College- the years that everyone claims will be the best of your life. The freedom and independence that every young adult craves, combined with the pressures of setting the foundation for your future. It can seem just as exciting as it does daunting, but fear not- I’ve put together a list of 10 things I learned at college to not only make the most of your experience, but to ease some of the anxiety associated with a big change.
1. You’re going to meet people, I promise.
I met my roommates on Kijiji. It sounds kind of sketchy, but it couldn’t have worked out better- they’re like my sisters. I met some more friends on the first day of class- we were all late and sat together in the only empty seats, then went for lunch. I spent SO much time worrying about whether or not I was going to make friends, all for nothing. Students from all over the world, all different ages, interests, and personalities- it’s as diverse as it sounds, and you’re bound to meet a lot of cool people if you’re open to it. Overcoming this worry of mine has made me confident that no matter where life takes me, I will never be alone.
2. You can be as responsible or irresponsible as you want, and no one’s going to say anything.
I feel like I’ve been “responsible” my whole life. People were always saying how mature I was, and it put a lot of pressure on me to live up to that image when I was still living at home. Being away at college, not knowing anyone, really allowed me to let loose and just live. I had an amazing year, and I created a lot of memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
3. Student loans aren’t scary, but credit card debt is.
Student loans are meant to help you, and the repayment period is meant to be doable. But let me tell you right now, racking up your credit cards and planning to pay them off at a later date does NOT WORK. Don’t ruin your credit because of too many Ubers and $14 cafeteria lunches 4 days a week, because bad credit will stay with you longer than you want it to. Learn how to budget, and stick to it.
4. Do not attempt winged eyeliner if you are 5 minutes away from being late for class.
It will result in you screwing up/a lot of frustration/a possible meltdown.
5. Your mental health is important.
Spend a whole day watching movies, making delicious food and painting your nails. Treat yourself to a new book, a spa treatment, lunch at a new restaurant- it’s really important. Try not to let school stress you out too much, because honestly, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Also, remember to take a 3-day caffeine break every once and awhile- it helps to decrease stress and anxiety.
6. So is your physical health.
If your school offers a free gym pass with tuition, take advantage of it. Go for walks, watch free yoga classes on Youtube, or buy a cheap bike on Kijiji (I found my rusty old gal for $80!). It helps to clear your mind, focus, and stay in shape. Eat well, and don’t treat yourself too often just because you live near McDonald’s.
7. Having a part-time job doesn’t have to make your life hard/it can actually make your life better.
I worked Saturdays and Sundays during my first year, from 9:30 to 4. It was nice to be able to focus on something other than school, and it deterred me from partying too hard on the weekends because I knew I had to wake up semi-early. I made friends outside of school, I was making decent money, and I was proud to be able to juggle school and work like that.
8. You will have a new appreciation for where you came from.
I never, EVER thought I would miss my hometown, but now I know I’ll settle back down there eventually. I have a new appreciation for my family, and really cherish the time we spend together. It feels so good to be able to hug my mom as opposed to the weird fake hugs we always did when we’d Skype each other, and I really like the pace of a small town (I never sit in traffic, and everything’s closed on Monday’s like a three day weekend).
9. Getting sick without your mom to take care of you is the absolute worst thing in the entire world (don’t worry, you’ll survive!)
Everyone in my house got sick at one point this year, including me. Whether it was a bad cold or a nasty root canal, we all visited the doctor at least once. I was so sick that I had to drive myself to the hospital at 2 a.m., and yes, I did call my mom, crying my heart out because I was scared and in pain. But I’m really proud that I handled it. I’m not scared of getting sick anymore because that was probably the worst-case scenario situation, and I lived.
10. Keep a record of it.
You will never be this young ever again. I kept a journal that I wrote in every night before bed, and I went through 10 disposable cameras (read my post on “How Film Can Help You Stay Present, here). It was one of the best years of my life, hands down, and I’m so happy I have so much to look back at so I can relive all the fun times.
If you’re headed off to college this year, good luck! If you’re a returning student, what’s the biggest lesson you learned during your first year? Let me know in the comments below!