I heard countless pieces of advice prior to being a full-time college student: "Wait until after your first week of classes to buy books." "Research professors before enrolling in their classes." "Take accounting over the summer."
While some of these tips were far more helpful than others, nothing really prepared me for the big-picture concepts about which we all desperately want to know.
I went to college under the assumption that it would be a stepping stone to a career, and ultimately, I found that I knew nothing about how to succeed in that goal until it was too late.
My textbook blinders also prevented me from realizing that there are aspects of the college experience far more important than studying.
Learn from my following mistakes, friends, and plot your undergrad experience appropriately.
1. The single most important thing you can do in college? Network.
Networking is hands-down the most important way college will prepare you for the real world. Go to career fairs, work as an intern and talk to everyone.
You never know who may be able to help you down the line, whether it’s first-hand or indirectly.
2. Socialization is important.
Socialization is imperative to your growth as a human being, which doesn’t necessarily mean partying.
Yes, you should go out and enjoy yourself, but don’t forget about the meaningfulness of sober connections. Join clubs, play intramural sports and chat with the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop.
Most schools have many free activities students can attend to meet their fellow classmates. Take advantage and don’t be shy.
3. They’re not necessarily “the best years of your life.”
I was fed this ridiculous line throughout my whole life.
Well, college does not necessarily encompass the best years of your life, especially since there’s so much living, maturing and self-discovery that will happen well into your twenties.
There’s plenty of living to do and youth to revel in well after you turn 21. If you’re not super impressed with your college experience, not to fear — you wouldn’t want to peak so early, anyway.
4. Graduation doesn’t guarantee a “big boy/big girl job.”
The economy is still very broken. While there have been improvements to the country’s unemployment rate, recent grads are still struggling to begin their careers.
Even graduates from years ago are severely underpaid and working jobs that don’t require a diploma.
There’s no shame in working the service industry while you get on your feet; in fact, doing so will probably teach you about humility and enhance your people skills.
5. University friendships won’t necessarily be the most important of your life.
While it is, of course, possible to meet your lifelong friends in college, the nature of university friendships sometimes makes it difficult for them to be long-lasting.
I met so many people who clung to each other out of need — a need to not feel alone on a big campus with unfamiliar faces, buildings and streets.
The most meaningful connections I’ve made have been later in life, while on a journey of self-discovery and without a “need” to fulfill in the friendship circuit.
6. Appreciate the benefits of your college town and campus.
Is your school in a college town? If so, enjoy the drink specials, as that $2 drink will be at least $10 in a major city. And yes, that is a 500 percent price increase.
Never again will you be in a place where everyone is your age, and never again will it be so easy to meet people who are.
7. No one cares about your 4.0.
If someone told me in high school that my college GPA would be nearly meaningless, I never would have believed it. Due to my belief that my GPA was my ticket to success, I bailed on nights out and stayed up until sunrise writing and revising essays.
Since studying consumed my time, I also failed to join clubs and engage in activities that would have allowed me to meet people and network, which, as aforementioned, is actually the key to post-graduate success.
Go to class, take notes, study and fulfill all of your assignments, but remember that at the end of the day, the difference between a 3.2 and a 4.0 isn't life making or breaking. Treat yo’self.
8. Picking the “right” major almost never matters.
Unless you want to go into something highly specialized or something that requires extensive schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree, your major has almost zero impact on your future career.
Math majors can take the LSATs and go onto law school if they so choose and engineers can decide to get MBAs, too.
Plenty of theatre majors have gone on to sales jobs and creative writing majors have become actors. Hard work, dedication and networking are all ways to get a foot in the door for whatever career you dream to have.
9. Learn to manage a budget before it’s too late.
If you can learn to stick to a budget in college, the rest of your life will be much easier.
While budgeting is not fun, it’s integral if you want to stay out of debt and be able to save money for the things that are important, whether that’s traveling or buying a house.
Start to prioritize what you value most and learn to trim the excess where you can.
10. Your morals will be tested daily.
For many, college allows for the first taste of independence and the first time living outside of parental control.
While college will provide you with plenty of opportunities to figure out who you are and what you believe, it’s important to remember your core values.
You will have to define what you believe to be good fun and what is potentially dangerous territory. You can live like there’s no tomorrow, but make sure you’re prepared for a life where tomorrow is on the horizon.
11. You will never have so much free time again in your life.
As long as you’re not a student working a full-time job, it’s pretty much a guarantee that the amount of free time you’ll have as an undergrad will far exceed what you'll have postgrad. Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep when you need it.
As soon as you have a full-time job, you’ll realize the importance of time management, and you’ll wish for the days you wasted on Netflix binges in college.
Spend your time as you please, but remember to take care of yourself while you have the time to do so. College isn’t forever, but the decisions you make now will impact the rest of your life.
Being able to grasp the balance of fun and responsibility will bring you success, regardless of your GPA.