9 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started College

9 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started College

An open letter of advice to my sister, Sarah, and all others who are beginning their college journey:

Well, first things first…

Things costs money.

I had a part-time job on campus 3 out of my 4 years of college. Even when I was living on campus, had no responsibilities, and had food that was covered by tuition, I have no idea where my money went. I didn’t save a penny. It wasn’t until my junior year when I moved into a townhouse with 4 other girls that I learned to budget- fast. Each month I had my rent/bills/groceries budgeted down to the dollar. I was using Mint.com a lot (see my post talking about it here. I remember one month when I had just paid rent and the few bills I had and just bought the cheapest groceries I could afford and I had $1.50 in my bank account. But hey, at least everything was paid for. In those times, though, I really wish I had saved my money when my responsibilities were a little less expensive.

Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you should eat it.

college chubs vs nowHere’s a picture of me beginning my sophomore year of college (19 years old, no children) paired with a picture of me now (23, one child). I had no idea at the time that had even gained weight. I was living under the idea that I was young and I could take advantage of a young metabolism. I had no idea what portion control was (which is a problem when there’s free food at your fingertips), I ate when my friends ate (not necessarily when I was hungry), I had unhealthy snacks on hand, and I had sugary coffee A LOT. What’s the difference between then and now? Well everything I eat now is something I have to prepare, even if it’s just a little bit. As I’ve mentioned before, Josh and I have majorly cut back on sugar (I only drink my coffee with unsweetened almond milk now, plus many other not so hard habit changes), I’ve realized that just because it’s there doesn’t mean I need to eat it, and I make much more of an effort to exercise even if it’s just an hour every other day.

There is no more “popular crowd”

This isn’t high school where everyone knows who is popular (even if it’s not said out loud) and who’s awkward. In college, there are so many opportunities to make friends and join different groups that there is a much smaller chance of being the left-out awkward one. Even if you have to go to dinner by yourself some night, no one is thinking “Who’s the weirdo sitting alone?” Hopefully at this point, students have matured enough to know that you don’t need to be surrounded by loud people all the time to be validated

Not every color goes with every other color.

Sorry if this sounds random. This was more of a personal problem- it probably doesn’t apply to most of the people reading this. I used to dress as if I thought all the colors of the rainbow matched. In hindsight it was kind of cute and quirky, but I also think to myself “GOSH what was I doing??” And then pinterest was invented and I was saved. Moving on.

“The test will pretty much be common sense anyway” is false.

I graduated high school with a GPA of 3.8. I’m not going to tell you what my GPA was in college, because it’s that embarrassing. The thing is, I loved my classes. I loved sitting at my desk and listening to the professors, learning new things. What went wrong? I never studied. I had the self motivation of a snail and spent way too much time with my silly boyfriend (jk- he’s my husband now. But really though, we spent way too much time together. He agrees). You’re in college to get a degree. Yeah you’ll make awesome friends, awesome memories, maybe even meet the person you marry, but work hard. Those 4 (or 5, or 6) years are going to fly and you’ll get senioritis a lot faster in college than you did in high school. Work hard now- you’ll develop great habits and it’ll pay off later.

Professors aren’t scary.

Hey get this- professors want you to do well in their classes! Yeah they may seem intimidating, some may even try to come off as mean (some might just be mean) but most professors love what they do and love seeing students who love their subject and love to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, stay after class, or meet them during office hours if you need help. More than likely they’ll be happy to guide you through a legitimate question. Be teachable and treat them like real people who probably know more about something than you, but want to help you.

Be a friend, make a friend.

I can usually take a while to make a good friend. And most of the time it has to happen in the context of something (small groups, work, etc.). I find that the way I talk with people when I first meet them is completely different than if we were friends. If I’m keen enough to notice that I’m doing this when I meet a new person, I make a conscious effort to believe that they’re already my friend, and it takes a load off the friend-making! This isn’t saying that faking to be someone’s friend is how to make friends. Quite contrare. Be sincere, be generous, be helpful, make jokes, be relatable. In the end all it usually takes to make a friend is to be a friend!

Guys make you nervous? Make them nervous.

It’s pretty inevitable that during college, some guys will want to date you. That being said, don’t be afraid to show your confidence! Say what you’re thinking! Don’t be afraid to give your opinion before you’ve heard theirs. This isn’t at all to say that thinking before speaking is out the window, I’m just saying that if you want to lose the awkwardness around guys, just be confident and be yourself. If they turn out not to like that, it spares you the heartache of dealing with bigger issues down the road. Beyond beauty and body image, men find confidence attractive. And it’s not a bad thing to have a guy who is a little bit nervous to ask you out 🙂

*NOTE* Just because a guy may not like a certain quality about you doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. I think in our culture today we have way too much of a “my way or the highway” attitude. I ended up dating a very mature guy in college (his name’s Josh 😉 ) and I wouldn’t be who I am today without him being honest with me and telling me things that I need to work on, grow in, or just plain cut out of my life. This happened when we were already dating, however, and somewhat committed to each other. Let me exaggerate, though, that this was done from someone who was mature and done in humility, not for selfish gain. If the man in your life is asking you to make a change and there’s a chance his motives are mature and humble, it may be time to do some self eval. Ok- enough on that!

Just because you grew up with things a certain way all your life, doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

In college you’re going to live with lots of different people. I lived on two different dorms, in a townhouse, and then with Josh when we got married our senior year. Every single time there was conflict. Yes, lots of times the people I lived with were just slobs. There will be those. But lots of the times I was just used to a certain way of things being done and it ruffled my feathers a little bit when someone else did it differently. You’ll have roommates that are just plain lazy and they will drive you nuts. Maybe you’ll be that roommate (sometimes I was). You’ll have roommates that will come from families that fight as their normal means of conversation you’ll have to be the person who chooses to make it worse or make it better. my junior year I lived in a house with 4 other girls. Every once in a while we had “meetings” basically just to bring up what had angered us recently. One roommate was frustrated that her laundry had been “carelessly” plopped on her bed (when it had been sitting in the dryer for 2 days) and that it hadn’t been folded for her as an act of service. One roommate would get so hangry (definition here), that about once a day she would yell at someone, cry, storm up to her room, and slam the door leaving us thinking “What just happened…” So yeah, you’ll have roommates and friends that are different from you and how you were raised. Take the opportunity to learn from them and realize that lots of times there’s more than one way to do something. And for those roommates that are just a pain in the bum, try loving them anyway. Killing with kindness isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it’s the fastest way to bring peace, and isn’t that what you want anyway?

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    This is really smart, straightforward advice! I hope your sister paid attention to it!


    I love this so much, it’s so on point!!! Definitely sharing


    I loved the “just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you should eat it!!” That was TOTALLY ME! I took advantage of that dining hall freshman year and gained 10 pounds. It wasn’t pretty.


      I completely relate (obviously). Why wouldn’t you eat free cake?! I truly believe that one of the reasons I’m a healthy weight now is because I can’t afford to overindulge 😛


    I love what you said about there not being a popular crowd anymore! That was one of the biggest things I learned when I went to school that I could pick my own friends and not be stuck with the people I grew up with! And it didn’t matter who my friends were because there was no “popular” crowd so it just didn’t matter anymore. I loved it!

    Natalie @ A Fit Philosophy

    Oh my gosh! Just because things are free, doesn’t mean you should eat it!!! OR, just because things are on the $1 menu at McDonald’s doesn’t mean you should eat it! AGH, that was my problem. Man, college was a learning experience in so many ways!

    Sabrina @ Pink Little Notebook

    Although I have been out of college for a while now, I think you pretty much nailed every point! Good luck to your sister on her new journey:) I’m sure this advice will come in handy for several new students as well!


    A big hell yes to all of these!


    This is one of the best “wish I’d known” posts I’ve ever read. If my current self could only go back and talk to my college self, life would be so much easier!


    Too true, too true. I tell you, I don’t know where I would be without my sky-high metabolism. I would probably have to diet a lot. But it is definitely something that should be taken care of, not advantage of, and college (though often an instigator of sugar-rushes and face-stuffing) can offer a lot of programs to promote good health. And strangely enough, I too learned a LOT about fashion between my freshman year and senior year of college (and not a second too late, I might add). I’m sure a lot of my readers would aptly attest to this fact. 🙂


    I didn’t take the conventional route whend I graduated. I went into the Air Force and took classes. The military is similar to college. You get put up in dorms, your food is paid for but your expected to go to work as scheduled. However your young and on your own with a steady regular income with limited bills and that leads to its own disasters.


    I love the “Just because it’s free..” So perfect!

    Shann Eva

    Such great advice! I wish I had read this before I went to college too. I gained way more than the freshman 15, and had a hard time making friends at first. I was also intimidated by my professors at the beginning too. I think this will really help a lot of people starting off for school.

    The She Suite Blog

    What a great post! And SPOT on about the free food.


    Love this. There are sooo many things I would tell my teenage self. So many.


    These were so awesome! I have 2 younger sisters in college right now & I am gonna text them this link! love it!