1). There are no critical periods
It's dangerously easy to divide your collegiate life into a set of critical periods. To say that if you don't achieve X, (love, a job, an A grade, sex) by Y point in time, (next week, next month, next year, tomorrow, today) you never will. To essentially proscribe to the "that door closed, but hey, another one opened" philosophy.
That line of thinking is complete bullshit. Doors never close. Some are just harder to open than others.
Have you ever struggled to fit a key into a door? There you are fumbling with the lock, thinking that some jerk gave you the wrong house/supply closet/regular closet/ car key 'cause the thing just won't turn. You get pissed. Your fingers are red and raw from pinching a surprisingly sharp piece of metal. Maybe you ask 'why me,' start to pound the door, bite your lips, yell expletives out the window at the happy children across the street.
And then, when you're about ready to give up in frustration, the damn lock rotates as naturally as a planet in its orbit. You come crashing through said door, and land face-first on whatever it was you wanted so badly.
You get the things you really want in college the same way.
2). Very few people will care about your grades
Aside from your parents, professors, grad school admissions officers, and potentially you, (depending on you) very few people care about what grade you got in that impossible Biology class. Or about the Latin honor that sounds like an exotic volcano name etched in your degree.
If your career aspirations can be somehow categorized as "business," no employer is scrutinizing your GPA. They may only look for candidates above a certain mark, but even that can bend if your other experience is strong enough. The difference between a 3.9 and a 3.5 isn't .4 in their eyes. It's 0.
There's no excuse to not do your best. But seriously, don't be the person that sweats the difference between a B+ and an A-. Unless you intend to go to law/medical/dental/business/every-other-kind-of-grad- school, in which case, sweat so much nobody wants to sit next to you.
3). Studying abroad will be the best life experience you have to date
First off, go abroad. You will likely never get to live in a foreign city with minimal real-person commitments, and therefore, the ability to travel every weekend. Being far from home and speaking a different language will make you grow into a super human being in the vein of Mario eating a mushroom.
Second off, don't just do a semester. Do a whole year, if you're able to. Seriously, the campus and friends you're leaving behind will be exactly the same when you get back, for better or worse. Go away for the year, though, and you won't be: for better.
4). You will have thousands of acquaintances, and a handful of friends
You will feel like the prom king or queen you may or may not have ever been in high school when you get to college. As a freshman, you'll have about 1000 "friends." As a senior, you'll still know those people, but what they mean to you will have changed. The masses will be just acquaintances, while a select few will actually be your friends. How do you tell the difference?
- The person you do the "wave-but-don't-stop-walking" move to on campus? Acquaintance.
- 95 percent of the people you see drunk with on any given weekend? Acquaintances.
- The person who holds your hair while you puke, or texts you about the color of their underwear, or comes running when tragedy strikes? Friend. Find them, and hold on tight when you do. True ones are few and far between.
5). Be the kid that dresses up
This is a lesson most of us don't learn until we're seniors. Overdressing does not make you look like a loser. Nobody is making fun of your dashing bowtie or fancy blazer in their heads.
Dressing up makes you stand out (in an attractive way) from the herd of sweatpants and ¾ zip-ups. When you stand out, you get attention. That's something everybody loves in college -- both in the classroom, and outside of it.
6). If something is making you unhappy, get rid of it
The something can be a boy/girlfriend, a class, an internship, high fructose corn syrup, or sometimes, even the college that you currently go to. Whatever it is that's making you have the demeanor of a cat caught under a perpetual rain cloud, get rid of it. Don't think too much about how you're going to get rid of it, or the implications of doing so. Seriously, just kick whatever it is to the curb.
Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, is worth your happiness. It's the one universal thing every person on this planet wants. Why would you handicap your chances at getting it with practicality?
7). You only grow when you're uncomfortable
Your comfort zone is your favorite place to be. It's also the worst spot for you to learn anything about yourself or the world around you.
Thoughts and actions go unchallenged when you're comfy in your environment, and with the people around you. That means less critical thinking on your part, which is simultaneously incredibly relieving and incredibly dangerous.
You'll be a miserable college student without a comfort zone. However, make sure you take regular safaris outside of it into the unknown. You learn about yourself in the wild, not at home watching Netflix.
8). You do not know yourself as well as you think you do
You could be a steady chocolate-froyo-in-the-dining-hall guy or gal as a freshman, and then, suddenly and inexplicably, become a vanilla-loving senior.
You may also change your major from Chemical Engineering to English, or become a vegetarian, or figure out that you like the same sex, or discover that your entire reason for existing on this planet is to learn and master the sousaphone.
It's easy to stifle acting on these desires because they might clash with your identity. Understand, though, that identity is by no means fixed. At 18-22, you are still a tabula rasa you've only just begun to paint. Your finished product will be beautiful, but nobody, not even you, will know what it looks like until the very end.
9). Extracurricular activities do not get you hired, internships do
Professional jobs value professional experience. Be the president of half of the clubs on campus because you love them; don't do it because you think it's your ticket to employment. You'll be sorely disappointed if you do.
Rather than scoop ice cream or lifeguard during your collegiate summers, intern somewhere. Do it even if it's unpaid or if it's something you don't love. Internships will get you a job, and a job will be a bright horizon of ROI over a bleak landscape of student debt.
10). It's ok to not find the love of your life at school
Contrary to what movies and cheap novels would have you believe, not everybody's parents meet in college. Some meet in high school, and some meet in their 40s on eHarmony. All types tend to love each other very much.
Don't get too hung up on being perpetually single. Believe it or not, there are other perpetual single people that have also grown tired of being perpetually single. You will work with them, find them in bars, catch their eye in coffee shops, meet them through mutual friends, and end up sleeping in the same bed as them. You will love one of them, and they will love you back. Once that happens, where you found them won't really matter too much.