Throughout my last few years of school, I’ve come to discover many different things about who I am as a person and where I am going. The college lifestyle is known for being a wake up call to many; you learn to (finally) do laundry (as well as appreciate your mom doing it for you the past 18 years and as when you come home), make new friends, discover your path in life (even though it’s constantly being adjusted) and many more! I would have never guessed that in two years, I would be the person I am today, with the knowledge I have, with the things that I have accomplished so far. I am so grateful for what I have learned (some, the hard way) and you will be too! Everyone’s journey is different and no two are the same, but here are the top 50 things that I have learned in my short two years at school so far:
1. Call your mom: You know, for the first time you ever do laundry and even though it seems self explanatory and the washing machine looks foreign with ten thousand different buttons. Or, for the time when you go through a painful break-up. Or, for the time where you just need someone to listen. Or, for the… well, just call your mom. For everything. She misses you more than you ever have time to even miss her. (Hi mom, love you).
2. Call your dad: I’ve heard the typical “don’t forget to call your mom” in college saying about a thousand times, but you have two parents (for those who are fortunate)! Whenever something big happens for me in my life and I reach a goal or get a good grade on a test, I reach for my phone, navigate to my favorites page on my call list and make sure to call BOTH of my parents. Even though your mom may know about more about “how to survive,” your dad misses you just as much and wants to hear from you too. (Hi dad, love you too).
3. No party or night out is worth a bad grade on a test: I’ve heard the saying “you can never relive a party but you can always retake a class.” ERR wrong, try again. I don’t care if your parents are paying for your entire schooling, don’t waste the time and money on the class if you aren’t going to put all of your effort into it. Tuition costs too much nowadays for you to afford to take advantage of it, just because you had FOMO (fear of missing out). Your friends will understand and trust me, it will be worth it when you get just that much better grade on your assignment.
4. If you struggle early on in a class, get help right away!: Nothing is worse than reaching the midterm or final and realizing that you understand just about nothing (believe me, I’ve been there. Calculus, not my strong suit). My professor was hard to understand and my T.A. confused me more than he helped me but I got help when I needed it from others. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling! Don’t sacrifice your better grade for your pride issue; admit that you don’t understand something and then take action to continue along smoothly in the class.
5. An all-nighter seems like a great idea, until the morning comes: Ever heard of someone pulling an all-nighter in college? Yeah, you along with everyone else has heard of the dreaded cram session the night before an exam but I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly how NOT to do it. Make sure to plan out a study schedule and create study habits that work for you; this way you will be all studied AND rested up come your exam!
6. Go to class, even when you don’t want to so you can afford to miss when you REALLY don’t want to: I know this is easier said then done, especially with a jam-packed schedule and during the winter months. I’ve fallen victim to this more than once and I’m here to tell you, learn from my mistake. There have been times where I just really didn’t feel like going to my last class of the day and said to myself, “oh, you can just get the notes online.” Boom, I’ve already lost because A. I’ve just given myself a semi-valid reason to skip, B. I know I probably won’t take those notes until the day before the test and C. there’s a high chance I’m going to go back home and watch three hours of Netflix. It pays to go people!! Your professors not only go through the lecture slides step-by-step but they explain them to you which is something you can’t do to yourself when just reading them off of your laptop screen! Even when you “just don’t feel like it,” GO because I promise on the days when you are extremely sick with a cold and dying from a migraine, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself missing out knowing that you have attended most classes prior.
(It was then realized by myself at this point that this post is going to stretch on for ages if I write a paragraph for every. single. point).
Carry on 🙂
7. Make time for naps almost every day, you’ll thank yourself: I feel as this one is self-explanatory but, to emphasize, you’re going to be exhausted after spending most of your energy studying and going to class. Always schedule a nap. Always.
8. Take LOTS of pictures: I’m naturally an excessive photo-taker but I feel like everyone in college should be. When people say these are the best couple years of their life, they mean it. Make sure to document every moment you can.
9. Try new things: College is a time to find who you truly are and try things you otherwise wouldn’t have. If you feel the need, reinvent yourself and become who you truly want to be. Keep the negativity and judgement from high school in the past and live your life the way you want to, your self-love will grow exponentially.
10. Rid yourself of negativity: Branching off from the prior, if there is anything that is holding you back from doing this, rid yourself of it. There is no reason you need to be allowing for negative energy to enter your life. Whether that be the environment you’re living in, how you choose to spend your time or even the people you surround yourself with, make sure they are impacting you positively.
11. Read for fun (when you have time): Your classes will consist of a lot of reading no doubt. But, if you have time, it’s beneficial to make a small amount of time available for things you want to read. This will ensure that reading won’t entirely become a chore for you and will give you a chance to take a break from your daily class readings.
12. Find your passion: Your interests and what you like are constantly changing and unfolding. Your college years are your time to find your passion, find a major that aligns with your passion and ultimately, find a job that suits you well. Never settle for anything in life, especially for a future doing something you dislike.
13. Check in with old friends here and there, they are just as important as your new friends: When you visit home or other college towns, visit your old high school friends! Nothing is better than exchanging your own college stories with each other and introducing your new friends to them.
14. Always trust your gut: If something feels wrong, it probably is. Always follow what your heart and mind are telling you, even if it’s not what the majority thinks. What you think is the most important opinion in your eyes.
15. Coffee works wonders: My Keurig was my LIFESAVER. If you weren’t a coffee drinker prior to college, become one. Even if you have to add an excessive amount of creamer (or almond milk to be healthy), having coffee handy during a Friday morning class after a Thursday night will help you out a lot more than you think.
16. Have someone to turn to when you need help or just need to talk, and utilize them when you need to: Nothing will hinder your growth more than keeping things in and not talking about things when you need to. My best friend and I always knew that we always had each other to listen, no matter how big or small the topic of discussion.
17. Keep your syllabi handy, they are your lifeline to surviving a class: The moment you get your syllabus for a class, print that baby off and keep it handy in your backpack at all times. If you take it out to look at it, put it back when you’re done. Being able to check the schedules of your classes at any time to see when assignments are due will save you a lot of time and stress.
18. USE A PLANNER: I legit almost made 5 of these 50 points to say “use a planner” but I figured that would get annoying and repetitive. But, nonetheless, that’s just how important using a planner in college is. Yeah, you could probably get by in high school without one and still get decent grades but I can promise you right now, in college, you have so many things going on that sometimes you can’t even hear yourself think. Having your schedule and agenda written down in front of you will help you organize your thoughts just that much more.
19. If you aren’t completely in love with the school you attend, TRANSFER; you aren’t paying thousands of dollars to attend a school you hate: About a month and a half after starting my college career as a freshman, I already knew the college I was currently attending was not for me. If you don’t feel at home and aren’t extremely and undeniably in love with where you go to school, chances are, it’s not meant for you! Transferring is OKAY, I did it and so can you. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, doing what’s best for you is always the correct option.
20. Record videos when you go out, they’ll give you a good laugh in the morning: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least 30 videos recorded on my phone from each night out. Yeah they start to take up room on your phone and chances are you’re going to have to delete most, but nothing is funnier than laughing uncontrollably at yourself and your friends from everything you did the night before. Make sure to save some as well, you’re going to want to look back on the best memories when you need a laugh.
21. Always be pushing yourself to do better and try harder: You aren’t growing if you aren’t pushing yourself. Always continue to do new things, try things you wouldn’t have in the past, make new friends, set goals for yourself and work towards those goals. Your time in college is too precious to waste it being a version of yourself you don’t love.
22. Never go anywhere without an umbrella: Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, it can pop up out of nowhere (trust me). Never leave home without an umbrella in your backpack. They don’t take up much space and will keep you dry should you encounter an unexpected rain storm.
23. The freshman 15 is REAL, even when you aren’t a freshman: To be honest, COMPLETELY HONEST, with you guys, I gained more weight my sophomore year of school than I did my freshman year. I’ve talked about in the past how I struggled my freshman year with a lot of things including anxiety, homesickness, a little depression and feeling as if I didn’t belong where I was. This kept my appetite low and I never really experienced the freshman 15 in it’s true form. However, this past year, once I transferred to the college of my dreams and felt more comfortable with where I was at, this began to go away. This winter was extremely harsh and lasted for months, causing everyone (including myself) to want to stay inside, and do nothing but watch Netflix, study and eat food. You don’t really notice how much it adds up until you get home and realize that this lifestyle and being stuck inside all year hasn’t done wonders for your body. Be more aware of the foods you are putting into your body, especially the instant ramen and microwavable mac and cheese. It may seem easy and convenient at the time when you don’t want to run to the dining hall to get a salad, but trust me, you will regret it (I know I did). (Side note: I’ve been trying to lose weight after I got home from school this summer and have already lost 9 pounds! With the opportunity to have my own apartment this year, I hope to make healthier meals and fuel my body with more things that are good for it!)
24. There’s nothing that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Netflix can’t fix: I can vividly remember at least 5 times that a pint of ice cream has changed my life for the better. These include, but are not limited to: helping a friend get through a break-up, giving me an excuse to take a study break, creating an inexpensive date idea, feeding my cravings during that time of the month and giving me a boost of energy and motivation to finish a paper at 2am.
25. Go home when you need to: Miss your mom’s hugs? Want to see your dog that you haven’t seen in ages? Longing for a shower without shower shoes? Visit home! As long as you don’t do it often, visiting home every once and awhile will not only give you an excuse to take a break for a few days, but it will also fill your belly with many large, home-cooked family meals that you just can’t get anywhere else.
26. Attend as many school games/events as you can: Nothing is a better stress-reliever than attending a football game on a Saturday with all of your friends. Of course, your studies should always come first and you should not be in attendance if you have work to do, but if you can make time, always take the opportunity to experience your campus outside of the classroom!
27. Get involved: I’ve discovered some of the most important things about myself and made a variety of new friends by getting involved on campus. By diving into your interests outside of your schedule, not only are you able to express your interests, but you’re able to meet and become friends with people that have the same interests as you! 10/10, would highly recommend.
28. Don’t always be so serious, make sure to make time for fun too: I’ve met people in college who are always so serious about everything!! Don’t get me wrong, your studies are always your number one priority but don’t forget to make time for fun! You have your whole life to be serious and work hard at your job, have fun and enjoy your time being young with your friends while you can!
29. Know what you’re doing when it comes to your classes, even if your advisor doesn’t: The size of the university does not matter, I’ve now spent a year at a university with an enrollment of 10,000 and one with 30-40,000, advisors don’t always know what’s best for you, only YOU know what’s best for you. Learn how to read your major report and what classes you need to take to finish school in the least amount of time possible. Nothing is more satisfying than taking control of your future and knowing the path that you are leading yourself down.
30. Check your grades often: It’s always important to know where you stand in your class and how you can improve your grade in places where it needs work. Check your online sites where grades are posted and make sure you are aware of your standings at all times. Not only will this help bring you to reality as to how you are doing in a class, but the quicker you realize you may be struggling, the quicker you can get help and turn your grade back around.
31. Never let your friend go to bed upset: Always be a supportive friend and always be there for the people you care about. It’s always more rewarding to know that you helped a friend through a hard time when they couldn’t get through it alone.
32. If a friend lets you go to bed upset, they’re not your friend: Plain and simple, surround yourself with people that genuinely care for you and accept you for who you are, AT ALL TIMES. No halfsies, no being your friend on the weekends but not during the weekdays, none of that. Quality of friends over quantity of friends, always.
33. Treat yourself every once and awhile: With all the hard work you put in and all the exhaustion that comes from it, you deserve a reward every now and then from yourself. That cute romper you’ve been eyeing up in the window of your favorite clothing store on your walk to class every morning? Set a small goal for the week that you’re dreading accomplishing and if you succeed, that romper has your name all over it. However, don’t let this become a habit. Learn to only treat yourself ONCE and awhile, it’s not a treat if you do it every other day (sorry to break it to you for those that use this as an excuse for your online shopping addiction).
34. Don’t let people walk all over you: I hope you got all of that out of your system in high school (I know I did) because it’s time to put your foot down and stand up for yourself, who you are, and what you believe in. After all, you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t. I remember I was so scared to be who I wanted to be and do things I wanted to do because I lived in fear that others would judge. I searched for acceptance from everyone and I mean EVERYONE. No more of that. At the end of the day, the only person you will always have is yourself so take control and don’t let anyone else hold the reigns to the way you live your life.
35. Take the opportunity to thank your parents every chance you get: I would not be where I am today without the help, love and guidance of my parents. I am very fortunate for how I was raised and I owe all of my maturity and self-respect to my parents. Yes, they were hard on me as I grew up but I would like to think it has paid off. We aren’t the richest family in the world, but my parents do everything they can to help my sister and I succeed and for that, I will be forever grateful. (Once again, hey guys I love you).
36. Don’t give up, even when you want to/feel like it: Trust me, there will be times where you just want to throw in the towel, burn all your notebooks, toss your laptop out the window and move to Las Vegas and become a stripper (it was a serious consideration of mine and my best friend’s for like five minutes one time). But, in these trying times, let yourself have a moment but then pick yourself back up and carry on. Stripper’s only make money when they’re young. Pain is temporary, but a life-sustaining job is forever. You got it, I believe in you.
37. Find your favorite study spots, use them often: For those who attend UW Madison, it seems as if EVERYONE choses College Library to study, especially right before finals. Yes, the library is a great spot and resource, but college campuses are large and more often than not, are connected to a town with coffee shops and other public spaces! Find the ones you love most and that make studying for you the easiest.
38. You’re going to cry, a lot: It’s inevitable, babe. No matter how much you try to run from it. The real question is, is how many times. I’m a very emotional person so if I was under heavy amounts of stress, it was only a matter of time before I would breakdown and have a moment. Some of us are better than others at holding back the tears, but there will be moments where you just need to be alone and let it all out. I promise you that you aren’t a failure and I promise that this isn’t just happening to you, everyone experiences stress, heartbreak, large workloads, and everything else that may cause you to be in the situation you’re in. It’s okay to cry, as long as you pick yourself back up afterwards.
39. There’s nothing better than curling up in bed on a Sunday night with your favorite Netflix show after you finished all of your homework and prep work for the week: Like I said before, nothing feels better than rewarding yourself after a hard day of work. Sunday’s were strictly reserved for looking ratchet while laying in bed and spending hours on end on my laptop prepping for my week ahead and finishing any homework I had left. Once I completed everything I had to do, I would reward myself with an episode or two. Talk about a healthy balance, am I right?
40. Eating out is not a necessity: I may have gotten sick of ramen noodles to the point where I couldn’t even look at them anymore but at least I saved myself some money by not buying a $10 salad for lunch everyday. (I mean, do the math people. That’s spending $100 in ten days, just on ONE meal. My budget just can’t support that boujee lifestyle right now). Go out to eat on occasion and save your money for when you really need it. (Exception: Tutto Pasta Penne Vodka with extra sauce and no onions. I will ALWAYS be down to eat here, no matter the time or day.)
41. Don’t go clothes shopping every week, you’ll run out of money faster than you can say the word “broke”: College is the time to save your money and prepare for your future! Use your money to buy groceries and other things that you need, online shopping three times a weeks is just not necessary considering more than half the items in your closet are rarely ever worn.
42. Everyone is in the same position as you: I guarantee that even the people that seem like they have their life together, don’t. Everyone is struggling just like you, trying to find their path in life as well as even trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. College is not a smooth ride and I promise that whatever you’re going through, someone else is going through the same thing too.
43. Get to know your professors if you have the chance: Because the university I attended my freshman year was fairly small, I made a point to introduce myself to each of my professors on the first day of class. Not only did this show them that I was serious about taking their class, but they were also more willing to compromise with me and help me out if I ever ran into trouble in their class. I have found it is a little harder to make these connections at a much larger university but if you work hard enough at it, you can make it work!
44. Never schedule an 8am on a Friday, just don’t do it: Yeah, Thirsty Thursday is a thing people and sometimes you’re going to want to be in attendance for it. Even if you think you’re going to make it, you’re not so don’t even try. Might as well not even set yourself up for failure and just avoid scheduling it altogether.
45. ALWAYS take the opportunity for free stuff: Event on campus with free food? Go. An opportunity for a free T-shirt? Take it. Coupons for pizza delivery? Use them. If I haven’t stressed the importance of saving money already, I hope I have now. Free stuff is the best stuff, don’t EVEN @ me on this one.
46. Wear jeans or dress nicely for class sometimes, it actually makes you more alert: If you attend class in a messy pony and sweatshirt while wearing your classes, I promise the only thing you’re going to think about the entire time is your bed and how much you would rather be in it. Take the time some mornings to put an outfit together and get ready for the day. Not only will you be more alert in class, but you will also be more productive throughout the day.
47. USE RATEMYPROFESSOR.COM: I can’t tell you how much of a lifesaver this website is. Want to take a class but scared about how tough the professor or coursework is? Look it up on ratemyprofessor.com. I’ve never not used it and with the circumstances I’ve been in and the required classes I’ve had to take, I’ve never taken a professor with a rating below a 3.0 (on a 5.0 scale). Read the reviews and make sure you are prepared for what the class has to offer before you sign up; you will thank yourself later when others are complaining about how terrible a professor is and you knew ahead of time not to take that class for that sole reason.
48. Don’t even try to make up a lie as to why your assignment or essay is late, your professor has heard every excuse in the book, and then some: Y’all, your professors are sometimes older than the textbooks you’re using in that class. Don’t even try to make up a new excuse, just accept the fact that it’s late, own up to it and be better next time. Just don’t let yourself fall into a habit of turning in things late. I mean, we’re human and sometimes things just slip our mind. But the more we can prevent it, the more successful we will be (USE A PLANNER!!!).
49. Exercise and use the gym: Living in Wisconsin and attending college is probably the worst combination possible because the majority of the months spent in school are cold, wet and snowy. I don’t know about y’all, but all I want to do is stay inside and eat food while either studying or watching Netflix. Don’t accumulate those dreaded 15 pounds (or more) and find a way to stay healthy (one thing I need to do better with this year, thank GOD I have an apartment finally which will make it easier to do this).
And, last but not least…
50. BE YOURSELF: Life is too short to spend time being someone that you’re not. Branch out, spread your wings and take full advantage of this opportunity you have right in front of you to become the best and most alive version of yourself that you could ever be. Always do what makes you happy and never settle for anything less.
4,681 words, many finger cramps and hours spent writing later, I have finished my favorite blog post to date! These are my top 50 things and I guarantee I’m not even close to learning everything there is about living the college lifestyle (as I don’t think anyone ever does). Take these into consideration as you embark on your new journey and start a new chapter of your life! Not only will you be more successful, but you will live a more fulfilling and rewarding couple of years. I don’t have it all figured out and I’m still learning, just like everyone else but I’m thankful to be where I am today and I cannot wait to see what’s ahead of me.