As you head into your freshman (or senior) year, there’s a lot to plan for. Wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid some college regrets in college by learning from others’ mistakes? Everyone has regrets, whether big or small, from their time in college. Here’s how you can avoid 12 common regrets graduates have from their college experience:
1. Choosing the wrong major.
Picking your major is a huge decision, but you DO have the opportunity to change your mind! But at a certain point, you’ll need to commit to your area of study. Before you change your major (or select one to begin with), do some research and read up on the types of careers and opportunities it may open up for you. Try to volunteer or intern in the field you’re interested in. Chat with your academic advisor or schedule an appointment with your college’s career office about career options. They may have some valuable insight! Even if you decide to change your course of study, don’t regret the things you learned. A lot of people change their minds about what they want to study; it’s all part of the process!
2. Not getting involved in student life.
Unsure of what you want to get involved with? Typically colleges host a student activities fair at the beginning of the year to showcase all of their clubs, athletic teams or intramurals, Greek groups, and honors societies. It’s super important to go to this and find one or two activities to try. If you don’t love the first club you join, try another! There are all types of opportunities based on hobbies, volunteering, religious affiliation, musical taste, sports, academics, and everything in between!
3. Not getting an on campus or off campus job.
If you have time to spare, working on or off campus can be a wonderful way to earn a little spending money and maybe come out of college with less debt! Working on campus may be preferred, because departments and employers are acutely aware of the other demands on your schedule. Most of the time, colleges only allow student employees to work up to 10 or 15 hours per week. This is a great way to gain practical real-world experience. If you’re studying marketing, try to get a part-time position in the communications office. Studying to be a teacher? Why not work part-time at supervising an afterschool club at the local elementary school? Giving campus tours is always a fun on campus job too!
4. Not applying for scholarships or financial aid.
Applying for scholarships and filling out the FAFSA can be a pain, but it is so worth it! Every little bit of money that you receive to pay for college adds up. Scholarships also aren’t just for freshmen; you can apply for some up until your senior year! Universities.com has a handy scholarship search engine that can get you started on the right path.
5. Picking early morning classes if you’re not a morning person.
Picking an 8 am class will not force you to get up earlier, or even to become a morning person…most of the time. You’ll end up a cranky mess from a lack of sleep or the overabundance of caffeine. Be honest with yourself: if it’s easier for you to stick to your routine and start classes at 10 am, then do that! Some people function better in the morning, while others thrive at night. No shame in the way you’re wired!
6. Eating junk food all the time
Ramen and pizza may be tasty and cheap, but it’s important to fuel your body and your mind with healthy food every once in a while. If you have a meal plan, opt for healthier options such as salads, grilled meat (instead of fried), sides of rice and steamed or roasted veggies, or wraps. Avoid lots of heavy dressing and choose water more than soda.
If you don’t have a meal plan, try to come up with a list of inexpensive healthy meals. Google and Pinterest are your best friends for this! Keep healthy snacks with you as you go from class to class and in your dorm, such as nuts, fruit, hummus and crackers, cheese sticks, nut butter packets, and protein bars. Now, I’m not saying you always have to eat healthy. Pizza is delicious and you should definitely treat yourself- just try to find balance!
7. Not asking for help.
Trying to do all the things can get super overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to ask for help when you need (or maybe just want it). Struggling with a certain class? Oftentimes, tutoring is free! Don’t be afraid to go to your professor’s office hours and ask questions- that’s what they’re there for! Struggling with your mental health? Talk to your college’s counselors and they can help! Need help finding a job or internship? Check out your college’s career center. No one wants you to fail!
8. Not taking advantage of benefits from your student ID card.
One of the best parts about being a student is all the discounts you get using your ID card! Your college most likely partners with many local businesses and organizations. The pizza place down the street may offer half price pizza on Wednesdays or the local baseball stadium may have “buy one, get one free” tickets to home games. With your student ID, you have access to cheaper transportation, food at restaurants, magazine subscriptions, technology, and museum admission. For even more savings, plug in your .edu email address for discounts on Amazon Prime, Audible, and more.
9. Not starting something.
Pick something, anytime! Have an interest in blogging or starting a YouTube channel? What about starting your own Etsy store with your handmade knitted blankets and hats? College is the perfect time to start a new hobby and figure out how to monetize it, if that’s what you’re after! Take some time to do something just for yourself every week, whether it’s reading a novel or planning a trip after graduation. Just start!
10.Not taking the opportunity to study abroad
How often will you get the opportunity to explore new cultures, discover new places and create new friends in an entirely different place? Unless you have a cushy job lined up after graduation, the answer may be “not very often”. A study abroad experience in college is an opportunity of a lifetime! Staying for 3 to 12 months immersed in a different culture, exploring, and trying new things? Sign me up! The only downside is that studying abroad can be quite pricey…but there are many ways to fund your travel bug! Your financial aid package can be used towards your excursion and many times the Office of International Programs will offer scholarships just for students wishing to study abroad too!
11. Trying too hard or not hard enough
Taking every opportunity to study, work on projects, and rewrite that essay you’ve already finished is a one way ticket to burnout. On the other hand, partying every night and not getting your work done is a quick way to get asked to leave your school. It’s all about balance. You can be a good student and have a social life- it just takes organization and management of your priorities.
12. Not having boundaries
I was insanely busy in college: president of the rowing team, head of recruitment for my sorority, part-time worker at the school library, and member of a small dance group, all while juggling two majors and figuring out what I want to do with my life. What I would have benefitted from is learning it’s ok to say the word “no”. No is a full sentence. You won’t disappoint people too much when you put up boundaries around your time, health, money, and mental space. And if you do, those people were probably asking too much of you. Pick a few things, the ones that make you the happiest. You don’t have to do it all. You can simply be a member of the intramural soccer team without being the party planner. Don’t feel like you have to go to every event you’re invited to as well; this is especially difficult as a freshman. Slow down from going one hundred miles an hour and check in with yourself. You’ll feel a lot better!