Nine things I wish I had known before leaving for college

1. Pick your major as soon as possible.
They always say, “You can change your major whenever, or just get the required courses out of the way first.”  However, in retrospect I wish I had come into college with a clearer picture of what it was I wanted to do.  The more time you spend in a major the better relationships you’ll have with professors and the department, the more flexibility you’ll have with what classes you would like to take down the road and if you decide to pick up a second major you’ll most likely be able to if you got a jump on your first.

2. There is always time for exercise.
You might think that staying in the library six hours straight, working really hard on that lengthy paper (and by working really hard I mean working sort of hard while also Facebook chatting and only completing two or three pages) is the studious thing to do. You’re positive you simply do not have time to fit in a thirty minute jog or a game of basketball—wrong.  I’ve found that when instead of chatting and surfing for my hour break I go get a little exercise my brain is significantly more alert and ready to tackle the rest of that paper, much more so than if I spent my break numbingly staring at my computer.

3.  How to properly study.
This may sound silly; how could you make it through college without knowing how to study? The key word here is properly.  You will notice as you go through college that there are kids who cram and regurgitate before each exam and then there are students who are able to relate that economics theory to the finance class they are taking two semesters later. Be the latter type of student. It may take a little more time in the beginning, but I would have saved myself a few late nights had I learned how to properly learn.

 4. Take advantage of everything, really everything, that’s free.
Upon returning from my pricey study abroad semester my junior year I adopted a new motto, “If it’s for free, it’s for me.”  Colleges offer their students a ridiculous amount of free opportunities; concerts, guest speakers, meals, tickets, free-you-name-its. Never again in your life, or any life path I’ve thought of except maybe being a movie star, will you have so many free opportunities. Go take advantage of them all!

5.  Avoid the FOMO.
FOMO (pronounced just like it looks: fo-mo) is short for Fear Of Missing Out. College freshman routinely get into the habit of feeling as if they must be at every party, every football game, and be in every club, and soon they start to forget about some of the basic human needs, such as sleep. I wish someone would have sat me down and told me that if I stayed in one weekend, no one was going to forget that I existed and my body would thank me for it later. Balance is the key to sanity.

6. Be a diverse leader.
In addition to offering students free concert tickets, colleges offer their students with a plethora of free opportunities to be leaders. Go lead something. When you graduate, you may have two internships and a summer job on your resume under your ‘work experience,’ like all other college graduates; but your extracurricular experience is where you can shine. It doesn’t matter what you lead – the Italian literature book club, the kayak club, or a Thursday talk radio show – but you need to lead something you consider to be of value and which will demonstrate to your future employers that you are capable of being a frontrunner.

7. Personal finances.
What is a 401K?  Is it more profitable to be paid hourly or should I accept a salary? If I want to buy a house in five years how much should I be saving each month?  I would bet that 95% of my peers, me included, could not give you definitive answers to any of those questions.  If your college offers a class on personal finances, take it.

8. It is never a waste of time to shop around for your textbooks.
Those ridiculous $400 textbooks that you will use for three months and never look at again are a waste of your $400 dollars.  If Amazon is selling the book you need in used form for $50 less, buy that one.  Or if possible don’t buy the book at all.  There are many online sites and school bookstores that will rent you the textbook for a third of the price; you won’t be able to write in them but I think it’s worth saving the $350 and buying a notebook instead.

9. Shoot for the moon, but don’t expect to hit it immediately.
Having goals for post-graduation is obviously important. However, it is important to remember that you may not be doing your dream job the first September out of school.  Building a career or even finding something worthy of being your career takes time.  That may be two years, that may be ten, or maybe you will be like some of my old professors who never stop searching for what makes them tick.  Like all good things they say come with time, I am planning on my career following suit.         

 Blake Dowling is a student at the Daniels College of Business where she is studying to earn her Bachelor’s degree in marketing.  Blake is also a dedicated volunteer for Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc. where she teaches younger students about the importance of staying in school.