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What I Wish I Had Known Before I Started College

Filed under: College Life - BookRenter Team
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By guest blogger Serena Piper
Journalism major at the University of Oregon. Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Oregon. Magazine, freelance blogger, future world traveler. In her spare time, she likes to read as many books as she can, go for long drives, and peruse news websites. Hopes to one day write for National Geographic.

Isn’t it unfortunate to find out at the end of your college career all the things you could’ve done differently to make the experience not only a better one, but also less painful post-grad? Then again, you probably wouldn’t be where you are now, and that’s hopefully a good place because, if you’re like me, you believe everything happens for a reason (even those tiny, yet crucial lessons you learned in college).

As my senior year comes to an end in just a few short terms, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned these past four years. Everyone’s college experience is different and we each take away something different, but there are always at least a few things we can share with each other that will help others be better prepared. Like not spending your entire financial refund in one week on a new video game console or a new wardrobe and remembering to wear flip-flops in the dorm showers. But it’s 2012 now and while some cautions stay the same, there are some different things I wish I’d known before I started my college career…

1. No college student eats only Top Ramen.

You will not solely be eating instant noodles in college. Photo by brownpau.

When I look back, it seems like this was just a scary story told to all freshly graduated high school students. “Make sure you’re stocked up on Top Ramen, because you won’t be doing a lot of cooking” was a phrase I heard repeatedly. And we all know that when you’re told something repeatedly, you start to believe it. Thank goodness I was proved wrong. The college budget may be tight, but it’s not that tight. Soup is just as cheap as Top Ramen (not to mention more flavorful and healthy), and lucky for us Tech Century babies, there are now websites, such as MyFridgeFood or SuperCook, that will suggest meals based on the ingredients you already have in your fridge and/or cupboards.

2. Travel lightly.

You may have to move locations a few times in college and the less stuff you have to have your dad help you with, the better. “How much more stuff do you have?” my dad would ask me after each trip to and from the moving truck. His words echoed in my ears when I arrived at my new place, exhausted but knowing I still needed to unpack if I wanted any space to maneuver in my new room. That’s when I realized I needed to downsize. One tip I’ve learned from Real Simple Magazine that has stuck with me: instead of keeping those old 4th grade basketball team photos and trophies, take a picture of them! This way you can keep the items digitally, but not have to cart them around.

3. A part-time job is a blessing in disguise.

This is America, so yes, you have a right to complain, but jobs are more than work and if you think you won’t have time for one, you’ll make time. Benefits: You get out of the dorms, you make some money, and you’re learning things your unemployed friends aren’t.  Even if you don’t like your job or wish you were doing something else, think of it this way: you’re learning skills you may use in the future. Plus, depending on your job, there may be some health benefits, as well, and you’ll be equipped with letters of rec when you graduate. Can your friends say the same thing?

4. Don’t even think about rooming with a high school friend.

Ok, some people can hack it, but there is a very high chance of losing said friendship the moment you move in together and he/she informs you their significant other will be staying the night every couple of days. Disagreements will turn into walking around on eggshells, and it’ll feel exactly like high school all over again. The last thing anyone starting college needs is more drama so if you want to play it safe, room with someone new. Plus hopefully you’ll end up with a new friend!

5. You probably won’t graduate in four years.

It may take you longer than 4 years to graduate. Photo by University of Denver.

When you graduate depends not just on your major, but also how many credits you take each term. Sadly, even if you do attend school full-time each term, you still probably won’t make it in four years. If you want to graduate in as little time as possible, meet with an adviser each term to make sure you are registering for classes that will apply to your degree. If it turns out you’ll be taking classes longer than you had wanted, look at it this way: you have more time to search for that post-grad job and (hopefully) save a little money before being out in “the real world.” Not to mention, you’ll have more time to defer those loan payments. By the time you graduate, maybe there will be a law forgiving student debt! Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

My number one piece of advice? Talk to as many people as you can before beginning college just so you know what you’re up against. College has its fun moments, yes, but they’re even more enjoyable when you’re prepared for anything that is thrown your way.

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