13 Women In Their 20s Reveal The Piece Of Advice They Wish They Had As College Freshmen

Let the countdown to your first semester of college begin. The summer after high school seriously flew by. (It feels like graduation was just yesterday!) But in between the beach days and back-to-school shopping trips, you're getting ready for the next adventure. Lucky for you, real women are sharing their advice for college freshmen, so that you're prepared for your first semester, and make the most of these next four years.

First thing's first: If you have some nerves right now about going to college, that's totally OK. It's such a big change, but also a beautiful one. You'll pack up your car, and get comfy in your dorm room. You and your roommates will bond over a box of pizza, or you'll join some clubs and get close with the girls in your English literature class. Within a few weeks, you'll know every sidewalk and shortcut on campus, and will scope out your favorite study spot in the student center, too.

Just take a deep breath, and remember to be patient with yourself. This experience is yours for the taking, and that's really rad when you think about it. College is whatever you make it to be, and hopefully you'll spend some time exploring your passions and what else is out there in the world. Study abroad, find a crew of true, genuine friends, and challenge yourself. These 13 women who are in their 20s, shared their best pieces of advice for a college freshman like you.

Learn How To Say "No" To Plans
Learn when to say "no." College is going to be the best four years of your life (cliché AF, but true AF.) You’ll meet amazing friends, have new experiences, be exposed to different views, and just generally have an awesome time. To make sure that your time in college is as enriching and exciting as it can be, you’ll have to learn a little self-control. Maybe you already have a good handle on time management. That’s great, but college is a whole new playground. Basically, there will always be an opportunity to slack off — [for example,] your roommate will send you a text saying they’re giving out free food in the student center, just as you sat down at the library.
There will be plenty of opportunities to say "yes," and I encourage you to say "yes" often! But make sure you’re not stunting your own growth and education in the process. Take it from someone who probably should’ve said "no" a little bit more: When you get what you need to get done, and don’t leave everything until the last minute, you’ll feel a lot better, and be ready to take on the next adventure.

— Nora-Grayce Orosz, 23

Make Your College Experience Your Own
I wish someone told me that it's OK to say "no." It took me a few stressful years of over-involvement to learn the delicate art of saying, "I'm sorry, but I just can't," and I found it was extraordinarily liberating. I still had the college experience of my dreams, but I did it my way. Just find what is truly worth while to you, and stick with it.

— Danielle Radeke, 22

Don't Be Afraid To Have Some Fun
One piece of advice I wish I had freshman year of college is to enjoy yourself. You’re living on your own for the first time, and you should take advantage of it! Of course, don’t go too crazy, but definitely do not be afraid to go out every weekend. It’s honestly kind of what college is for.

— Samantha Gonick

You Have To Take Care Of Yourself
Take care of yourself — it is nobody else's job to do that or remind you to do that. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you they need.
Also, figure out what you want to do and do that — not what you think you should do, and not what others are doing.
Your time to be young, free, and independent, is just beginning in college. It is not the only time you get to have fun. But, it is the only time you get to go to college. Do well in college, learn a ton, and set yourself up for the life you want to live.

— Marissa Sbrilli, 24

You Work Hard, No Matter What Your Major May Be
Every major is challenging! Don't think less of someone because you think his or her major is "easier" than yours. We all work hard!
Also, you don't have to be best friends with everyone. College is full of a variety of different people. If you're not vibing with one friend group, don't stick around. There are plenty of opportunities to make friends.

— Sydney, 23

You'll Constantly Find New Friends
The friends you make in your first week or month of school don't have to be (and probably won't be) your friends for the next four years. You'll constantly meet new people with each semester, each year, and each experience (like joining a group, taking a class, or going abroad) — and that's why college is so great.

— Laura, 25

So, Take Time To Find The True Ones
I went to a really huge university outside of my home state, and I didn’t know anybody at all going into my freshman year. I was extremely nervous those first few days, and I made the mistake of basically clinging to some of the girls on my dorm’s floor, just so I wouldn’t have to do things like eat alone at the dining hall. But that later came back to bite me, as I realized these girls weren’t really my true friends. (Specifically when they ditched me during a party we went to together the first weekend of college, and I had to walk back to my dorm by myself late at night.)
Moral of the story: It’s good to get to know the people living in your dorm, but it’s even better to branch out and get to know people who actually share your interests and genuinely care about being there for you.

— Allie, 24

Having Time To Yourself Is Totally OK
It's totally normal to feel lonely sometimes. It might seem like everyone instantly finds a group of friends they click with, but that's really not the case. Don't worry if you wind up without plans on a Friday night — that's a chance for you to go explore your new campus or city, hit the gym, or read a book. During my first few months of school, I had some casual friends I could hang out with, but they weren't really my "people." I felt like the odd one out — like everyone else had already found their amazing group of friends. I did, eventually, and I wish I hadn't put so much pressure on myself to find my group sooner. There's no need to freak out. You'll find your people, I promise!

— Hannah, 25

Take A Few Classes That Interest You
Make sure you take at least one class every semester just for yourself, because you find it interesting, particularly at the start of college. I tried to just knock out all of my requirements fast, and I ended up being in a bunch of meaningless classes that left me bored to tears. If you take something just because you find it interesting, it becomes a lit easier to stay invested in school, and the other classes that you have to take.

— Lilli Petersen

Don't Take These Four Years For Granted, Because They Go By Fast
I wish I had realized that college is the last finite time period in your life. You have four years of knowing exactly where you’re going to be, what you’re going to be doing, and who you’re going to be doing it all with, before starting the rest of your life — aka, forever. If I could do it all over again, I would tell myself not to freak out over every bad grade, to appreciate having my close friends just minutes away, and to take full advantage of having so much time in the day to explore the things I’m most passionate about.

— Iman, 23

Spend A Semester Abroad And Experience The World
My main piece advice would be to study abroad. It opens your view of (and your appreciation for) the world, different cultures, people living out way different experiences than you — for food, taste, experience, politics, money, and so much more. Plus, you'll regret not doing so when you're working an office job and struggling to take time off to see and experience the world.

— Kylie, 29

Grades Don't Define You (And Get Some Sleep)
I wish I'd known that while education is important, the grades you [receive] in college ultimately do not define where you will end up, or your future level of success [...] Had I known [this], (and also, [that grades are] not indicative of worth or intelligence), it would've saved me sleepless nights, hella anxiety, and wondering if I was "good enough" to [pursue] what I wanted in life.

— Tor, 23

Stick Around Campus So You Don't Miss Out
Don't go home too often. My school was only a ferry ride and then some from home, so it was very accessible to get back. I probably took advantage of it, especially when I had my car on campus. It's OK to go home and see your friends and family, but that can cause you to miss some school events, and memories that you may not get back. If you're like me, who has a severe case of FOMO, remember you only get one shot at college. Do it right and try to make the best of it!

— Stephanie Salomon, 23

Are you feeling a bit more prepared for these next four years? These real women have been there and done that, so they've got your back when it comes to navigating life as a college freshman. All in all, this experience is like nothing else, and you'll figure it out for yourself, too. You'll find your passions and the friends who will be in your life way past graduation. Last piece of advice: College flies by. So, truly make the most of it, and also know that the "real world" isn't so bad.

Some responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.