6 Surprising Decisions I Made In My First Two Years Of College That Have Hugely Paid Off

Well, it’s official. I am halfway through college. And while I’m looking forward to what the next two years have to offer, including a semester abroad, there are a lot of things I’m glad I did in my first two years. The six decisions in this article run the gamut of big to small, professional to academic, and just plain random. But each of them has helped me grow from where I was at the start of my freshman year.

1. Leaving my Blinds Open

I’m one of those people that has always said she needs all four seasons. But more than that, I need sunlight. I get so much more done with natural sunlight instead of the awful fluorescent lights in the ceiling of my dorm room. I was lucky enough to get rooms that couldn’t be seen into easily, so I was able to keep my blinds open at almost all times. Additionally, this helped me wake up in the morning instead of sleeping until 11 AM every Saturday. It may not seem like much, but a few extra hours to work on the weekend can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and an all-nighter during the week.

2. Finding a Job Quickly

Campus jobs go quickly at my school, and if you don’t get one your freshman year, it’s very hard to get one at all. My mother urged me to look at jobs before I even got to campus, so I looked through the ones posted. I inquired about three and was lucky enough to get hired at the one I wanted, a position in the student mailroom. On top of the work experience, this job gave me my first friends on campus; something I was grateful for when I looked back on my freshman year. I realized that I hadn’t really made many close friends except for two of my co-workers, both of whom have now graduated.

3. Being a Teacher’s Pet

I could write an entire article on everything my professors have done for me in the past two years. From helping me figure out my career path to editing my work for something other than their class, they have been there for me every step of the way. I particularly have to thank my music theory teacher because he is the reason for my second job on campus. I took music theory in high school but didn’t do well enough on the placement exam to test out of the first class. Even with failing the placement test, I knew most everything we talked about in the first semester.

But rather than slack off out of boredom, I answered questions in class and did all of my homework, since it wouldn’t take me very long. My professor noticed I was doing extremely well, and one day after class, he pulled me aside and told me that his faculty aide was graduating and asked if I would like to assume the position starting my sophomore year. I finished the class with an A+, and for the past year have been tutoring students that need help with theory while also assisting with research. My professor even trusts me enough to let me work remotely throughout the first half of this summer, which has helped me plan numerous trips with friends without having to worry about going in for a shift at a traditional summer job.

4. Creating a Laundry System

The stereotype for college students is that we stockpile our laundry, waiting two months until we go home, and then bringing bags upon bags of dirty clothes for our mom to do. That was never an option in my mind, and not just because my mom never does my laundry. Although some weeks I do get a little lazy or busy, I have a basic system of cleaning clothes on Saturday, and sheets and towels Sunday. This allows me to always have my favorite clothing items on hand if I want to wear them again soon and forces me to change the sheets on my bed once a week, which always helps me get a good night’s sleep before starting my week.

Ideally, both loads of laundry happen in the morning because Saturday and Sunday are the days everyone in the dorm is trying to do laundry. The trick is that they are also the days most people sleep in. So, if you can get yourself up at the same time you do during the week for class, there’s a good chance there will be at least one machine open. (I should mention here that laundry is included in our tuition at my school, so we don’t have to pay in quarters. If laundry does cost you extra money that isn’t in your budget, I totally understand stockpiling.)

5. Sending Out Writing

This past year, I realized that I wanted to start freelance writing to build my skills, and maybe get some extra income. Unfortunately, no one is willing to hire you if you haven’t written anything. I had discovered TFD early in my freshman year and became an avid reader and follower. I decided to try to write a piece to practice my writing on a lark one night, and to my surprise, it all came pouring out, and when I was finished, I had the courage to send it in. A while later, I got an email saying that my piece was going to be published!

That piece was far from perfect, and some of the comments made me chuckle. But having my writing published online has done so much for me. It helped me land my third student job writing alumni spotlights, got me a summer job as a contributing writer for a school district back home, and even got me a bigger project with a professor about which I hope to write a separate piece soon. Without that first article, no one else may have taken a chance on me, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.

6. Quitting My Job

Speaking of where I am today, my decisions in the past year have landed me in a very different kind of summer than last year’s. Last summer I worked 40 hours a week as a camp counselor for a day camp in my area. This summer, I have been able to travel to see family almost every weekend, go on a short trip with my girlfriends, and as of a few days ago, fly out to Maryland in order to spend a few weeks with my boyfriend whose summer internship sent him out east to broadcast baseball games for a summer league. None of this would have been possible if I had kept my camp job.

Once my boyfriend told me he had applied for this internship, we immediately started coming up with ways for us to be able to still see each other during the time of year we usually get to be together the most. One of the most important things for me was to be able to work remotely. Immediately I went to the people I already worked for, and two of my campus jobs said I could work during the summer, but it wouldn’t be enough. My mom told me about the posting for the contributing writer job I mentioned earlier, and I was lucky enough to get the job. After I was sure I would be able to make enough income to support myself for the summer, as well as save for my upcoming semester abroad, I called my boss at the camp and said that I would not be coming back this summer.

There were many other decisions I could have added into this article, from getting on birth control all the way to calling my Nana at least once every two weeks. These six, however, are the ones that have helped me work towards making college less stressful and help me prepare for life after I graduate.

Emma Seibert is currently a student at Wittenberg University. She enjoys performing and listening to music, reading and discussing words, and writing both.

Image via Unsplash

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