By now, the majority of high schools and colleges have had their commencement ceremonies. I have some very close friends who have graduated from college this year and I am excited to hear about their future endeavors and successes. I look up to them, and instead of preparing me for college like they did, they can now tell me about adventures in the “real world.” Just the same, I have very close friends who have just graduated from high school. I’m so proud of the people they are becoming and also can’t wait to see them progress. Though they are younger, I admire them and look up to each of them, but now I’m the one giving advice and helping them to succeed. It’s my turn. So here are some things that my first two years of university have taught me:

  • Money Management: While I came from money troubles prior to college, I have learned a lot more about managing funds and budgeting. My parents rarely gave me any financial help, and I didn’t have a job. Luckily, I receive refund checks from the university in the form of financial aid. Typically, I only bought the things necessary to living—groceries and toiletries, school supplies and requirements, rent and bills. However, there were days I wanted to eat at a restaurant, splurge on a makeup palette, beer that wasn’t Natural Light or a nicer bottle of wine, or something else unnecessary, of course. I learned quickly that making unnecessary purchases meant I had to compromise something that was necessary. So if I wanted to make a silly purchase, maybe I won’t eat as well for a week. You have to learn to compromise between needs and wants with the money situations in college. Even if you’re parents do help you, college is a great time to learn this skill.
  • Work hard, work hard to remember to play: I have always been the kind of person to put work before play, and I probably will always be that way. However, I’ve learned that in college, you can’t stress yourself out too much; you’ll go crazy, and you’ll cry yourself to sleep a lot. I’m not saying to blow off work and party all of the time, but if the homework can be done tomorrow and you haven’t left your apartment in three days, go out. Learn what works for you—how long you can actually procrastinate and get a good grade, your learning styles, how long it takes you to a write a paper, etc.—learn your parameters, and work around them. But please get your work done and well.
  • They lied in high school, college professors do care about you and your successes: I’m sure everyone had teachers in every major grade give the, “Your teachers in [insert grade here] won’t accept late work. They won’t care if you get good grades.” And that has always held wrong. College is the same way. However, most teachers don’t accept late work; they are stricter in that respect. But the majority of your college professors are there if you need them. You have to make the effort to ask question, utilize office hours, and contact them with problems. If you take the initiative to get help, they won’t deny you that help. And, even in the largest of schools (I go to a state university, so it’s pretty large), if you get to know your professors, they will learn to know you as well. Utilize your professors, because they are there for you to learn. They are there to teach you. And they really do want you to do well.
  • Get involved: It took me a year at university to learn just how important getting involved around campus is. Joining things you’re interested in brings enjoyment, leisure, and fun and new experiences. You meet people you may have not met otherwise. You gain connections—if you join a club relevant to…say…what you want to do as a career, I guarantee someone will know someone who will know someone. I will say this, though: don’t get too involved. Don’t overdo yourself. But definitely find a club or two to get involved in. You won’t regret it.
  • Friends aren’t always friends but plenty are to be made: When you move away to school, you will find that someone of your “friends” aren’t the greatest. Losing touch with them will make you feel lousy, but I promise you will meet new people. But don’t be discouraged if you and your friends part ways and go to different schools; if they are true friends, it won’t matter where you are. You’ll call each other and talk like you’ve spent no time apart.
  • The importance [and luxury] of “Me Time:” Being thrown into tiny dorm room or apartment doesn’t warrant a lot of solitude. Add course work, classes, clubs, and other activities into the mix, you’re going to be busy in college. Find time for yourself. Find time to take a minute to yourself, because you won’t get a plethora of chances to so. Find a spot where you like to read in peace. Take a day on the weekend to lounge around and watch movies or go shopping. If your roommate goes home for the weekend, embrace it. Everyone needs some time to themselves, and the first years of college makes that difficult. I learned to really appreciate my walks to class. No one really bothered me; just pop in some earphones and be on your way.
  • People are actually really rude. Stay calm: Don’t expect everyone to hold doors open. Don’t expect people to hold the elevator for you. Don’t expect, “Good morning,” “thank you,” or “please.” Don’t expect people not to talk loudly on the phone on the public transportation. Not everyone is terrible, obviously. And these gestures aren’t always absent. But when they are, and they will be frequently, bite your tongue.

And finally, the most important things I’ve learned at university thus far:

  • Putting yourself first sometimes is okay: I’ve always been one to take on tasks in attempts to help someone out. I have a really hard time telling people no. But as I said previously, you’re going to be busy in college. If you have work to do of your own, you may have to say no to some people. If you are super stressed and would rather be on Tumblr all day than help a friend with a project, it is okay to say you can’t. I had to go to the lengths of seeing a therapist. Don’t let your health or your grades dwindle because you think you have to do other things. If you’re sick, miss class once. You have to remember to take care of yourself. Really.


Future college freshman, have fun and good luck.