You would not want to know everything about your future beforehand – who likes spoilers? Yet some things you wish you knew a bit earlier. It could save you a lot of unnecessary trouble. For example, is college life as cool (or as terrifying) as everyone says?
Although flying back in the time machine and warning yourself is not an option, at least not yet – you can share your experience with others. Who knows? Maybe your mistakes will provide an illustrious example and make a world of difference to a whole lot of people, so it was worth making them after all. By the following, I will try to save a couple of wide-eyed freshmen some bumps and bruises on their way through college.
College degree does not guarantee success
Unfortunately, those days are over. Now degree does not ever guarantee employment, let alone getting a job of your dreams with a paycheck that covers your basic living expenses and your student loan. Don’t get me wrong, you need that degree, but be ready to go an extra mile to secure your position apart from grabbing that diploma.
When I walk across the stage during the graduation ceremony, I thought that my worries were over. Now I know that it was only the opening credits. To acquit my naiveté, I must say that I graduate what it feels like eons ago (and given it was before 2008 it does ring true).
To be completely clear: nothing guarantees success. However, grit and knowledge will facilitate it. So, instead of grades try to concentrate on acquiring knowledge, aka learning. It is a skill in itself. You will have to learn your entire life – for reals! Start enjoying it now. Be knowledge-thirsty, ask questions, make mistakes. You will feel like a freshman so many times in your life. So many times you will have to start over.
The degree is not a guarantee of anything, but it is the beginning of anything you want, really.
You can buy yourself time
When you are a college student, you are usually perpetually broke. Paying tuition fees or covering interest on your student loan while providing a living for yourself rarely leaves a luxury of being able to pay someone to do something for you. Yet when you older and have more money, you come to realize that you can buy many things, but one. Your time back. Once you have spent it, it’s gone forever. All you can do is make some time now.
I wish someone told me back then, that instead of procrastinating for weeks over a completely useless project, I could order a cheap research paper from a service. Some assignment back at the college were plain dumb, others had no value for my major and future work except for the credits.
There will always be those BIO (blow-it-off) classes that you do not really need. Yet I was an honest student. I spent my time diligently on writing many papers that no human soul even read attentively enough to see how much work I put into them.
Further Reading: Should You Drop Out of College?
Laziness is a big lie
There is no such thing. If you are procrastinating for hours and do not want to get down to work, there is a reason for it. Procrastination and laziness can be a form of rebellion, self-assertion. If you are going out of your way to avoid doing something, maybe you do not need to do it in the first place. Nowadays, we see laziness negatively as it had been re-cast by the Protestant work ethic. Yet there was a time when people saw it more favorably. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate “hard work” vs. “smart work” once again.
I remember I considered some of my fellow students to be “lazy”, which was bad in my opinion. I soldiered on, no matter how few hours of sleep I had or how bad I wanted to hang out with my friends instead. Whereas I graduated as a valedictorian, they just graduated – and it was good enough.
Now some of my laziest classmates are successful executives, inspirational speakers, influencers, self-made people. Their secret is that they always knew what they wanted. They did not try to meet anyone else’s expectations of a successful career or fit into a “model student” notion of their parents.
Sleep, you fool!
You reckon you have no time to sleep. You have to meet assignment deadlines, and host that huge party, and earn a buck, and have a rich social life, and go on the day – all this within twenty-four hours’ time. You probably think: “I’ll sleep when it’s all over”. As a working mother, I can tell you: it’s never over. Farther in life, sleep is an even rarer luxury.
I used to be like that myself: bragging about my sleep-deprivation, sharing those hilarious comic strips about coffee. I even had a t-shirt that said, “Sleep is for the weak”. Don’t buy into this bull. YOLO is fun, but you know what? That also means that you can ruin your health once and no one will give you a spare. Your health is important and the sooner you’ll begin taking care of it, the better. Go ahead and make some time for sleep.
The same goes for your diet. I know it sounds like a broken record, but find healthy foods that you enjoy and try not to indulge your cravings for junk food and sugary stuff. Healthy habits will pay their dividends in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time, but the sooner you adopt them, the more time you will have with your loved ones.
Further Reading: 10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life
Friendships will dissolve
When I was in first year of college, this bitter passage from Thackeray’s Vanity Fair troubled me deeply: “Perhaps in Vanity Fair, there are no better satires than letters. Take a bundle of your dear friend’s of ten years back – your dear friend whom you hate now… Vows, love, promises, confidences, gratitude, how queerly they read after a while! There ought to be a law in Vanity Fair ordering the destruction of every written document (except receipted tradesmen’s bills) after a certain brief and proper interval… The best ink for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded utterly in a couple of days, and left the paper clean and blank, so that you might write on it to somebody else.” The guy practically invented Snapchat, didn’t he?
Now, seriously. I thought it was mean and unfair, and of course, Mr. Thackeray was mistaken. Just because he wasn’t lucky with his friends, doesn’t mean that people are inconstant and untrustworthy. Of course, I knew better at 18 *ironic eye roll*
Fast forward twenty years, I still do not fully agree with him. Yes, human affections are dynamic. People change and cease being interesting to each other. They say things they wish they didn’t or simply drift apart. That does not mean, however, that your friendship meant nothing. Every relationship teaches you something, gives you something, and changes you. Every friend is precious because he or she contributed to who you are now as a person. Even if you lost track of each other now, your feelings were strong and sincere then, so don’t be sorry and don’t feel guilty. That’s life. It takes from you, but it also brings some new beautiful people into your life. Embrace it and do not cling to the past.