6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started College

First, call your mom just enough (but not too much).

08.08.16
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College is more glorified than dudes who are good at throwing balls. We’re often told, at least in America, that those four years are the pinnacle of existence, the peak from which the rest of our lives tumbles in a slovenly avalanche of unwanted responsibility and general despair. The advice oft given to college-bound kids — to ENJOY IT, like, please please please just enjoy it — is tried and it may be true, but when has the panic-stricken demand to enjoy something ever been effective?

I spent my entire senior year of college attempting to time-hop my consciousness to the future so that I could properly see the present for what it was: my last and final chance of having ANY FUN. (Or that’s what older people would have had me believe.) But I knew it was futile. Nostalgia paints things in too bright of colors.

If you’re heading to college this fall, try accepting right now that you won’t necessarily understand what your college experience will mean to you while you’re in it. And also accept that it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning! Every stage in life brings new joys and challenges and change keeps our bones healthy. Not that I’m a doctor.

That said, here are six things that actually would’ve helped me had I known them when I started.

1. You’re either a person who does the reading throughout the semester or all at once at the end of it.

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One of these will seem reasonable to you and the other will seem psychopathic, and either could send you into a nocturnal tailspin depending on the way your brain works. Decide which is for you and plan accordingly. Or just stay in denial for all of college like I did.

2. The tradition of getting ready for a night out and then rehashing it the next morning will often trump the night itself.

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The memories of curling my roommates’ hair one-by-one to a score of “Stronger” by Kanye West (weird how 2007 was only a couple years ago, am I right?) and then laughing, 12 hours later, in a sweatpants-clad circle on the floor hold such a special place in my heart. Whatever about the night in-between. Outside of the bubble of college, that kind of nonstop indulgent girl time gets increasingly difficult to recreate. Cherish it. It’s pure.

3. An unhealthy obsession with diet and fitness will rob you of a lot of fun.

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Most people I know had a regrettable “health” phase during college. Mine was freshman year during which I spent a lot of time counting calories and making my way towards the 50-minute mark on the treadmill. I can say with confidence that wasn’t worth it; I regret the shallow pockets in which I invested my self-worth.

It’s not always easy, but try not to waste your valuable energy on vapid pursuits. You’ll grow and learn and flourish more outside of those shadows.

4. All the trendy fast fashion you buy will burn a hole in your measly bank account/soul.

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Three words: Going. Out. Tops.

No no no no no no. The number of times I raided Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters during my college years is shameful. I wasted so many of my computer lab paychecks (yep) on piles of cheap clothes. You likely have superior taste than me already, but try to be more thoughtful and pointed when it comes to building a closet. Your bank account and future self will be grateful.

5. You won’t know what you want to do for a very, very long time, but don’t stop trying to find out.

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The passage of time in college will not guarantee you an answer about what you want to do with your life. In fact, you may never have that answer. EVER. But don’t stop trying to figure it out by trying stuff. Not to be a crocheted pillow, but you’ll learn more in college outside of the classroom. Majors and courses matter less than you think. (Unless, you know, you’re studying to be a doctor or a lawyer or something highly specialized. In which case: please pay attention!!!) Everyone: stay curious.

6. Life will still be fun after college.

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Don’t be haunted by everyone claiming that “college is the best four years of your life SO YOU BETTER ENJOY IT.” College isn’t everyone’s favorite time in life nor is it even possible to contextualize the enjoyment of it without some distance from it. Just do your best to be present, heed the above tips, and know that a shit ton of fun awaits you in your post-college life, too.

Illustrations by Emily Zirimis.

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