved. The difference? I started going to class religiously! Even if you don’t necessarily do all the readings outside the classroom, that face time with your instructor is valuable! You will learn what items to focus on, be able to ask questions, get clarification, and even tips of what to know for the exams. If you don’t attend class, your college experience will be one giant guessing game. Spare yourself the trouble, and go to class – it’s like arming yourself with the best guidebook in the world.
Guess What? You Can Shop for Necessities at College, Too!
This sounds like another no brainer, but one of the weirdest mistakes I made when packing for school – was thinking I needed to plan for every possible scenario under the sun in advance. I remember even making my mom buy me over-the-counter medications like Benadryl just in case I had a random case of hives. Was I on crack? We’ll just call it college jitters. Relax! There will be a local drugstore when you get there, same as at home. If your family home isn’t too far away, you may also consider not bringing clothes for the full school year at once. Going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Plan to haul your heavier coats and sweaters back to school with you then. No need to plan for the entire 9 months at once.