5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College

1. Friends will come and go

        The saying goes “you will meet some of your best friends in college”, right? What that saying doesn’t include is that many, perhaps even the majority of those friends won’t last over time. I don’t mean cutting ties or some brutal falling out is going to occur, but instead, everyone in college is busy. Your friends and you alike have busy semesters (18 credits please God no), jobs and internships, volunteering, school clubs and activities, sports, and just plain old naps that need to be taken.

I have had some close friends throughout my time in college, people who I could depend on to listen to me, grab a quick coffee on a Friday morning, or party with (probably too much) on those sacred Friday and Saturday nights.

Then, Fall rolls around and all of your friends have moved to new places, sometimes so far you’re charged $15 for a Lyft home after a night of catching up. You end up in new classes meeting new people and finding new interests, and what happened to all of those people you knew so well Freshman year?

They’re still there, and in fact, they’ve done the same thing as you; they moved on. It’s nothing personal, so don’t let guilt drive you to sadness. It’s just the nature of proximity, changes, and schedules. They still like you, and who knows when they might show up again in your life down the road?

Don’t cut ties, just extend the rope.

That being said, maybe there is a friend who means more to you than the rest of the crowd, and you want to keep in your life. At that point, a 30 minute walk to their place once a week is completely worth it. Some friends just can’t be replaced.

2. Set up LinkedIn Before Orientation Day

I just got into LinkedIn, and WOW do I wish I could rewind the clock. LinkedIn is like grown up Facebook where all of those connections you make can actually help you down the road. If I had set up LinkedIn before my college orientation 3 years ago, my connection count would be through the roof. Here’s a brief guide for who to add on LinkedIn:

  1. Orientation Leader
  2. Professors, the TA
  3. Coworkers
  4. Your Boss, Supervisors, Managers of where you work
  5. Friends (ALL of them)
  6. Speakers, Presenters, anyone whose event you attended
  7. People in your ‘major’ classes
  8. Parents of your friends (make sure they know who you are first)
  9. Anyone you work with/for and have spoken more than “hello” to
  10. ANYONE you have more than a 10 minute conversation with

It takes about an hour to set up a quality LinkedIn account (or 4.1% of today) and it will work MAGIC for you down the road. Find a friend with a camera or go to career services on campus, and get a couple headshots for your profile picture. Also be sure to add a background header, nobody wants to see ANOTHER boring blue one. Add in your experiences and update them as you go. Use the site like you would Twitter: Every. Single. Day.

3. “Eat like a college student” …or not

I had this notion that college meals were going to consist of ramen noodles, mac and cheese (whose acronym is MAC hmmm…) and Chinese takeout. Freshman year is a lot of cafeteria eating with a meal plan, and I don’t think I saw ramen on the menu once.

Sophomore year is the transition out of the dorms and into apartments with their own kitchen (yay!) so I expected the notion of Mac Mondays and Takeout Tuesdays-Thursdays to come true, only it didn’t. Instead, it turned into a game of “what ingredients can I throw together tonight?”, and as long as I was grocery shopping regularly, relying on ramen was never an option. Sure, grocery shopping is a hassle and takes time and planning, but it really pays off. Our grocery store was a dinky little Target a mile away on foot with one option for every type of food. But it worked. The winter Target hikes were cold, the meals in return were warm.

It wasn’t until Junior year of college when I linked up with a new roommate who has a car (BLESS) and was able to go to better grocery stores. The abundance of Cub Foods, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Targets, and Walmarts in the area made grocery shopping more of an engaging activity with more food options. Two of my roommates went vegan because they wanted to be more healthy and to better preserve the environment, and I went into chef mode.

I began building a recipe book online through AllRecipes.com and found a knack for spices and ethnic foods. And guess what, every night the menu is up to you. For $40-$55 a week on groceries, ramen is never an option.

4. Weekends ≠ Partying

…at least not automatically. One of my favorite parts about college as opposed to high school is all of the added freedoms that are gained. Freedom of schedule, freedom from parents, freedom of class selections, and the ability to manage free time how you want to. Though with great freedom, comes great responsibility (thanks Peter Parker).

I came into college thinking I would do all sorts of partying on my study breaks, and that’s what I did…until I got burned out. I found that partying every weekend makes time speed up like crazy. If you add in all of the time from getting ready to go out, the actual party, transportation, and feeling like living hell the next morning, where did your time go?

Then one Friday I had a novel idea (that actually included a good novel and a warm blanket). What if I just stayed in this weekend, caught up on some work, did some personal reading that didn’t pertain to public policy or immigration reform for once, and maybe even go to bed early. Well, one weekend turned into two, turned into a month, and then:

I had a huge laundry list of things I accomplished on the weekend.

  1. Chores? check
  2. Homework? check
  3. Finish that book? check
  4. Creative time? check
  5. Exercise? check
  6. Perform well at work? check
  7. Self reflection? check
  8. Call Mom? check
  9. Make a new recipe? check
  10. Enough sleep? check

Wait, so weekends can still be fun without drinking or partying? It took me two years to find out, yes.

5. Nobody Knows the Road Post-Grad

and if they tell you they do, they’re wrong. Let’s make one thing clear, for the most part (exception being nurses/doctors), your major ≠ your job. Once more for quick readers:

Your major ≠ Your job

I’ve heard of biology majors working at river pollution plants. Business majors working as social media trainers. Spanish majors in the stock trade. Philosophy majors at Target headquarters. History majors as web retail workers. The point is, college is a place to gain the skills needed to land a job. It’s the entry ticket for an interview. It’s making it past the first round of potential candidates for a job.

When a business major asks me the notorious question, “so, you’re a political science major, what are you going to do with that?” I say,

“I’ll probably be applying for the same jobs as you” and that’s because it’s called a job market, not a major market. Sure, some majors fit better with certain jobs, I get that. I wouldn’t want a Horticulture major giving me brain surgery, but for the most part it’s wiiiiide open.

Nobody knows the road, so don’t sweat it. College is a time for finding what you like and don’t like to do, and for developing all of those personable skills.

I wish someone would have told me these things, but I’ll be the person to tell you.


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