7 Things You Learned In College You Wish Your High School Self Knew

by Erika Huber
Paramount Pictures

Ah, high school. A time to which I’d never return, even if you paid me. Now that I’m in college, I can barely fathom how I woke up at 6:30 am to be transported to what felt like an eight-hour daily water-boarding session. Of course, there were the fun parts of high school, too.

There were the dances, the football games we never won, the nights we snuck out through ground-level windows to be whisked away in cars driven by teens with licenses hot off the press. Those types of memories are ones we hold onto for the rest of our lives.

Looking back, it was great, but there are so many things I wish I would’ve known.

Think of all the times your world came crashing down around your 16-year-old self, and the light at the end of the tunnel was nothing but a soon-to-be-snuffed-out match. Oh! The drama! If only you knew what you know now.

Here are seven things we learned in college that we wish our high school selves knew:

You were never gonna marry Brad

High school sweethearts are rare creatures in this day and age. Odds are, your high school boyfriend will go to college four states away and won’t so much as throw you a "like" on Instagram, let alone continue to speak to you.

You spent all that time thinking about him before you went to sleep at night. You talked to him on the phone for hours, making promises about the future, only to end up becoming strangers.

You wish you could go back in time and slap yourself for shedding so many tears over your very public Facebook breakup. It was all so immature.

Now, you’re in your 20s, better dressed, able to hold your own, and Brad from senior year is nothing but a former blip on your radar. You chuckle at the thought of him and the entire situation.

In the few years since then, the world has opened your eyes to who and what matters more. You’re happy to have moved on, to have met guys outside the tiny subculture made up of people you’d known since the first grade.

Relationships and dating are no longer about what base you got to on his living room couch while his mom was upstairs. Now, they’re about the grown-up stuff, and God, are you happy you retired from the baseball game.

The SAT was not that big of a deal

With the cumulative final exams consisting of everything you’ve since forgotten, 12-page papers and horrid group projects, you look back at your SAT anxiety and have a good laugh.

Not that any of us would ever want to be faced with that draining, never-ending test again, but we now know how annoying we sounded when we freaked out over it.

There was nothing fun about waking up at 7 am on a Saturday to crouch over a bubble sheet for hours, second-guess every answer and still not understand how blank answers helped or hurt you.

But, it’s kind of embarrassing to see your old Facebook status pop up on Time Hop that read, “SATs tomorrow. So scared. Wish me luck!”

College taught you that there are far more stressful things in life than the SAT.

You were no philosopher

I think there might be some kind of chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain between the ages of 14 and 18 that causes teenagers to think their short time on Earth makes them wiser than Aristotle.

I once saw a teenie bopper tweet, “You don’t need a high school education to be successful in life.” That sh*t got like 15 retweets — all from other self-righteous teenie boppers, I’m sure.

I shook my head, and like the old person I felt I was, thought, 'Kids these days.'

We all thought we were smarter than our parents, teachers, peers, Einstein and basically anyone else who said or believed in something we didn’t like.

Our hormone-infested emotions ran wild and made us think the totally wrong things we said and posted on social media were things we’d live by until our last breaths. How wrong we were.

I’m glad I got my high school education. Oh, and sorry, mom; you were right.

“Yeah, I party a lot.”

Well, you probably didn’t. I know some people got to experience wild nights at house parties, where the parents of those drunken adolescents were away and drunk in the Bahamas every other weekend.

But, if your high school experience was anything like mine, which I consider to be typical, college was a whole new world.

Most of us had the watchful eyes of our parents on us at every possible hour of the day in high school; their parental spidey senses going off whenever our feet crept outside the perimeters of our households after midnight.

Parties were very occasional, borderline mythological occurrences, like, "Wait, really? A party? Could it be?"

Getting to college made you realize how not-drunk and not-crazy you were in high school and how close you are to alcoholism now.

College will change your friendships

When you graduated and went off to Beach Week with all your high school best friends, you thought those drunken, reckless nights would pick up where they left off whenever everyone was home from school.

Freshman year teaches us that spreading out across the country, becoming different people and making new friends will test our friendships — a test that is often failed.

If you’ve been able to maintain closeness with everyone you hoped you would, you’re very lucky.

It’s hard to accept that the people with whom you shared hysterical fits of laughter, whose basements were your second, third and fourth homes, who know so many intimate details about who you were growing up, are no longer in your life.

Post-high-school-you sighs at the fading of friendships that meant the world to you when your world was at its smallest. But, since you’ve accepted the new expansions in your life, it’s nice to have the extra-worldly legroom.

We grow apart and meet new people. We have to accept that some friends are snakeskins and others are our quirky scars.

You won’t necessarily go through a metamorphosis

Maybe it’s the movies that make us assume the second we get to college, we’ll bust out of our cocoons, spread our wings and flap onto campus like, “Hayyyyy!”

Yeah, college changes you in a lot of ways. You’ll watch yourself grow older and more mature, but it’s not something that happens overnight.

Our expectations of what college will be are usually wrong. It might have been harder than you anticipated to get laid the first weekend. Maybe you had trouble making friends and learned that you’re kind of shy. Your roommate wasn’t as nice as she seemed over Facebook.

And, you weren’t some cool, instantly popular, campus celebrity like you were planning to be. It’s okay.

College is a weird limbo between childhood and adulthood. You’re still counting on your parents to save your ass whenever you inevitably f*ck something up.

You know you’re not “independent,” no matter how many times you proclaim to be, and you probably have no idea what will happen when you graduate.

You just hope to get it together senior year and somehow get the hell out of your parents' house.

College changes you, but it’s not like the movies. It’s not some dramatic Pokémon evolution. It’s gradual and natural.

You don’t have to find “the one” anytime soon

Even amongst this crazy hook-up culture in which we live, there are still plenty of us who are stressed and pressed to find “the one.” Even I have to admit it: I sometimes fear being single throughout my 20s.

It seems like everyone is pairing off and getting serious. But, finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with shouldn’t be a frantic process. No need to rush. Half the fun in finding someone special is trying on all the ones that just don’t fit.

And, yes, there is heartbreak and disappointment that comes paired with finding love — but you’re not losing. You learn about what you want in a significant other and who you are as a person. That knowledge is valuable.

The more you know about yourself as half of a whole, the less you'll doubt your decisions later on.

We are still so young in our 20s. Nothing is set in stone, and while that instability is scary, it’s also wonderful. Our lives are malleable in our hands.

Graduating from college isn’t the end-all of our glory days. We shouldn’t settle for anything, especially not another human being, because we're scrambling to end a chapter.

Maybe going into college, you thought you’d come out on the other side with a relationship and your entire life in order, but that just isn’t the case. There is no set time or age when our lives should be figured out. We all move at our own paces.

When we were in high school, 22 seemed old, but as college dwindles, you'll still feel like the kid you are.

Sometimes, we look at our friends who are in serious relationships and think about where we should be in our own lives. But, we learned to break the stigmas we believed before college.

We realized that you can’t rush perfection, and when it comes to love, that’s what you want it to feel like — perfect, flaws and all.