08/13/2012 03:36 pm ET Updated Oct 13, 2012

What I've Learned From College So Far

As I prepare to begin my junior year of college, I have been reflecting on the last two years of my college career and what I have learned. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am halfway through college; I just can't believe how quickly it's gone by. A lot of my expectations were incorrect, a lot of my choices were mistakes, and a lot of decisions I was uncertain about were some of the best things I could have done for myself. I wanted to share these tips for my fellow college students, so hopefully someone can learn from my mistakes and triumphs.

Friendships come naturally, so don't force them

Most of us don't have many friends from high school, if any at all, joining us when we move away for college. It's easy to feel pressured to make new friends. We feel lonely and we want to change that. It gets even harder when we hear about how many awesome new buds our friends from back home have made. This is a certainly a driving force behind the often hurried joining of clubs, groups, sororities, fraternities, etc. I'm not saying you should not be involved, but make sure that it's something you really want to do. I have joined my fair share of clubs and never made it past the first meeting, as have many of my friends. I made friends naturally, without trying, based on common interests and complementary personalities. I made friends at work, in certain classes, and through organizations I involved myself in after careful thought about my real interests. And I have retained these friends; they've become my family, my support system, in this new home.

Find the right living situation for you

I can't tell you how many lectures I received from friends and family about how I was missing out on an "authentic college experience" by choosing to never live in a dorm. It played like a broken record from about halfway through my senior year of high school until I actually moved out that fall. But guess what? It worked for me, and I have no regrets. I'm a very independent person, and I'm also in a serious relationship. I wanted to live away from campus with my boyfriend without rules, RAs, "quiet times," etc. That is what worked for me. Some people end up living up in a dorm all four years of college. There's nothing wrong with that either; it's all about how you feel comfortable and what will suit you best to be successful in school, that's most important. Some people want to live with their friends; others don't want to have to bicker with the people they care about washing dishes and being too loud when they need to study. Everything is situational. People put too much pressure on their college experience to fit into their preconceived notions -- it's never going to be the way you saw it in a movie, and there's no right or wrong way to do it.

If nightlife is not for you, you can still have a life

I was admittedly nervous when I came to college, knowing that I am not remotely a party girl. I rarely drink, I get annoyed with loud music, and I don't like brushing up against sweaty people. I'm just not into packed bars and clubs and I assumed I would have a hard time finding like-minded people. But I was wrong. There are plenty of people who share this sentiment, and there are plenty of other fun things to do. If you do like to go out, that's great! Nothing against you -- I just want to clarify that college is not the giant party that everyone makes it seem to be. There are plenty of kids, like me, who just want to grab some froyo and see a screening of an awesome movie at the campus theater. There are always new things to explore and attend in a college town or a big city, there are definitely things to do that don't require heels and a sparkly top.

Hopefully I will be able to add lessons learned to this list in the next two years; I can't wait to see what the rest of my undergrad education will bring. Just remember that there is no right way to go about this college thing, and you will be happiest if you just do what you want to instead of trying to meet someone else's expectations of what should constitute a "college experience." And I certainly don't have it all figured out-far from it, but I've learned that doing what works for me makes me happiest, and I think that's advice anyone can benefit from.

By Emma Thornton, Florida State University