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Advice to my college-bound self

The time you spend in college should be some of the best years of your life. And for me, it certainly was. But there are a few things I would have done differently if I had only known better.

As a first-generation college student, I didn’t have anyone to show me the way when it came to financial advice or to offer tips for surviving the college years. Here are some things I’d like to pass down to those about to embark on a pivotal, life-changing experience. After all, college is what you make of it.

1. Apply for scholarships.

Come to find out, I would have qualified for a lot of scholarships, had I known they existed.

2. Know the realities of student loans, and only take what you absolutely need.

Without student loans, I couldn’t have attended college. However, I’ll be paying them back for 40 years. Ouch.

3. Finish in four years; college is expensive.

Unless you can afford to enjoy your time even longer, plan ahead so you can finish in four years.

4. Study abroad.

Take the opportunity to soak up a new culture while you’re young and adaptable.

5. Go to class; you’re paying for it.

They say 80 percent of success is just showing up.

6. Take a foreign language course.

Learning another language will prove valuable.

7. Take a writing course.

Even if your major doesn’t require it, writing is a skill everyone needs at one time or another.

8. Take a public speaking course.

From interviews to future career situations, communicating to a group will be necessary.

9. Absorb the material, don’t just cram for finals.

Admittedly, I’d be even more useful in my current career had I actually listened during my communications classes.

10. Learn how to use the library — both concrete and online.

It’s a resource that helped me to successfully compile all my college papers.

11. Time management skills are a must.

From class schedules to work schedules, to find time to study and socialize, you have to manage your time wisely.

12. Thoughtfully consider your major.

Of course you want to do what you love, but also consider this: Are you good at it? Is making a lot of money important to you? Will your major require grad school? How can your career choice help you to contribute to the world?

13. Frequently meet with your adviser.

Advisers can help you map your courses so you can be efficient and also explore courses out of your comfort zone.

14. Go to professors’ office hours.

Getting to know your professors will help you get better grades and also network after college.

15. Join a student club or organization.

There is a student group for every passion or interest. Take advantage and make like-minded friends.

16. Cheer on your college sports’ teams.

You’ve got spirit!

17. Never leave a friend alone at a party.

And never stay alone at a party. Safety first.

18. Do not walk home alone after sunset.


19. Lock up.

Lock your car doors. House doors. Bedroom doors. Windows. I was robbed on a few occasions. Hey, we didn’t have to lock doors in rural northern Michigan.

20. Find roommates you can tolerate.

And be considerate of shared spaces.

21. But don’t move in with your best friend.

Or you probably won’t remain friends for long.

22. Nurture your friendships.

All relationships take work.

23. And don’t let boys come between you and your friends.

24. Or between you and your studies.

Your grades will follow you for a lifetime. That cute boy probably won’t.

25. “Playing the field” is not a requirement.

I was lucky enough to meet my husband freshman year, so this didn’t apply to me. But respect yourself.

26. And remember that privacy and modesty go a long way…

(That’s all I’ll say about that.) 

27. The best cure for a hangover?

Stop drinking so much.

28. Because shots are not your friend.

29. Pace your alcohol consumption.

Drunkenness is not a race.

30. Avoid the freshman 15.

Now that you’re consuming all those boozy calories, eat healthier and exercise.

31. Learn how to cook.

32. Then become a coffee drinker.

You’ll need the caffeine. And everyone you meet here on out for the rest of your life will want to meet for coffee.

33. Network.

From professors to classmates and alumni, network now so you have good connections after graduation. Set up a LinkedIn profile, too.

34. Attend alumni-student networking events.

35. And attend job fairs.

Every school offers job-fair opportunities, and it’s your chance to see what’s out there.

36. Invest in a nice suit.

A first impression makes all the difference.

37. Work internships.

If you can’t find one on your own, your school probably offers a service to help you find one. Internships help you decide if you even want to work in certain industries and help build your resume.

38. Go on informational interviews at companies that interest you.

That way you can explore your future options.

39. Or tour local companies.

40. Please, call your parents.

They love and miss you.

41. Go home for as many holidays as you can.

Revel in your college experience, but celebrate the special occasions with your family.

42. If you’re going to college in your hometown, do not live at home.

Dorm life is half the fun.

43. Adopt a solo hobby simply to get away from everyone.

In college, you’re always surrounded by people. Find quiet time to refresh.

44. But remember that you’re not alone.

If the pressures of college are getting to you, your peers can relate.

45. This is your chance to make a fresh start.

No one cares about who you were in high school.

46. Challenge your beliefs.

Everything you once thought you knew will go out the window (that you forgot to lock). Embrace it.

47. Be careful what you post to social media.

HR people at the internships you’re applying to are watching.

48. Become a leader.

Take charge of group projects. Organize a student club. Run the college paper. Let your voice be heard.

49. Go out and change the world.

You didn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for a piece of paper. You were trained to live a life of significance.

More college tips

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10 Majors that lead to higher salaries
Quick fixes for dull dorm rooms

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