What I Wish I’d Known Before College: Smile, Relax, Think

There are a few things I wish I knew before college. Think, smile, and relax.

Flickr user Michael Cardus

Four years ago, I moved into Burge residence hall at the University of Iowa. I was excited as could be to start my new journey. Although I was going to school in-state, I was about five hours from home. Moreso, I was further than some of my peers whose homes were in another state. I learned a lot that I never thought I would during my time at Iowa, though. These are some of the most important takeaways I have to share.

Finding Friends

Throughout your college experience, you will meet people who challenge you to be better. While you may make lasting friendships early on, do not hesitate to continue to meet new people. In my first two semesters, I thought I had made all of the friends that I needed in my life. I was confident we would all be friends for as far into the future as I could see. During the following years, friendships ebbed and flowed. I lost touch with some of those “forever friends” from my first year, but there wasn’t any bad blood involved.

Towards the end of my sophomore year and into my junior year, I became involved in a variety of student organizations and opportunities on-campus. The people I have stayed friends with. Those who I met through these on-campus experiences are the ones who make me a better person. They have believed in me and helped me through highs and lows, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Broaden Your Mind

It’s okay to question your own beliefs. I am from a small town in the Northwest corner of the state, and I appreciate the values my parents instilled in me. When I got to college, some of my beliefs changed, because I was exposed to new ideas and learned things that opened my eyes. Some of these new beliefs came from the classroom, some from my peers, and others from discussions facilitated through my involvements. College is about more than what you learn just in the classroom; look at the people around you. No one has the exact same story as you. Cherish the fact that you are in a place where there are so many people that are different from you, and take the chance to learn something new from them.

Work Hard, Play Hard

One of the hardest but best lessons I eventually learned was that if you work hard during the week, you can relax on the weekends. It can be hard to stay motivated and get homework done during the week. Friends want to hang out, “there’s always tomorrow”, and sometimes a nap is just calling your name. As I got busier with my classes, work, and my student organizations, I gained better time management skills. This worked in my favor; if I got a lot done during the week, I was able to spend more time with friends on the weekend doing things I enjoyed.

How can you best take advantage of all college has to offer? Talk to people that you don’t know, keep an open mind, get involved early on, and work hard in your classes. Doing these four things will help you start with the right foot forward, and enable you to become who you are meant to be.

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