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Things We Wish We'd Known About College

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Originally posted as part of Literally, Darling's "Twenty-Something Tuesdays"

In some respects, half of your twenties are devoted exclusively to college. You start your twenties in college and then spend the next few years trying to figure out how to make your way in a world that those initial years may not have prepared you for. In hindsight, there are countless things you'll wish you had known or considered at the time. So, here's some advice from a mix of students, post-grads and those of us on the other side of our twenties, on things we wished we'd known about college.

  • Your professors are some of the best resources you have to helping you make connections you need. Go to office hours, get to know them, have intellectual conversations, befriend them. They have the potential to help you immensely.
  • It's OK to go to bed at 10:00 p.m.. Don't get so caught up in classes and friends and work that you forget to take care of yourself. Turn off your phone, brush your teeth and go to bed early every once in awhile. You won't miss out on anything important.
  • Befriend your TAs. They will guide you right to an A+ if you let them.
  • Befriend the people who will be there when you're at your worst, not the people you think will be able to get you into the best parties. Don't get me wrong, don't be a shut-in, but there's so much more to college life than getting wasted every weekend.
  • Be involved as much as possible. As much as you may think you're busy, that networking is going to pay off.
  • Be kind to people. College brings all kinds of people from all different walks of life; you'll inevitably encounter people who have problems you've never experienced, or come from cultures or backgrounds that are different to your own. It also sucks for everyone, at times. So, don't look down your nose at people who are less fortunate, or ostracize other people because it's easy. Rise above the rabble and just look out for people; treat others as you'd wish to be treated yourself.
  • It shouldn't be that hard. Your workload should be plentiful and you should be challenging yourself, but if the subject matter and the work itself is impossible, maybe you need to reevaluate if you're in the right program or the right place. Don't give up, but don't set yourself up to fail. You're spending far too much money to waste your time on something you shouldn't be pursuing.
  • Know that there is a system and figure out how to utilize it to your advantage. Every professor, bureaucrat and advisor has wiggle room and what they say is rarely the beginning or end of the conversation. As Cher said in Clueless, "grades are just a jumping off point to start negotiations." Instead of panicking at your syllabus, read it closely, and use the first week to determine how much of it is aggrandizement of the professor and how much is reality. Nine out of ten times, it's the former.
  • The first test, quiz or paper is like a first date. It's where you throw out some odd one-liner to the professor and try to find out if it resonates. Go a little out of the box the first time to see where they want you and what exactly they expect. Once you get the feedback, you know exactly how to write to their requirements, and there's your A. As one teacher of mine once said, "Use the test to answer the test." The same goes with professors.
  • No matter what you tell yourself, you will never, ever get up for that 7:30 a.m. class.
  • If you're smart and work with a counselor/don't go to the tiniest weirdest school alive, it IS possible to get a schedule that doesn't have classes on Fridays and still take a full load. How much do you really accomplish in three 45-minute classes a week? Bite the bullet and aim for the once-a-week, three- hour classes, or the twice-a-week ones. They're long but worth it, and you actually have time to delve into the material.
  • Your grades are important. No seriously, they are important. It may seem that after college it's all just a made-up number, but those are what will help you get the internships, get into grad/law/med school and can make the difference on that resume you'll be submitting that's full of the same background of everyone else going for the same job. Furthermore, you're spending an absurd amount of money to go to college, why would you ever slack off and not do the best you can?
  • Don't underestimate your down time. When you have a 12-hour or more schedule each day, don't feel bad about sneaking that nap when you should have been doing your reading. If you get a day to yourself, TAKE ADVANTAGE. Stay in bed, catch up on Netflix and don't worry about pants. These rare days of relaxation will be your saving grace when you're ready to hit the wall with stress.
  • Take geography into account when you're choosing a college. Your school will know of more opportunities in its immediate vicinity.
  • Join that group or club that you think you'd love, even if you don't have any good friends who are willing to jump in with you. Don't miss out on a pre-made group of people with similar interests as you!
  • Take that seminar you like the sound of. It could be your oasis in the middle of a bunch of required courses.
  • Invest in a good computer. Even if you have to spend your graduation money or go halfsies with your 'rents. Even if you have to take out a small loan (hey, build some credit if you can). There is nothing worse than having a computer blow up on you (figuratively and literally) in the middle of class/finals week.
  • Remember that college is for you. It's not for your friends. It's not for your family (though if they are helping foot the bill, you do owe them some respect). It's for you. Don't make so many decisions for other people that you forget to make them for yourself.
  • Become friends with the campus barista. This may result in, occasionally, free coffee, but at least that great feeling of the person behind the counter knowing your order.
  • Try finding a part-time job, even if you don't have to have one. Future employers will like that you worked a little in school instead of partying all the time (which, even if you didn't do, is what they think all college kids do), and there's nothing wrong with a little extra money on the side.

Literally, Darling is an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves.