Everyone thinks they know what to expect when they start college: everything is so new, and so exciting. But often, the reality is much different, and with no preparation besides everyone in your life telling you that “college were the best years of my life,” sometimes you don’t know what to expect. Here’s what I wish I knew before starting college.
Internships are your ticket to jobs
Starting as early as sophomore year, start interning, and don’t stop until you’ve graduated. Interning a lot gives you so many advantages. One major advantage is work experience — you’ll gain hands-on knowledge about the industry you’ll purportedly enter post graduation, so you’ll find out if you can actually stand it or not. When I worked as an intern in a few offices during my tenure as a student, I was able to rule out a couple of industries, and eventually, figure out where I actually wanted to work.
Interning also makes connections, i.e. people who know you and whom you can harass for a job later in life. Bonus points if you find an internship you love and manage to keep that internship past one semester. That company will begin to rely on you heavily during that year or perhaps even longer, making you eventually indispensable to the running of their business. Why hire an outsider when you already know everything, and do it all so well?
I know some people who never bothered with internships, and their success rate at applying to jobs is close to nil. Internships > classes. It’s the difficult truth.
Sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice frivolity
There’s an enticing stereotype about college — that it’s nothing but one long party. And unfortunately, unless you go to a crazy party school and you’ve somehow managed to memorize your course books on day one, being in college means a lot of nights spent doing absolutely nothing except studying. No student, no matter their major, is exempt from reading long, difficult texts. Going to a liberal arts school especially means taking core classes you will hate, but that you’ll have to pass in order to keep your GPA, your scholarship, or even your status as student.
Being in college means being an adult (up to a point) and you’ll have to learn quickly how to manage work and play.
Go to every party and event that you can
You know what I’m going to say here, don’t you? You only live once. College passes by in a blur of frenzied activity, so know when to push yourself to go out, and when you think it’s best to stay in with Chaucer. It’s a difficult choice to make, but becoming a part of campus life means making memories that will last forever.
You may end up hating everyone
By the end of my college career, I felt similarly to the way I felt at the end of high school: totally and completely done with it, and eager to start a new life. While I had some very close, very good friends, at the end of four years, the insular nature of campus life did begin to weigh on me. There are only so many times you can pass your exes on campus and your horrible Study Abroad flatmates before you begin to yearn for new places and new people. You just start to outgrow it all.
That restlessness is good, because it means you’ve not only graduated from college, but that you’ve graduated into another adventure.
Cultivate some kind of independence
Both financial independence and independence from others. If you have a loan, consider getting a part-time job to start paying it back while you’re in school — your future self will tearfully thank you. If your parents are footing the bill, still get that part-time job so you won’t have to rely on mommy to refill your checking account whenever you go on beer and ramen runs. It sounds terrible, but so many people don’t know how to function post graduation when suddenly, they’re expected to handle everything and they have no prior experience doing so.
Independence also means having some kind of life outside your circle of friends, whether it’s joining a new club every semester to meet new people, going out with fellow interns after hours, or staying in close touch with old friends, being in college doesn’t mean you’re cut off from the world, even though it feels that way. Four years are over quickly, and no one prepares you for what’s next but yourself.