As a senior, I and many of my friends find ourselves reflecting on all of the experiences we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned in the past four years. Despite all of the important information we’ve taken in that will lead us to our careers after graduation, it’s the life experiences gained and each other that we will cling to after we leave college.
Most of these lessons and experiences haven’t come all at once. They come quickly and without much notice beforehand, but they do tend to spread themselves out over the course of four years. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you never stop learning in college, but somehow one life lesson or another will always manage to slip in and surprise you. I guess it’s a lesson in humility to remember that you’ll never know everything.
So, reflecting on all of the things I’ve learned in my time as an undergraduate student, there are many that I believe could have significantly changed my experience had I known them before coming into college as a first-year.
Since the majority of my friend group and I are graduating this spring, I decided to turn to them and ask… What’s something you wish you knew before coming to college?
“How much I took my parents for granted.”
This one comes from one of my five roommates—yes, five roommates, but don’t worry about that just yet. Focus on getting along with just one when you get here!
Anyway, this is definitely a big lesson that I can attest to. Despite what kind of relationship you have with your parents, you live with them, and see them 24/7. Our parents do so much for us, and we don’t even realize it until we’re on our own. I mean, you’re not really on your own in college—you have your roommate, your friends, and the residential life staff in your building that stand in as a makeshift family. It’s just kind of like a preface to actual adulthood.
If anything, learning this definitely makes you appreciate your parents much, much more. It’s true when they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It also makes you appreciate the significance of all the relationships you make as you go through college—we’re all going through the same thing, we all took our parents for granted; so maybe let’s not take each other for granted.
“How different the academic experience would be.”
Not everyone has the same high school experience, aptitude for certain subjects, or personal experience with academics. The one undeniable aspect about the transition from high school to college is that it’s a completely different setup. I think it took me a full semester to truly get used to the different-classes-on-different-days thing, and the fact that length of class time varies. In high school, it’s all one monotonous blur of the same classes every day. Not only that, but the workload is structured very differently. It is up to the discretion of the professor how they execute their courses, and every professor will be different, but there is a lot more emphasis on independent learning. My biggest and boldest point of information in this lesson? Read the syllabus. Know the syllabus. Love the syllabus. EVERYTHING IS IN THE SYLLABUS.
“How much getting involved on campus changes your experience and perception of your college experience.”
I am a HUGE advocate for getting involved on campus. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t get involved my freshman year. I considered joining a group, but I never really got around to it. I was really shy and homesick a lot, and I thought if I got involved I couldn’t dedicate my full attention to my studies. That, by the way, is a completely false assumption, and I really wish I’d known it back then. I have many friends who are involved in several organizations, hold down jobs AND make the grades. I did get involved with a great organization at the start of my sophomore year thanks to one of my close friends, and it’s taught me so much about community, teamwork, and showed me how wonderful my campus community really is. this is how I know I chose the right college! Half the people that complain “Oh, there’s nothing going on here”? It’s because they don’t do anything. There is always, always, always something going on at your college or university literally every single day; you just have to bother to look.
If you are still trying to find the right fit for you, Westfield has this free guide on how to choose the right college.