You only get the amazing experience of college once in your life. Sometimes this experience is the best in your life, and at other times, even the strongest people want to give up and cry.
You’ll encounter a big learning curve as you transition from high school to college. For probably the first time in your life, you’re living on your own, making important life decisions, meeting new people and trying to pick a career. To top it off, you’re still a teenager.
You’re bound to make some mistakes. That’s OK. The good news is that many have gone before you and learned their lessons the hard way. I’m here to share with you nine things I wish someone had told me before I started college:
1. Don’t buy books at the bookstore
Campus bookstores are ridiculously overpriced. Yes, your bookstore is convenient, but when you think outside the bookstore box, you can save tremendously on textbooks.
It’s cheaper to buy your books online. Buy your books used on Amazon if possible. At the semester’s end, you can head back to Amazon to re-sell your books to other budget-conscious students. This tip will literally save you hundreds of dollars per semester. Use this tip to stretch your budget and spend your savings on groceries (or beer) instead.
2. Get to know your professors
Brown-nosing has its perks. I’m not saying your professors will absolutely play favorites… actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Go to their office hours to chat about how you’re doing in class and ask questions. Lots of questions.
College professors can seem intimidating at first. But once you get to know them, you’ll notice they have a lot of insight to offer.
Go in weekly, chat ‘em up and before you know it, they’ll be buying you coffee and inviting you to golf on the weekends.
3. Understand the value of unpaid internships
If you graduate with no work experience, the job market will be tough, no matter how good your grades were in college. Employers like to hire graduates with some related work experience.
Apply for as many internships as you can find in your field, and do it early. Take the best one you can get with the most reputable company. Adding a good internship to your resume is the best way to land a job after college.
4. Get involved on campus
Your college will have tons of activities you can get involved in. You’ll find everything from rock climbing clubs to financial management clubs. Join whatever club relates to your major, and try out some fun ones, too.
You’ll meet awesome people and build your resume at the same time. Many of the academic-based clubs will help you to meet potential employers and get to know their hiring managers. Take advantage of these opportunities, even though graduation is still a few years out. The earlier you start networking, the more connections you’ll build — and the better chances you’ll have of getting hired once you have your diploma.
5. Study something you’re actually interested in
Most people don’t know what they want to do after college, and that’s perfectly OK. Specialization is overrated, anyway.
Take classes in several subjects and see what you like. Don’t be afraid to switch majors — it’s more common than you think, and it’s easier than switching careers down the line.
In the long run, you’ll be happy you pursued something you were passionate about.
6. Make the cloud your best campus friend
Back up every paper, project and essay you write so it’s available on any computer with Internet access.
You won’t believe how awesome cloud backup really is until you get to your lit class only to realize you forgot the essay you stayed up all night writing in your dorm. If you backed it up on Google Drive or Dropbox, all you have to do is go to the nearest computer lab and print a new one.
7. Get out of the dorm to study
The library is a good place to get in study time because you can focus better when everyone else is also studying. You might prefer a coffee shop or the campus union as your study headquarters. Try out different locations to see what works best for you.
Just don’t study in your dorm or apartment. Your grades will suffer if you try to study in the same place your friends are playing beer pong and blaring Macklemore.
8. Find ways to meet people you wouldn’t have met otherwise
College is one of the best opportunities in your life to meet new people and create long-lasting relationships. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Meet as many people as you can and stay close with the ones who are important.
Of course, new friends will make college fun, but they could also help you land jobs down the road. Networking will help you find work opportunities just as much (or more than) good grades.
9. Prepare for these four years to fly by
As a college student, it’s easy to get caught up in passing your classes. But with all the focus on GPA, you might miss one simple fact: College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You only get one shot at living in the dorms, meeting so many new people in such a short amount of time and playing beer pong at random parties. Revel in those moments and take the time to enjoy yourself, because these four years fly by too quickly.