I feel so old. I’m graduating from college in December.
Sometimes, I’m eager to just “get it done,” but I’m finding myself looking back on my time in college more and more as I approach the “finish line.”
This “graduation” concept feels so foreign to me – the past four years have whizzed by.
I’ve learned a lot at my colleges (yes, plural – I transferred from four-year-universities twice). I’m a first-generation American, and when I began my college search, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. To be perfectly honest, my parents didn’t have a handle on this whole “college” thing, and neither did my older sister (because she woke up one morning and randomly decided to study overseas, so she was of no help whatsoever).
Here’s what I wish I had known:
Get your finances together.
I had no idea how I was going to finance college. Frankly, I wish I knew what the hell I was doing. I think that’s the most important part, before you even start looking at schools. Find out how you’re going to pay for college, be it loans, financial aid, grants, scholarships, family, working, or another source. Whatever it might be, figure it out and figure it out early. It’ll definitely alleviate some stress later.
Begin your college search earlier on in high school.
I didn’t go on many college tours. I only visited two campuses in high school – Rutgers and the University of Central Florida. I went on to attend them both. I didn’t really know what I wanted or what I was looking for, and put more thought into my lame supermarket job and my high school “friends” than college. Think about what you want. My ideal school needed to have a great sports team, massive libraries that I could pull all-nighters in, a large student body, no one from my high school, and far, far away from my parents (sorry, 18 and rebellious). That’s great, but perhaps I should’ve put more thought into the programs that the school offered, ie. the actual point of school.
Focus on your health.
There’s no shame in seeking help regarding your health, be it physical or mental. I wish I had reached out earlier on in my college career when I was struggling. Everyone struggles sometimes. In fact, getting help could have saved me a transfer. More than 25% of college students have been treated for mental health conditions in the past year alone. Brush that stigma off and seek the help you need. Oh, and take your vitamins.
College is about finding out who you are. Granted, some may say it’s an expensive way to do so, but you really can discover so much about yourself in a matter of four, “action-packed” years. It’s important to meet people, join clubs, hang out, and just live, be it late night IHOP runs or helping your floormate practice her dance routine at four in the morning.
Be a student – and enjoy it.
To put it simply, some of us can afford to focus strictly on schoolwork, whereas others cannot. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t exhausted myself over a few minimum wage shifts when I could’ve been working on projects and studying. Often, people say that when you’re in school, that’s your job. However, I understand that everyone’s situation is different. I wish I had a better sense of my priorities earlier, since that job is not even on my radar anymore.
If I could go back, I would do it all over again.
A real college experience is priceless (even coming from a workaholic).
My first year of college was the best year, but I hope all four years are great for you.
College is scary and college is challenging, but most of all college is rewarding.
Best of luck to you on this journey!