What I Wish I Knew Before Going to College

The transition from high school to college is a big jump that comes with a lot of new and exciting experiences. Not to mention, a lot more responsibility. Going off to college is often the first glimpse of what being an adult looks like, especially if you’re relocating. The advice you can get from college graduates, parents, and other people in your life may seem endless. But, here is the list I’ve put together of the top things I wish I knew before going to college.

College Advice

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going To College


1. Don’t spend more than you have

When you get to college, you’ll see how differently each person lives. Some people are living off ramen and TV dinners while others are DoorDashing every night. But the truth is, going out every night will take its toll on your bank account. It’s important to be mindful of your spending. Create a budget for yourself (and allow for some wiggle room). Make sure you aren’t scraping pennies together at the end of each month to eat or pay your rent. Living within your means will also prevent you from taking out too many student loans. Why set yourself up with hefty bills right after graduation, and that have interest?


2. Don’t buy the textbooks

Do you have money set aside for textbooks? Unless you do, buying them brand new can put you back hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year. Each semester, at a fraction of the cost, you can rent used textbooks from sites like:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Knetbooks
  • Chegg
  • Ecampus


Just to name a few! (There are several websites you can search through – you just have to take the time to look.)


Once you’ve completed the class, you can simply send them back! Renting textbooks or downloading the PDF version will save you some big bucks.


“Textbooks were not covered by my scholarship. I was responsible for paying for them all throughout my college career. I had no idea about book rentals my freshman year and it cost me over $1,000. I wish someone would have told me about used textbooks and rental services before I started college. It could have saved me so much stress and money. My sophomore year book costs were less than $500 since I decided to rent. I’m here to tell you what no one told me before applying to college – do not buy the textbooks!

– Sam C.


3. Take advantage of school events

The thought of attending a school event may make you feel nervous. We definitely suggest going at least once a semester. They’re a great way to meet new people at school and they often have free food and drinks. These events are usually accompanied by fun activities. So, it shouldn’t feel like your awkward 8th grade Sadie Hawkins dance. You may or may not just so happen to meet your next best friend there. But most importantly, you could be building a network that could potentially help you land a job or internship down the line.


4. Use all your school’s free resources

It’s amazing how many free resources your school has available. You can get free printing from the school library. Get your resume professionally written and edited. You can get job interview advice, and even get free counseling. Before you start college, make sure you take a look at all the free resources your school offers. You’re spending a lot of money to attend there — might as well get all the education and free help you can get!


5. Live with random roommates

Yes, we know you want to live with your best friend of 8 years when you move away to college. But, living with a random roommate can change your life for the better. There’s always the risk of not getting along with a stranger. There is also equal risk of damaging a relationship with a close friend. Especially if you’ve never lived together before. With a random roommate, you can establish clear boundaries. It’s easier to stay civil even if you decide to not become close friends.


“I decided to try living with random roommates my freshman year of college. If it didn’t work out, I knew I could live with friends the following year but it actually turned out amazing. We lived together for 3 years before we all graduated and became more like sisters than friends. It was a great way to put myself out there. I’m so happy I chose to do randomly-assigned roommates because I now have lifelong friends. Even though we all live in different places, we still talk and see each other a lot.”

– Anna T.


6. Meet with an advisor semi-regularly

Don’t be a stranger to your college advisor. Chances are, they’ve seen students in similar situations as yours. They know how to lead you in the right direction. They can help keep you on track for graduation and help you change or declare your major when you need to. Meeting with a college advisor on a regular basis gets them familiar with your path. They can even suggest scholarships and grants to you. Are you considering waiting until the end of your college career to meet with your advisor? You could miss out on amazing opportunities. Not to mention accidentally putting yourself behind.


7. Keep your family in the loop

If you’re moving away for college, the transition can leave you feeling homesick sometimes. Keep your family updated with your college career. Give them a few calls and texts when you miss them — odds are they’re missing you too. College students don’t talk enough about how much they miss home. It’s something I wish I knew before going to college. I would’ve cherished the time I had left with my loved ones while at home.


8. Apply for scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants can be life changing. Most students think you apply for scholarships before you go to college. But, you’re missing out on free money if you’re not applying until you graduate. Scholarships aren’t only merit-based. They are available to students of all backgrounds. You don’t have to pay them back as you do with student loans so be sure to apply to as many as you can for the free money.


“During my junior year of college, I was trying to budget more. I was so close to graduating and didn’t want to take out more student loans. I applied for a scholarship that required a short essay and ended up winning $2,500! That was enough to cover my tuition and books for my summer semester. It helped me out a lot. During my senior year of college, my advisor told me about a grant available for seniors. It ended up paying for my tuition, rent, and books for that semester. I had no idea I could apply for scholarships and grants as much as I wanted. I wish I knew about the importance of scholarships before going to college. It could have saved me even more money.”

–  Selena S.


9. Take a fun/random class

Your college classes are the foundation for your career but you deserve to take a few fun ones. Take a look at your school’s course catalog to see which electives stand out to you. From sailing to yoga, you can expand your horizons while still getting an education. Who knows, one of these random classes could change the course of your college career! If not, at least you got some fun experiences out of it.


10. Get rejected

Rejection is a huge fear for some people, especially college students. But when you decide to put yourself out there and get rejected, you learn how to deal with disappointment from other areas of your like:

  • jobs
  • friends
  • significant others


Apply to programs and jobs you’re not completely qualified for. You’d be surprised how far you can get. You’ll get better at interviews and talking to people. By the time you go for something you want, you won’t feel unprepared or nervous about your interview. This experience will build up your confidence. It will familiarize you with talking in situations that may have seemed too intimidating before.


College is a time to embrace who you are in a new place with new people. Before you know it, you’ll be giving the same advice that you’re reading about now because you’ll have lived it out! Keep in mind these things I wish I knew before applying to college. You can learn from my mistakes and make even more out of your experience. Enjoy the ride.


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