College teaches you a lot of things. Academic things. However, some of the most important things I have learned in college aren’t explicitly academic. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before my freshman year in college.
The list is in increasing order of importance (#1 is the most important).
10. Professors aren’t like “teachers”.
This is the least important thing on the list because it is the easiest to learn. Professors are teachers because they teach us, but they are not the same people we called “teachers” high school.
I learned this in my first class in college. The professor dropped an “f-bomb” in the first 5 minutes of the lecture. Two weeks later I learned it again. I overslept my 9:00 AM class and the professor brought the whole class to my dorm to wake me up.
Professors have less restrictive behavior expectations than teachers. Basically anything for the purpose educating you—is acceptable. Obvious restrictions still apply, but don’t be surprised if your professors regularly do things high school teachers wouldn’t.
9. There is one good addiction.
Actually, I learned this before college. However, I know a lot of nap takers who still haven’t learned it.
Caffeine is a good addiction. It is a socially-acceptable addiction, and a beneficial one. In fact, a study including children found that 9 in 10 North Americans consume caffeine. The same study found that 3 in 4 North American children consume caffeine.
Any source of caffeine will do. I swear by coffee in the morning, but green tea is a better choice for studying in the evening. My favorite kind is Lipton Green Citrus. At 25mg of caffeine per bottle, it will keep you focused without spoiling your sleep.
Also, as an adult in college, you need an adult amount of caffeine. A 2012 FDA study of caffeine revealed the following: Teens in the U.S. consume 100mg of caffeine per person, per day. For adults in the U.S. that amount spikes to 300mg per person, per day.
If you aren’t getting your %DV, maybe you should start doubling-up on espresso.
8. How to Grocery Shop
The first time I went to the grocery store as a freshman I realized I had no idea what to get.
The snacks I liked at home were expensive for a college student’s budget. Plus I had never even made a shopping list, because my Mom did the shopping at home.
After my first shopping flop, I gave up and Googled my way out of the situation. To save you from the initial embarrassment, here’s The Ultimate Grocery List for College Students. A fellow student-blogger from Drake made the list, so it’s already crafted for a student budget.
7. How to Maintain a Living Space
Maintaining a living space is doing laundry, vacuuming, and other things associated with being an adult. It’s hanging up your jacket instead of throwing it on the bed. Keeping papers in folders, instead of piling them in your workspace. Living in an organized environment helps you stay positive and be productive.
As a 2nd semester Junior, I’ve finally figured this out. My strategy is to never do anything later. If I look at something (like the un-hung jacket) and think “I’ll do that later”, I just do it now, instead.
I’m two months into this semester using the just do it now strategy. At this point I would still let my parents come in my dorm room, so I’d say it works.
6. How to use E-mail
Before college, E-mail is just something you need so that you can sign-up for things like Xbox Live and Amazon Prime. When you get to college, it actually becomes a communication tool. Kind of like Snapchat, but with proper grammar and without pictures.
Sooner or later you will have to email a professor. Possibly to a professor whose office hours are during your other classes. Or to a professor who requires assignments to be turned in via email.
5. Why I’m going to college.
Most of us don’t know why we went to high school. Someone (parents in most cases) told us we needed to go. In college, you have to know why you’re doing it to motivate yourself.
Like a lot of other people, I believed for a long time that I was in college to get a job. When I told one of my professors that I was in college to get a job, he told me that 43% (Almost half!) of undergraduate degree holders are underemployed. This means they work a job that doesn’t require their college education.
Getting a job can be part of your motivation. But if you think getting a job is the whole point, you may leave disappointed.
4. How to Accept Criticism
Part of professors’ behavior being less restricted is that they might hurt your feelings. As a student, you can expect to be criticized in a professional manner. Whether it’s on an exam, paper, or as part of a group project—your work will be criticized.
I take criticism well, but my classmates often tell me how outraged they are about something a professor said to them. Even if it seems like some professors try to defeat you, they’re probably just trying to make you a more successful person.
3. How to Socialize with Anyone
In college, you’ll realize you have things in common with everyone, even people from thousands of miles away.
As you pursue your major into more specific courses, you’ll even learn to collaborate with people you thought you might never talk to. These are great experiences to have—because the working world is the same way.
2. How to Manage my Time
Disney’s Study of 1600 college graduates found that “How to budget” and “How to prioritize” were the two most important lessons learned in college. I agree with the respondents, as those are also the top two things I’ve learned in college.
I was the high school student who never had homework. I did all of my assignments during class so I could be done for the day when the bell rang. Needless to say, I found that doesn’t work in college. You have to learn in class and work out of class.
Time management is the only way to succeed in college. Taking notes, reading the textbook, studying, and doing homework are all critical. To get it all done, you have to plan out what you’re going to do and when.
1. How to budget
For as long as I can remember, my Dad has said to me “It’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you spend.”
It means that wealth and success are not synonyms. Success is the ability to live within your means. A person making $35,000 per year and living on $30,000 of that, is more successful than a millionaire who spends the whole million.
In the same sense, it doesn’t matter whether you have $500 in college or $5,000. If you can’t budget, you’ll run out.