I’ll start by warning whoever is reading this. This isn’t going to be sugar coated and it’s not the kind of advice your tipsy aunts and uncles give you at family events. I’m not going to give you a lecture about staying away from boys, going to bed on time, or keeping your grades up. College is a serious, life shaping experience and there are some things that I wish I had been better prepared for by the adults who knew what I had coming to me. I think that most people don’t take teenagers seriously and they don’t give them serious advice- instead giving them advice as if they are still toddlers. So here are my tips:
If you’re going to college, always always always remember why you’re there
You are in college to graduate. Period. So before you decide to transfer, change your major, or drop a class because you don’t want to take a C, you need to consider what you are risking.
Just because “most people” take 5 or 6 years on average to graduate, doesn’t mean that you have to. In fact, I can promise that you won’t want to take that long. Ask yourself if transferring to another university is worth another year of college or if you can just tough it out at the school you’re currently at. Consider if you can still pursue the career you’re interested in with the degree you’re currently preparing to finish with. If you’re planning to get a Master’s, it may not even be a big deal what your bachelors degree was. Better yet, think about if you even know what you want to do with the degree you’re seeking now or the degree you’re thinking of switching to because if you don’t know then you don’t need to waste time by switching majors. I get that keeping your GPA high is a must, but if you drop your class, you risk taking a W on your transcript which looks just as ugly. So if a blemish-free transcript was your goal, you should have considered the work you needed to get an A at the beginning of the semester. Not to mention, you have to make time on your schedule or in your summer break to retake that class you dropped (and hopefully it wasn’t a prerequisite).
The bottom line is, whatever you decide to do in college, think about how it will affect your graduation timeline. Elongating it will not only tire you out and cost money, but you take the risk of possibly never finishing because who knows what could pop up during those extra 1 or 2 years that it takes you. If you can graduate in less than 5 years, just do it.
Get to know yourself
I know that I just said that you’re in college to graduate and you are. Getting to know yourself should not come between you and graduation, in fact it should help you. Learn your habits and how to improve them. Some examples would be; if you’re lazy, figure out how to motivate yourself, or if you have poor study habits, how to improve them. You should also be searching for your passion and evaluating your relationship with God. Take time to work on your hobbies and care for your mental health. These are all things that will improve your college experience and that you’ll need after you graduate. Don’t spend all of your time intoxicated, wrapped up in a significant other, or studying. As you mature, you’ll find that knowing who you are is more valuable than anything else.
Don’t settle for what they teach you in class
You don’t want to be basic once you finish college by having only textbook knowledge. Once you’re serious about your major and the career you intend to pursue, spend some of your free time learning more about it. My major is nutrition and I’ve taken 3 or 4 nutrition courses by now and guess what? I could barely tell you a thing about food and the body. Why? Because I treated my major related classes like any other. I just studied what was in the textbook and forgot everything once the class was over. Now that I’ve become a senior and I’m beginning to panic about my post-graduation life, it’s dawning on me that I should’ve dug deeper into the materials we learned and asked a lot more questions. And I DEFINITELY shouldn’t have thrown away my physical or mental notes. You don’t even have to just apply this to your major-related courses. Any course that sparks your interest and that you’re considering a career in should be taken extremely seriously. That means giving that extra 10% of your time to learning more.
The idea of friendship that you have in high school is a fantasy and does not exist in the real world. You have got to get that into your head before you start college because “friendship” costs a lot of people their college careers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t grow close with anyone, spend time with anyone, or get to know new people. (You’ll probably coincidentally meet some life-long friends while you’re in college.) What I am saying is that sitting together during lunch or having all of your classes together won’t take you as far as it might have in high school and it certainly won’t be as meaningful. In college, everyone has their own agenda and just because yours is to graduate, it doesn’t mean that everyone else’s is too. This includes people who you went to elementary/middle/highschool with. So don’t cling so tight to other people and don’t try to force yourself onto their path or them onto yours. Understand that some people may only be in your life for a season and don’t take it personally that your BFF since kindergarten doesn’t call you every single weekend since he or she got into that biochemistry class. There are plenty of things in life that you will need to do alone and on your own.
Allow friendships to begin and end naturally and don’t try to force anything or get overly emotional. Also, don’t be afraid to end toxic friendships. If you notice that a friend is going off the deep end, it is possible to be a shoulder to lean on without compromising everything that you’re working to get too.
Do not let anyone use you. If you notice that some people only call you when they want to go out to have fun, then recognize what kind of friendship that is and treat it accordingly. Don’t continue to pour all of yourself into that friendship because you’ll be heartbroken on the day that you’re in a crisis and homegirl has completely forgotten about your existence. If that boy or girl you’re dating only seems to be interested in your body or your future success, do yourself a favor and let that relationship go. For one, college campuses are a playground for STDs and pregnancy is a real life thing that I promise you, you won’t want to deal with while simultaneously trying to study for finals and apply for internships. Don’t worry, someone who is better looking, mature, and ready for a relationship will be available and looking for someone like you by the time you finish college, but you won’t ever be able to date them if you don’t get out of the mess you’re in now.
Remember that first thing I told you? You came to college to graduate, preferably on time, not to drop out or finish 10 years later. And I’m not giving this advice as just another adult who thinks “kids these days just wanna be grown”. No, I’m giving this advice as a person who has done the opposite of just about all of the advice I’m giving here and I’ve suffered for it. I wished someone had told me these things or that I’d realized them sooner, so I’m offering some advice to someone who may need it.
Do you have any non-traditional advice for teens going to college? Are you a teenager and you have questions about college that you’re afraid to ask anyone else?
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