title photo with picture of cherry blossoms at the university of washington

I stepped on campus as an incoming freshman filled with excitement, anticipation, and a whole lot of nerves. I couldn’t wait to jump in and experience all that college had to offer—even if I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant yet.

Over the next four years, I grew, changed, and learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. Textbooks and lectures taught me a lot, but the lessons I learned outside the classroom were equally important. 

10 Things I Would Tell Myself if I Could Start College Over

Looking back now after graduation, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started college. If I could go back and talk to my incoming college freshman self, this is the advice I would give her:

1. College is your chance to try something new. 

You don’t have to be defined by who you were in high school. Going off to college is a chance to start fresh, explore new things, and discover who you really want to be.

Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before. Try out for the intramural lacrosse team, take a swing dancing class, join the chess club. You may just discover a passion you didn’t know you had. 

2. Your wellbeing is more important than your GPA.

Schoolwork is obviously important (it’s why you’re going to college in the first place), but when it starts to seriously impede on your physical or mental health, it’s time to draw a line.

Go talk to your professors, look into a tutoring service, or consider dropping a class. There’s a difference between being a little overwhelmed before midterms and being stretched to your breaking point all semester long. Good grades shouldn’t come at the cost of your health.

3. Being homesick is totally normal.

No matter how grown up you feel, you’re going to get homesick at some point. Sometimes you just really need a home-cooked meal, a shower that doesn’t require wearing flip flops, and a hug from your mom.

Missing home is nothing to be embarrassed about. Just try not to make a habit of going home every weekend. Getting involved in activities and connecting with people is the best way to make college feel more like home.

4. You don’t have to drink just because everyone else is doing it.

Real talk: Drinking excessively won’t help you make friends, and not choosing not to drink won’t make you lose them.

While it’s OK to go out and have fun on the weekends, it’s also OK if alcohol isn’t really your thing. You’re still allowed to go to parties and have a good time even if you’re not drinking. If you’re worried about dodging “Why aren’t you drinking?” questions all night, bring a water bottle filled with your non-alcoholic beverage of choice. No one will even know the difference. 

5. Work as many internships as you can get.

You’d probably rather spend your summers lounging at the pool, but working an internship really does pay off (even if it’s unpaid).

The more job experience you have on your resume the better—but internships aren’t just about the experience. An internship is an opportunity to test-drive your future career and see if that industry is actually a fit for you. It’s better to find that out sooner rather than later, so don’t wait until the summer before your senior year to start applying.

6. Studying abroad is absolutely worth it.

Living in a different country is the experience of a lifetime. It changes your perspective, pushes you outside your comfort zone, and allows you to experience how other people see the world.

When else is it going to be this easy to spend four or five months living abroad? If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. 

7. Go to class. Seriously.

And yes, that includes the ones at 8 a.m.! It may not seem like a big deal to skip class once in a while, but making a habit of skipping will quickly catch up with you.

Copying the notes from a friend or just doing the work online is not the same thing as going to class—and you’ll find that out once exams come around. 

8. It’s OK to grow out of friendships.

You may not always be close with the people you grew up with. Friendships sometimes change when you go off to college and start on your own path. You may grow apart from some friends or realize that your values no longer align with theirs. Letting go of friendships is never easy, but it’s just another part of growing up. 

9. Professors are good for more than just grading your papers.

Get acquainted with your professors outside of class time. Drop in during their office hours, or schedule an appointment to meet with them one-on-one. Not only will this help you if you’re struggling in class, it could be beneficial for your future.

Having a good relationship with your professors can really come in handy when you’re searching for internships, looking for recommendation letters, or applying for jobs post-graduation. Professors make great connections, and most are more than happy to help.

Related: College 101: How To Get To Know Your Professors

10. Graduation comes quicker than you think.

They don’t call it the best four years of your life for nothing. College is brimming with incredible opportunities and experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime – but it goes by in a blink. Enjoy every minute and take advantage of every opportunity. You’ll be walking across the graduation stage with diploma in hand before you know it.

So there we have it. Ten things I would tell myself if I could start college over. What would you tell your college freshman self? 

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