Recently I got coffee with a friend that I went to college with and we started reminiscing on the college days. We talked about how much we’ve changed since college and how we wish we could go back to college as who we are today. There are so many things that I’ve learned not only about myself but also about the real world after college graduation.
When I was in college, all I would hear from family and friends was “enjoy your time in college, it’s the best time of your life”. I had a lot of fun in college and learned a lot about myself, but after a few years in the real world I feel like I’ve learned even more about myself and what I should have done while in college. So today, I am sharing the advice I would have told myself as a college student!
One of my graduation pictures!
#1 Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself
One of the biggest lessons I learned during college was that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself. In high school, you are constantly feeling peer pressured to fit in and it can really distract you from finding yourself. Don’t make the same mistake in college. Let it be a time to learn about yourself and you will be grateful for that after graduating.
College is also a way to get out on your own and is a great time to learn how to be independent. Looking back on my college days, this is one of the biggest things I took away from college and I am so grateful for that.
#2 Pursue Internship Opportunities, Even as a Freshman
My first internship was actually during my junior year of college and while I am really glad that I did have an internship in my junior year, I wish that I would have pursued internships sooner. When you graduate and start interviewing for full-time positions, having as much experience as possible will really help you to get a full-time job and could also help you negotiate a higher salary for yourself since you will have more skills that you’ve picked up from the internships.
To find internship opportunities, you can go to a college career fair or your college’s career assistance office. Some colleges will even have specific career assistance offices just for your major/field. At Penn State, I was very lucky to have a dedicated career fair just for Communications majors and they also had someone that helped specifically with internships. Do some research and see what your college has to offer. Most colleges have a career and internship placement office to help students gain those connections for jobs/internships.
#3 Get a Jump Start on Student Loan Payments
I am excited to say that I am sooo close to paying off all my student loan debt, which I’ll make sure to write a post on once I am officially done! I had to pay for most of my education, so I definitely had a lot of student loan debt. When I was in college, I wasn’t much of a saver and looking back on my college experience I wish that I would have saved more to start paying off student loan debt early. Depending on the type of loans you have, you may be able to at least start paying down the interest while you’re in college. Paying down the interest can take a long time especially if you have a lot of loans, so the quicker you can get a head start on it – the better!
Something that I also recently did with my student loans that has saved me a LOT of money is refinancing my student loans. There are many great loan refinancing options out there and if you have recently graduated, it is a great option to consider if you have loans. Earnest is a company that offers refinancing for student loans and also has a lot of great resources to help you get organized!
#4 Get an Apartment & Save More Money
While we’re on the subject of finances, one thing that I learned in college was that living in an apartment was much cheaper than living in a dorm. I lived in a dorm my freshman and sophomore years of college, but honestly I wish I would have moved into an apartment sooner! Living in the dorms your freshman year is a great way to meet new people, so I probably still would have lived in a dorm my freshman year but I think my sophomore year I would have tried to live in an apartment instead of the dorms, just to save some extra money.
#5 Your Major Doesn’t Necessarily Matter
I spoke about my experience with switching majors in my 6-month blogiversary Q&A post, I was told that I couldn’t get into the business school during my sophomore year because I changed my mind too late and it was impossible to get all of the prerequisites done in time, I was heartbroken but then my friends gave me some really good advice. I was able to pursue an Advertising degree, which was similar to the Marketing degree I wanted. While your major is important, don’t feel like you have to pursue a field in your major after college especially if you realize that it just isn’t what you want to do.
No matter what your major is, you will learn a lot of valuable skills in college that will help you in your careers, so don’t get hung up on your major because it isn’t always exactly the field you have to go into.
#6 You Don’t Have to Have it All Figured Out
I majored in advertising and while I do work at an ad agency, my career has kind of taken me in a different direction that I never would have thought I’d be in when I was in college. Currently I work more on the technology and software side of the ad agency, so I work closely with developers and the business to determine what features we roll out. This isn’t something that I learned in college and when I was in college, I thought that I would for sure be doing something more ‘traditional’ in advertising.
So don’t feel pressured to have everything figured out in college, because chances are you won’t follow the exact path that you think you will when you’re in college and sometimes it’s for the better!
#7 Just Enjoy Yourself & Have Fun
Last but not least, just have fun and enjoy yourself in college! Some of my best memories are from college and so many of my best friends I actually met during my time in college. Enjoy the things you get to experience in college and remember that life is meant to learn about yourself and experience new things 🙂
There you have it, some of the things I learned in college and some advice that I would have given to college self.
What advice would you give to yourself if you went back to college?