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What I Wish I Had Known Before Starting College

Most college-age students have a laundry list of things they would have done differently if they could step into a time machine and re-enter their orientation week with the hindsight they currently have. Each of these lists are personal and cannot be generalized; however, many consistent themes emerge. The following are a few of the most common pieces of advice college students wish they had received before their freshman year.

Seriously, you don’t have to know what you want to do with your life yet. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular major, discipline or career path planned. Many students truly do have a passion for an industry or academic field and wisely begin pursuing the requisite internships, volunteering opportunities and majors that correspond to their chosen profession. On the other hand, many other students see peers who seemingly have their whole lives planned out and panic, leading them to saddle themselves to a pre-professional path that might appear stable but has nothing to do with those students’ passions. I started out pre-med because it was something I was told smart people should do, despite my complete lack of interest in biology, chemistry or any other physical science. Take a number of courses from many academic disciplines your freshman year, and I guarantee one will spark an interest that will lead to the right path.

Build the skills necessary for your future. Regardless of your immediate post-graduation plans, every graduate needs to have certain skills to succeed on their own. Financial independence, a self-driven work ethic, and communication are just a few things almost every professional and/or post-grad student need to succeed. Try to find a part time job. Budget for each semester and hold yourself to it. Search for internships and jobs in a timely manner. Develop interviewing skills. Learn to manage your time between academics, extracurriculars and jobs. Each step of life requires one to use the skills learned in one’s past in a new setting - make sure that you use your time well during undergrad to enter the real world with a robust and extensive toolkit.

Do one thing that has nothing to do with your major.Or your pre-professional path, or your potential job. Something fun. There is a tendency, especially at more competitive top-tier universities, to turn everything about your life into a resume-builder. Find something that can be genuinely separated from the stress and hustle of your day-to-day. Maybe you are an engineer who was in the high school musical. Join an a capella group, or one of the comedy improv groups that coalesce on every campus. Perhaps you are the future investment banker who played on the high school varsity basketball team. Form an intramural league with other students who love to compete. Everyone has a passion separate from their major: find it, and get lost in it from time to time. You’ll find yourself much more relaxed and able to successfully pursue your dreams.

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