“…we should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison
If you are reading this, congrats are in order because you are likely a new high school graduate! So congratulations! I hope that graduation was wonderful and a worth every sacrifice you made to finish high school. As someone who has graduated high school, undergraduate and is hoping to be graduating again in the next couple years, I know how important this time in life is for you. There are so many choices to be made, things to ponder and situations arising every day as you prepare for your next step in life. If you are going to college/university, you have a lot to figure out. From solidifying your major, choosing living spaces and roommates, selecting courses, sending in final paperwork and actually getting to school, you’ll need to get a lot done before fall semester begins. When coming in contact with high school graduates this summer, I automatically began to impart what I wish someone had told me before I started college. There were many people giving me good advice, but for some reason, some of these things didn’t seem to make it to me. So, I will be giving you 5 things I wish someone told me about college. This post is long, but please read until the end. Let’s get started.
Read the Drop/Add policy
Unlike high school, changing or dropping courses is no simple feat. Back when I was in high school, changing classes was as simple as speaking to the counselor or having your parents come in for a meeting. Even now as a middle school teacher, I’m always amazed at the ease with which students can switch teams or classes with their parent’s help. However, college does not work this way. Most colleges have something called a Drop/Add policy. This policy is what will tell you when it is too late to get out of a class and what your subsequent grade will be if you drop – or get out of – it. For example, let’s say you get into Philosophy 101 and you realize that you are in way over your head after taking the first exam. If you check the Drop/Add policy, you’ll find out whether you’ll receive a grade of W (withdrawn) or if it is too late to get out of the course. You’ll also want to find out how long you can stay in the course before you are permanently charged and if your school has any special policies for if you want to retake a course. Some other great questions to ask are:
Does my school have a repeat-to-replace policy?
How many credit hours do I need to be full-time?
Do we use a plus/minus grade scale or a standard grade scale used in most high schools?
Take care of your yourself
Every year of college is busy, but none as hectic as your freshmen year. With all of your new classes, friends, assignments and social activities, it is very easy to let yourself go. Overeating in the cafeteria, staying up late and waking up early and eating whatever you can find are a perfect combination for unhealthy weight gain. A 2012 study conducted at Auburn University found that almost 70% of students gain weight in college. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Commit to these 3 things for better self care.
Eat well. Yes, the ice cream machine and toppings bar in the cafeteria looks very appealing, but do you need it? If you have a meal plan, find the healthy alternatives. Almost every cafeteria I’ve seen has a salad bar with lots of fresh veggies, fruits and lean meats. Go for those meals that you will keep you full longer and feeling good. If you have your own kitchen and are into cooking, there are some great meal prep options for college students on a budget. Give them a try.
Exercise. If your college is anything like my alma mater, it has a beautiful recreation center. If your school does indeed have one, guess what? You’re paying for it. Every semester, my school charged me over $100 for the recreation center. If you think about it, that’s a built-in gym membership. Many recreation centers are open 24 hours a day so you can get your work out on whenever you want. If you prefer outdoor or team workouts, see if your school has intramural sports teams. They are a ton of fun and a great way to meet people. If you don’t make time to work out, there are other ways to burn calories. Instead of catching the shuttle, walk. Instead of driving to campus, ride a bike. Just don’t be sedentary. Endorphins are good for your brain. 🙂
Be kind to yourself. You are in a brand new place with a brand new goal. You have never been to college before, so you will make mistakes. College is supposed to be harder than high school, even if you did extremely well in high school. You may not make comparable grades right away, but you can if you stay perseverant. Study and work hard, but when your body tells you to relax, do it. Take breaks, watch a movie, read books, nap, do your favorite hobby and just love on yourself. The responsibilities will still be there when you get done, and we all work better without stress.
Seek out community
Being in a new environment can be incredible, but it can also bring upon a lot of stress and new opportunities to explore the world. And for many of you, this will be your first time living away from your family and support system. It is very important for you to find a community of people who share your goals, beliefs and dreams so that you can have a new support system. This is especially important for Christians. When I was in college, I was blessed to be apart of not only on-campus Bible studies, but apart of ministries in local churches. These groups of women (and sometimes men) helped me through some difficult times and helped me to keep strong faith in Jesus. Seek out community groups, small groups, on-campus Bible studies or even organizations on your school’s campus to be apart of because no man (or woman) is an island.
GPA, GPA, GPA!
This one is so important, I had to say it three times. GPA. Also known as Grade Point Average. Also known as a major determining factor for your life after college. Many people who attend college think that social time is what matters most at the beginning. Staying out late, attending social events and hanging out with friends. Now realistically, most people will do this while in school, but it’s very important to keep your priorities straight. Your first year’s GPA will determine whether you spend the next three years working to maintain it or working to pull it up. As college goes on, classes only get harder and your responsibilities become greater. Also, many scholarships depend on your GPA. In the state of Georgia, students who maintain a 3.0 average and meet some other requirements can go to state schools with tuition and books covered. This could be the difference between paying thousands of dollars in students loans when you graduate, or being able to immediately do the things you love after graduation, like traveling, buying a home or starting a family. College is not high school and your grades now have financial implications so take things seriously.
When you get to college, there will be a lot of changes for you, especially if you live away from your parent’s home. If this is the case, it means that your safety will no longer be something your parents can guarantee. You will need to make choices that help you to stay as safe as possible. Here are a few ways to stay safe.
Traveling and transportation. If you find yourself in a situation with friends who are ever unable to drive, do not ride with them. The same goes for times where you may be on campus and don’t feel safe walking home alone. There are many options available for transportation that are much safer. Whether it be calling a ride from Uber or Lyft, or even contacting Campus Security for a police escort (a service you pay for). Think about the implications of your choices and if taking a chance is really worth it.
Social settings. If you find yourself out and about in a social setting where food and drinks are out, which is common, be very careful about leaving drinks out. Recently I saw a thread of tweets on Twitter from a pastor who shared his story of having his drink drugged. This is not something that only happens to women; it can happen to anyone. Be aware of your surroundings and for added safety, go everywhere in groups as much as possible.
Intimate settings. This last section is probably the most difficult for me to write about because it is so extremely important. College is a place where many people will live without physical boundaries. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I will always advocate living a sex-less, abstinent lifestyle until marriage. I believe that this is God’s will for our lives and serves to protect us from heartache, pregnancy, diseases and emotional ties, until we are united with a spouse. This is, in my opinion, the best way to experience life and love. And as someone who has been abstinent for many years, I am very much looking forward to experiencing this intimacy with my soon-t0-be husband next year after our wedding. Everyone does not believe this or subscribe to this belief system so I will say the following: if you find yourself desiring to be intimate with another person and you make that very important choice, please protect yourself. It does not matter if someone looks healthy or clean, and it does not matter if they tell you they are STD-free. Never engage in any sexual act unless you are using protection. The emotional connections created from sex can be broken with the blood of Jesus, but the physical implications can be much harder to erase.
I hope that this post has been helpful and I pray that it reaches every student who needs to read it. College will be an incredible season of growth for you, but it all depends on choices. Please be wise. 🙂 If you are heading to college, please share on your favorite piece of advice in the Comments section. If you have already been to college, please share a piece of advice you would give to new college students in the Comments section.
All the best,