10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College
1. Don't move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
I know a lot of people do this. I know it's really convenient to do this. I know I am still guilty of doing this. It's probably better not to do it, though. It sucks being early into your 20's and having to admit that two of your three serious relationships have ended with garbage bags, a moving truck, and two very bitter (and poor) hearts. Here's the thing: by moving in together, you're taking a lot of mystery away from the relationship. Traditionally, that stage didn't set in until engagement or marriage had already come into play. Now that couples are moving in so ridiculously quickly, they're ending things before marriage or engagement is even an option.
I could go on and on about this topic, but the long and the short of it is this: everything is harder when you live with your significant other. Paying bills is harder. Making friends is harder. Eating dinner is harder. Doing laundry? Way harder. With that said, I think there are definitely exceptions to that rule. I may be one of them. Weigh out the pro's and the con's, but whatever you do, don't do it because it's cheaper, more convenient, or because it will make your SO happy. Do it because you love them and you can't imagine spending another night without them.
2. Stop spending money on stupid shit.
I started smoking Parliament Lights when I was 16 and didn't quit until a few months after my 22nd birthday. $7 a pack x 3 per week = at least $80 a month. Definition of stupid shit. I'm happy to say cigarettes currently make me want to vomit, but I still spend plenty of money on other stupid shit. Eating out. Expensive perfume. Furniture and home decor. Typical stupid shit.
Packing a lunch is totally old-school but it totally works. Paying $8 for a sandwich that you're eating alone in a cold dark break room is so not worth it. I'd much rather spend that $8 on a movie ticket, coffee with a friend, or - the most novel idea of them all: I could put it in my savings! Meaningless stupid shit like perfume and clothing are just that: meaningless. Unnecessary. Trivial. And while making your home as comfortable and beautiful as possible does give off a really nice vibe, chances are, you'll be moving halfway across the country soon and will most likely not be taking the contents of your college apartment with you.
3. Get your money's worth.
My major is 36 credit hours, with only two film production classes being necessary to graduate. Seems a little pointless if you ask me, so I figured out how to make room for as many production classes as I could, and I also picked up a second major. If I were to do the bare minimum for graduation requirements, I would have walked out of college with a B.A. in bullshit and little to no real career skills under my belt.
Push yourself (and your advisor) to cater your major to your goals. Curriculum for most liberal arts degrees are very vague and general, so using their flexibility to your advantage is a must. With that said, C's do get degrees, but they also buy you a piece of paper and little real knowledge. To be honest, I've proudly B.S.'d every math class I've had to take because I guarantee I'll never use any of it in my future career. On the other hand, I've kept textbooks, professors' contact information, and handouts for film and political science classes.
4. Take. Your makeup. OFF.
And work out, eat healthy, and get some sleep. Even though I may have the world's fastest metabolism, I've definitely seen a drastic change in my body since starting school. You're not a teenager anymore, yet acne will pop up from sleeping in your foundation. Milkshakes will make things shake you didn't even know existed. And bags form under your eyes and don't ever seem to go away.
Not only does this make hashtag #ratchet totally appropriate for every selfie, it also shapes the way the rest of your life is going to go. For many of us, college is the first time we've had to be completely independent by buying our own groceries, cooking our own meals, and setting our own bedtimes. Screwing up your first attempt isn't a complete epic fail, but it certainly makes things easier if you get it semi-right the first time around.
5. Get a job... but don't make it your life.
I've sacrificed a lot for my jobs in college, working full-time for over half of my college career, scheduling my classes around work demands, and traveling to help out other stores when I really didn't have the time or energy to do so. I've also had 7 years of work experience, with at least 4 of them being in management. Don't underestimate the importance of having a job through college, but don't let it consume you, either.
I have a few friends (who shall remain nameless, of course) who have already graduated school, some of them from more prestigious universities than mine, and are making less money than I do. Why? Because they worked trivial jobs on campus (or nothing) while attending school. Huge rookie mistake! Yes, your only options while in school are retail, restaurants, or other low-paying service jobs, but make the most of them. Most anything can be related to your future career as long as you focus on the skills that any employer will want: leadership, organization, timeliness, and communication, to name a few.
6. Don't be afraid of failure.
I played things really safe when I first started school. I went to community college, mainly because I was a lazy 18-year-old and borderline alcoholic. After dropping out (twice), I took the easiest classes I could. I missed as many classes as my instructors would allow. I aced most of them. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with community college. In fact, I probably recommend it for your first 2 years. It's cost effective, there are smaller class sizes, and they're generally really endearing. However, there is definitely something wrong with doing as little as possible just to get by.
I picked up a second major a semester before I planned to graduate. It increased my stay at university by a year. I'm really bummed about it, but at the end of the day, I think I will be quite pleased with my decision. Going from one of the easiest majors my school offers (no offense, film kids) to a much more academic one scared the shit out of me. I have to read political journals now. I have to write long ass papers. I *gasp* actually have to study. It's rough for a creative, lazy, underachiever, but it's necessary. I do not ace all of my political science classes. I find some of them to be very dull. But I love what I do and I'm stronger because of it.
College sucks about 90% of the time, and people there are generally annoying. You may have to search a bit, but I'll bet you'll be able to find some really brilliant, like-minded individuals somewhere. College is supposed to prepare you for a career, which typically begins with a job in your desired field, which is pretty close to impossible to find unless you know somebody. Join a student organization, attend workshops and conferences, and talk to people in your classes. Whatever you do... don't go to pep rallies, football games, or school spirit events. Those are stupid (I kid, I kid... kind of).
I say 'network' because a majority of my life decisions revolve around my business, but I am a rare breed of workaholic who's never really had a ton of friends, so many of you may replace 'network' with 'make friends'. That's cool too. I promise I'm not a sociopath (at least I don't think so?)... I just love what I do more than I love going out.
8. Don't be like everyone else.
After getting sober and going back to school, I felt so alone. I wanted to stay sober for as long as possible, and I didn't know a single other person who felt the way I did. I lost contact with about 99% of my friends, because they were busy taking drugs, going to music festivals, and generally just partaking in various activities that would threaten my sobriety. I learned that few of them really cared about me and that was fine.
I spent a lot of time alone. I still do. I've weakened my 100% anti-drinking stance, but I still don't do it very often. When I do, it's not to excess and I'm still usually in bed by midnight. I'm constantly questioned by so-called friends (even my professors and co-workers have told me I'm weird), but it's what makes me happy that counts. Don't feel peer pressured to do keg stands the night before a final. Don't get drunk because your creepy date wants to have sex with you. Do you. That's what matters.
9. Be open to new ideas.
I never thought I'd be graduating from the School of Communication because I've always been a godawful verbal communicator. I'm terribly shy, I'm awkward, and I much prefer the written word. It wasn't until I had a heart to heart with my favorite professor who urged me to develop myself as a public speaker. I did, I excelled, I loved it, and here I am.
This goes for more than just your major. Listen to political ideas that are different from yours. Try food from a different country. Listen to that band you always thought you'd hate. College is a time of self-discovery, and we have many more layers than you'd think.
10. Have fun.
It's easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I've work all through college, and this includes every traditional college holiday like St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. It's really, really hard to have fun when you're working and studying your life away, but it's completely and utterly possible.
Pick at least a few hours each week that are dedicated solely to your favorite thing. For me, it's been starting my blog (which has turned into a business, which has helped me in the sense that I no longer have to work a traditional job full-time). Film a video, go out to a bar, or take a nice, long nap. If you can do this more than once a week, do it, and if you miss a week, make up for it. Make friends with your professors: it makes classes a lot more fun. Study: it makes finals week a lot more fun. And of course, love what you're studying! If you don't enjoy the subjects you're studying, you're probably not going to enjoy the job that comes after college. And that's the whole point of this thing, right?