I have been in college for nearly three years. Now, with just a single semester left to complete, I’ve been thinking about what I would have liked to have known years ago.
If you’re a high school junior or senior, you will hear piece after piece of advice in the coming months. Everyone will have some tidbit to chip in—don’t procrastinate, get plenty of sleep, and so on—and those are valuable and important to remember.
However, the reason everyone gives certain advice is because most people have done whatever it is that they are recommending you avoid doing: we all put off an assignment at some point and from time to time we all fall into bed hours after we intended to.
Next time you visit your future school, ask a student what they would have done differently their freshman year. You’ll get advice that’s specific to your college from someone whose experience is still recent.
For now, if you’re in the mood for some concrete ways to get the most out of your college experience, find testimonials from current students, like me!
You will likely find that there are many organizations and activities that you’re excited to join, and even if not, someone will likely recommend that you join x number of clubs. Basing your involvement around an arbitrary number isn’t a great strategy, though—at least not in the long run.
During your first year, go to plenty of meetings for plenty of different organizations and narrow down the ones you’re interested in. Later on, find which one or two you’re passionate about and be involved in them to the max.
You can still be a part of other organizations, but your college experience will be that much more rewarding if you’re truly participating in even one extracurricular group.
My last and probably most controversial and unpopular piece of advice is this: don’t join a fraternity or sorority. At the very least, wait until your sophomore year before rushing.
The financial commitment alone—we’re talking thousands of dollars over the course of your college career in pledge and initiation fees, chapter dues and extras like apparel and gifts for potential “bigs” and “littles” — is not something you want to be saddled with right off the bat.
Take some time and consider whether you actually need Greek life to be content and successful in college, or if you’re just fine the way you are. Find out who you are before marrying yourself to an organization. And if you decide to skip the rush and remain independent, rest assured knowing that you’re not missing out on anything.
At some point during your college career, and likely more than once, you will wonder if you made a mistake in choosing the school/major/organization that you did. That’s okay.
You know what’s also okay? Transferring, changing your major and dropping out of a club.
The great thing about college is that it is one of the few life experiences that you can essentially personalize as much as you want. And even if you’re worried about spending more time in school than you wanted to, you’re in good company: only 19% of students get their degree in four years!
When you’re in college, you’ll learn how to think critically and with an open mind—use those skills to think about your own college experiences as well. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, or even to forge your own road.
For those of you who are seasoned college veterans, what do you wish you had known as a freshman? And incoming freshmen, what questions are on your mind?
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Why My College Experience Has Been My Most Valuable
By Julie Lain, YOUniversityTV Student Contributing Writer – As a kid, many people get asked different variations of the same question: “What has been your best experience?” And even at that age, there are many joyful moments to consider-birthday parties, trips to the local amusement park, and bicycle-riding lessons. But often, it is not until your adult life that you go through many of your most valuable events. Some, for instance, may find their time in the military to be of utmost importance to them, while others sometimes find that their experience as a parent was the most rewarding one they have had. Personally though, I consider my time in college as my most valuable experience.
First, my experience in college has given me a chance to sharpen my skills in my field of choice. There have been, and there will continue to be, many opportunities to learn more ways of improving my craft as a result of my time in school, which I am truly thankful for. For example, the Writing Center at my school has taught me many writing tips and rules that I was unaware even existed, and would still be unaware of had it not been a part of my experience. Because of this, I realized I still had a lot to learn despite what I thought; but this allows me to improve my skills more as I continue to attend school and also gives me more confidence in my area. And as a result, I know one day this valuable experience will help me in my search for another one-a rewarding career.
In addition to learning practical skills, being in college has also taught me a lot about social sciences such as sociology and history. For instance, I have had the privilege of learning about religions in unfamiliar parts of the world, such as Buddhism and Islam, that I had no knowledge of beforehand. From this experience, I have learned many interesting things about the cultures in which these religions are typically followed. Learning about many different religious ideas and practices in other areas of the world, like meditation, reincarnation, and the worshipping of multiple deities, has been valuable to me because it has cleared up some misconceptions I had, thus allowing me to be less ignorant on the topic. It has also given me a better understanding of others’ beliefs and traditions, no matter what region of the world they originated. This has made my time in college much more enriching and worthwhile.
Also, there are other social science subjects that were valuable for me to learn as well. For example, I was fortunate to have taken classes in psychology during my earlier years in college. I had always wanted to know more about psychology since I have found the human mind and how it works and develops very interesting. I have learned about the process by which the brain develops during infancy and childhood, the concept of repressed memories, and how distorted those memories become over time. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about all of this and hope to learn even more about different aspects of psychology in the future. I consider this subject a very valuable and important part of the college experience because, not only does it allow one to understand how their own mind works, but also gives them more knowledge of what the human mind and brain are actually capable of.
My experience in college, particularly the English program, has also allowed me to gain more knowledge about a variety of literary authors and types of literature. Had I not decided to attend Carthage, I would never have known about classic writers like Katherine Anne Porter, Kate Chopin and the many different plays from William Shakespeare. I have also learned more about what fables, short stories and poems are and how to tell between them. Also, reading those classic pieces has given me insight into what it was like to live in the author’s time era and what the oppressed female writers had to go through. Not only is this knowledge interesting to learn, but recognizing the differences between various methods of story-writing will also help me to be more versatile as a writer, thus improving my future career.
In summary, my time in college has enriched my life in many ways. It has provided me with the necessary tools to enhance my skills more, taught me valuable knowledge about this diverse world and people and concepts in general and eventually will enable me to hopefully become more successful in life when I finally graduate and get my degree. It also has stressed to me the importance of thinking critically and asking questions in many situations. All these aspects of college have also made me more well-rounded as a person. It has been easier for me to achieve these opportunities than if I lived in some other countries, especially third-world ones. These experiences are truly irreplaceable and I would not trade them for anything. If I could go back in time and speak to my much younger self when I was first asked the question, “What has been your best experience?” the baby-faced version of me would certainly have been surprised by what my answer is now.
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