I am now far enough removed from my time in college (class of 2013!) to have some perspective on the entire experience. This is a very sad sentence that happens to come with a silver lining. I wish I could re-live some of the brightest moments of my college days, but the time has passed and all I can do is look back.
It’s easy to see those 4 years as one large, memorable chunk. Yet when I really look back, each year stands out as its own unique experience. Like a season of HBO’s The Wire, the main characters, setting, and feel of each year felt completely different than the others.
So, as you settle into one of your chapters at school, let me give a couple pieces of advice for all four.
Ah, freshman year. Feels like a lifetime ago. And luckily, you’ll remember your freshman year for a lifetime. But, I don’t think that means you need to go out and have every experience you can right now. Take your time. You have more years ahead of you, so don’t feel the need to empty the wallet on every event just yet.
The most important part of the first year of school, for me, was finding the people I now consider some of my best friends. Halfway through freshman year, they seemed great, but I was certain our friendship would grow like it has. Depending on how your school chooses housing, you may feel pressured to group off and pick future roommates soon. Don’t rush it. You don’t want to get stuck with the emotional or financial burden of a roommate breakup.
In your second year, you’ve started to settle in socially and academically, so I’d recommend looking for employment. Work-study, off-campus jobs, or internships are all attractive options. Explore the possibilities and start to build your résumé.
Once you’ve hit the halfway point, you can really hit your stride in college. Friends have become close. You’ve begun to take more intensive and interesting classes. You know your school like the back of your hand. Junior year was my personal favorite, but I have one regret.
By the time I showed up for my internship with SALT™ as a senior, I knew nothing about my student loans. They sat waiting to pounce on me after graduation. I’d recommend anyone start to learn about them by at least junior year. At a minimum, stay on top of how much you borrowed and how much you now owe (the amounts may be different!). You can likely do this through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®).
I’ve written here before about the desire during senior year to check every last experience or event off of a “bucket list”. No, you shouldn’t spend tons of money, but college is a time to learn, grow, and experience. Do things that will make you remember senior year differently than the others. Make it special. You’ve earned it!
College grads, what advice would you give to students still in school?
(Photo: Sassy Photographer)