What I Wish I Knew Going to College

I have an incredible, and probably unhealthy, fondness for my college years. Even now, part of me misses the dorm rooms and the close sense of community. Although, not so much the cafeteria food. It was four years of making friends, jumping from social events to extra activities, and getting far too little sleep. 

It's the time of year where college students are getting ready to move into their dorms, are planning out their schedules, and making those last minute plans for the semester. I have to admit,  when I see college students running around Target looking for those last minute items they need, I have many flashbacks to my days on the Welcome Team.

Yes, I was on the welcome team. Stop judging me, we were awesome.

Yet, as I look at my life now and my life then, so much has changed, and I can't tell you how many conversations my old roommate and I have of "if me back then knew what I was doing now..."

There are so many things I wish I could go back and tell my former self about college and the years after. (Like how to be sure I don't look like a total slob at all times. I swear, I didn't figure out how to dress myself until I was 25. It's a shame really. So many years of potential hotness wasted!) So, here's the next best thing. A few words of wisdom for those of you either starting off college or getting back into the swing of things for the start of a new semester.

Organization and Time Management

College is one of the first times where how you spend your time is COMPLETELY up to you. Yes, you have classes, but you can choose whether you go or not. It's a lot of freedom to get used to and can be overwhelming.

  • Use a planner and keep it with you. I don't know about you, but I remember things better when I write them down and have them in a calendar I wrote out myself. I still use a planner and I love it. They even have super cute ones with a ton of stickers now! But, they can be hard to keep up with. Which is why I say keep it with you in your bag. If it's always on you (especially as you're going to classes), there isn't much of an excuse to not use them.
  • One thing you all have that I didn't when I was in college (cause I'm SO OLD), is this handy thing called a smart phone. There are a ton of apps out there for calendars, reminders, tasks, etc. and you can set alarms for yourself. My schedule was always all over the place in college, and it would have been so handy to have my phone with me so I could jot down assignments, meetings, etc. right away. 
  • Post-It Notes. I used to swear by these, especially when it came to midterm/finals week. I was that over-achiever who constantly had a million classes, projects, jobs, extra activities, and social events I was paranoid I was going to forget something. In order to not forget, I'd write each task I needed to accomplish for that week on a post-it, then stick it up on my desk. It was in my direct line of vision every single day. And let me tell you - pulling that post-it note off and throwing it away always felt so good. 
  • Plan ahead. I know, I know. You're in college and you want to be spontaneous. I get it. But, it's good to have a game plan going in. At the start of each semester, I'd map out my weekly schedule and color code it. (As I said, I was an overachiever.) It gave me a good idea of when I'd have free time so I knew when I could study and see friends. 
  • Eat. This one seems so obvious, but it has to be said. Especially by the last year or two, I can't tell you how many days would go by and it'd be 2 pm and I'd realize that literally the only thing I'd consumed that day was coffee. DON'T FORGET TO EAT. 

The Dorm

  • Plan out when you're going to clean. I was, and still am, the worst at cleaning. I'm amazed that my roommates didn't yell at me more for not helping to clean the bathroom as often as I should have. It was bad. So, when you're mapping out your schedule, find places where you can clean the dorm. Whether it's one big chunk of time during the week, or one tiny thing per day. Trust me when I say, when your space is clean and clutter free - you'll feel much better and less stressed.
  • Learn when to close your door. I don't know about other schools, but a big part of the culture of the one I went to was having your dorm room door open and/or unlocked. In fact, I had a couple of friends who kept duct tape over the lock of their door so we could come in and out as we pleased. I love the open community concept. But, sometimes, you need your space. Whether it's to study, sleep, or just get some alone time. 

Planning for Your Next Steps and Your Time Now

  • Enjoy the time you have right now. For a lot of my friends and I, we wasted so much time just anticipating our next phase of life. Of not having to take classes anymore and to just get going on what we REALLY wanted to do. Now, I look back and wish I had taken more advantage of what I had back in those days.
  • Take advantage of opportunities. And I don't just mean the ones for your potential future career. I was so focused on my major, I never even entertained the idea of studying abroad or doing a Disney internship or anything like that. Or even just going somewhere new and different with my friends on spring break or over the summer. Now, I wish I had because who knows when I'll be able to do those things. Contrary to popular belief, college doesn't have to be JUST about getting a good job at the end. (But don't ignore that aspect either, obviously.) It's education in general. In class, yes. But in life too. Most of what I learned in college took place OUTSIDE of the classroom.
  • Remember that things change, and you might not know exactly what you want next. Some people know their chosen career and are driven and have a one track mind. I was one of those. But guess what? Awhile down the road, I realized I didn't actually want it. (Cue existential crisis.) What your passion is now, might not be your passion in a few years. If you don't have a passion now, it doesn't mean you won't find one. 

A Couple Things NOT To Do

  • If you skip class - be smart about it. I won't judge if you do because Lord knows there were some classes (especially in my final semester) my profs were lucky to see my face. But, also know when you CAN skip, and when you CAN'T. A bad time? When your World Religions class is teaching on Islam but the guy you like wants to hang out. You might not want to miss class that week.
  • Not sleep. I barely slept at all when I was in college, and it probably wasn't a good choice. Yes, I was 20 years old and had a ton of energy. But I probably would have done better in everything if I made sure I had enough sleep.
  • Say yes to everything. I was the crazy overachiever who would take 21 credits in a semester, volunteer for ALL OF THE THINGS, and then go out and eat with my friends at 1 am before hitting up the 24-hour computer lab to finish a paper. I loved all of the things I was doing, but eventually, I burned out and had to say no to things later than I should have. Prevent burn out before it happens.

There you go college students. A few things I learned and I hope you don't make the mistakes I did. And have fun!

What would you tell your former college self?

LifeEmily Hornburgcollege