1. Choosing a college is not the most important choice you’ll ever make. And it’s unfair that admissions pamphlets paint it that way, because while the choice is a big deal, you shouldn’t feel pressured to “love every second of it.” And if it doesn’t feel like you chose the right school, you’re not locked in for all eternity. Starting college is certainly a milestone, but it’s not the biggest moment of your life, so don’t worry about blowing it.
2. You don’t have to meet your best friends in the first week of college. We have this skewed perception that you’re supposed to meet the best friend you’ve ever had the minute you enter your first college dorm. Sure, sometimes that’s the case, but it isn’t a requirement. Not everyone has an easy time finding their people, and that doesn’t mean your experience is less than anyone else’s.
3. You don’t have to drink a specific amount, smoke a specific amount, or go out on certain days, if you don’t feel like it. We tend to approach college, at times, with a These Are The Best Years Of Our Lives So You Better Fucking Come Out Tonight Because After Graduation We’ll Be Old vibe. When you’re reunited with all of your college friends, there’s pressure to go out every night, and while you should absolutely let the good times roll, if you need to say “no” because of your budget, or your stress level, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
4. You don’t have to make Dean’s List every semester to get a good job. After I graduated, I put “Dean’s List,” and my cumulative GPA on my resumé. Do you know who read that line? Exactly zero people. (I cannot speak for those who are graduate school-bound, but I personally found that my grades, which I stressed over endlessly, didn’t help very much in my job search.)
5. Making the wrong major choice is not the end of the world. A lot of my liberal arts friends don’t use their majors at all, while many of my business major or STEM friends do. Regardless, majors can be changed.
6. You don’t have to meet the love of your life in college. There’s pressure to ~meet someone in college~, because when else are we surrounded by 8,000 eligible men and women? Finding a partner is not why you went to college, though. You’re there to learn, and to build memories that will last, but not all of them have to be jubilant memories with the potential love of your life.
7. Similarly, you do not have to marry, or stay with, the person you were dating in college. It’s not up to you to ensure that all of your college friends gather in seven years for a wedding. You can be the “it couple” in college and still ultimately decide you don’t want to spend your life together. (Alternately, you can continue dating after college, realize you are meant for each other, and still not invite everyone you knew throughout the course of your relationship to the wedding.)
8. College is not the only time when you can find the mentor who might change the trajectory of your career. We all know a success story who got their dream job right out of college because of an internship, and a college mentor, but that isn’t the only route you can take.
9. You don’t have to have the “typical” college experience, or graduate at all, to make it worthwhile. Admittedly, I know a lot of people who had a classic four year college experience, and had a great time, myself included. But of all the people I’m close to now, many took time off, or still have not gone back (some for financial reasons, for mental health reasons, or because they didn’t want to pay for an education until they had more direction), and that doesn’t discredited their college experience.
10. You’ll eat way better after you get rid of your college meal plan. After college, I learned how to cook foods I actually like, and pay for my own groceries, both of which are more valuable than unlimited dining hall swipes.
11. You don’t need to have it all figured out, because the most humbling years of your life are still to come. There’s always that one kid in your classroom, or friend group, who has their shit so together it makes you instantly feel inferior. Whoever they are, they don’t have it all figured out now, nor will they have it figured out in five years. We’re all learning together, in college, and after. Some of us are just more willing to admit that we are works in progress. (And if you’re humble enough to admit that, in a pretentious ass third year psych class, then good for you.)
12. Some of the best friends you make in college will get filtered out of your life a year later, as you realize that you have less in common than you thought. I’ve never been a huge drinker, except for a three month stint during my junior year, when I was a Party Gal (capitals required). I had my crew that I went out with four days out of the week, to a place that, I kid you not, served $3 Long Island Iced Teas. Those chicks were great people, but we fell out of touch within the year, possibly because the memories we made together were hazy at best, or because we didn’t actually have anything else in common. The college friends I still have are the ones that chose not to mock me through my short-lived dancing on a bar phase.
13. You won’t miss the days of drinking alien-blood-colored punch with a twist of frat bro sweat. Nor will you miss sipping said punch from a beat up plastic water bottle, while walking up a hill in the freezing cold.
14. Your college friends will never take the place of your high school friends. And after graduation, you will learn which friends mattered all along, and which squabbles weren’t worth the stressful drama.
15. College probably won’t be the best four (or five, or six, or however many) years of your life. Because after it, you’ll have four better ones. (Or, if not, maybe your best four years are still a decade away.) It’s true that there may never be another time when 60% of your closest friends live within a two-mile radius of your front door. But the best you can do is cherish this upcoming school year, and abandon the “time is ticking, better have all my fun right this very second” mentality, because you don’t need to put that kind of pressure on your college years.
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