What I Wish I Knew During My Time in College
College is rough. Depending on what college you’re going to, you’ll be moving to a new city, deciding what your major will be, and trying to get into the classes you want. It’s understandable to feel a bit out of your element. Having graduated last year, here are a few things I learned and wish to impart to you:
Choosing A Career Path
If you already know what you want to do, congratulations, but I didn't. I wasn't alone in that either. There are plenty of college students that go in undeclared because of the uncertainty they may feel over what career they want for themselves in the future. If you are one of these students, I would recommend looking into the clubs/groups your school has to offer, such as your school's newspaper or a dance group. Through this, you will be able to get a better sense of where your interests lie and take the first steps towards discovering your own academic path at college.
Try to coordinate with your school to see if there are any internships you can take during the school year to further help you find out what it is that you would like to do once you graduate college. Internships at organizations or office settings can help you gain some real-world experience, and you'll get more of an idea of what you are looking for in a job.
Be Adventurous Your First Semester
If you don't immediately know what you want to major in, take classes you find interesting to see if that's what you want to do. Having gone to a liberal arts college, I had a lot of freedom to pick the classes I wanted to take my first semester. Although I ended up majoring in English, my first semester, I took an anthropology class and elementary Russian. Ultimately, I didn't stick with either subjects, but I enjoyed the classes nonetheless, and I at least knew that the path wasn't for me. So, if you happen to be interested in biology and theatre, take classes in both departments to see if you decide to follow through with these areas of study for the rest of your time in college.
Take Advantage of Office Hours
Anytime you are struggling with a class assignment or paper, speak to your professors any chance you get. Use office hours to get better acquainted with your professors. I'll admit I was daunted at first to speak one-on-one with my professors but understand that they are there to help you not to judge. Starting a 13-15 page paper is less intimidating once you and your professor have established a solid topic. It also helps to establish a relationship with your professor so that you can ask them for advice on anything, especially career advice. And it doesn't hurt that once you need recommendation letters, your professors will already know you well enough to write you a quality letter.
Mental Health at College
Speaking about your mental health can be tough, especially if you are like me and come from a family and community that is not accustomed to addressing issues of mental health. Stress, unfortunately, is commonplace at college. Sometimes it can be hard to deal with stress on your own, and it's unhealthy to ignore it. It can intrude into other areas of your life and affect your physical health, so it is important to address any mental health problems you may be experiencing. If you feel yourself extremely overwhelmed at college, talk to the on-campus therapist, or at least to some friends if you aren't comfortable going to a therapist. It is important to find the best way for you to deal with and manage your stress.
Everyone knows that college textbooks are expensive. However, there are a couple of ways around this. Since I already had to pay a lot for plane tickets, I had to find ways to save, and one of these ways was to find different methods of getting books aside from the college bookstore (since they can be ridiculously expensive there). See if your college library has the books you need for your classes, and if they don't, utilize interlibrary loans in case another college has the books you need. Also look for used or for rent textbooks online as they'll be cheaper than buying new. If you are strapped for money, get an on-campus job. They may not always pay a lot, but it's better than nothing. Take advantage of study abroad. Your college most likely has programs with international schools that'll give you the chance to learn in a new environment with the added bonus of travel.
Not everyone's college experience is the same, so don't compare your college experience to others. When in doubt, there is always someone you can talk to, whether it is friends, professors, or someone in administration. Some people might have things completely figured out, and you may feel that you don't, but it just takes a bit of time for you to figure out exactly what it is that you want to study, so don't be too hard on yourself.