15 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College – By A Student

things I wish I knew before starting college

Starting college might seem daunting… there’s so much to learn! Some people come out of the other side saying it was the best thing to ever happen to them.

Others will say that college sucks you in and spits you out with depression, heightened anxiety, and a new form of existentialism that cannot be cured. Either way you’ll learn something new…

Here are 15 things I wish I knew before starting college:

You Can Get A Lot of Free/Cheap Stuff

Being a college student has many advantages that I wish I knew how to utilize. Your student ID will be your best friend in this.

Most places (stores, theaters, restaurants, etc.) offer student discounts that can save you tons of money in the long run! Don’t be afraid to ask if they offer any.

On top of that, a lot of things are handed out for free on campus. Whether that’s a t-shirt, condoms, or even cookies, you’ll be sure to save a little extra cash here and there.

What I recommend: Join online groups (Facebook groups, school Instagram pages, etc.) and keep an eye out for giveaways, cheap stuff for sale, and other free events that you can join. Some universities even offer free food on certain days!

But why is this so important? I’ll tell you why…

You’ll Be the Most Broke You’ve Ever Been

That’s why all that free and cheap stuff is really important to look for! College sucks up your money. Plus, it’s hard to balance work with school to make some extra cash during the week. Alcohol is expensive, food is costly, and so are a bunch of other things when you’re a newly independent college student.

Will this apply to everyone? Of course not. Some students have their parents’ help, while others have an easier time making money, and for a bunch of other reasons.

However, most college students struggle with this. It leads to bad diets, lack of motivation to study, and more.

What you should do: If you can’t make money, focus on saving money. Start creating budgets, tracking your expenses, and take advantage of student discounts (above).

How to Manage Time Better

This just may be the hardest thing for you to do when starting college. Freshman year can leave you with no room to breathe if you allow it to.

Focus on managing your time and make that a priority. Your mental and physical health comes first, before school, before classes, before everything. Don’t forget that.

Understand what amount of workload overwhelms you and start from there. Maybe you’re not doing much and it would be in your best interest to add on a few hobbies or work. Either way, only you can know what you’re capable of, so just be self aware.

Related Post: Time Management Tips for Students

Classes Won’t Impress You

You thought your classes were going to be so much better than high school didn’t you. Yeah, sorry. Most of your classes are not going to be as impressive as you thought.

Sure, your major and interests may change that, but don’t expect every class to be an engaging and exciting event.

When you’re starting college, you have this eagerness to be the best and do your best. Take that motivation and run with it! Being smart won’t save you as easily as it did in high school.

What I recommend: Read about the professor and the course on a website like ratemyprofessors.com and see what others are saying you should do.

Depending on the class, some will recommend you listen to the professor and take notes. Others might suggest you make better use of your time and get your homework done during lectures.

Procrastination Will Be Your Biggest Enemy 

That stupid 15 letter word will ruin your life if you don’t fight back. Before starting college, figure out some way to make sure you never procrastinate again. Usually time management will help with that, but sometimes it’s just who we are and we need other methods to keep us on track.

I know this is easier said than done, but please take this next piece of advice from me…

Just study! It’ll avoid panic later on and you’ll thank yourself for it. Go to class, pay attention (if necessary), keep track of assignments, do the work and it’ll pay for itself later on.

If you found this post, chances are you already want to do well in college and avoid all the bad stuff. For most, the only real way to do that is by actually retaining the information you learned. So please, study.

Related Post: 10 Study Tips for Every Effective Student

You’ll Learn A Lot About Yourself

College has its ups and downs, but one thing’s for sure… you’ll learn a lot about who you are. I’d say that might be the biggest upside to college – Self awareness.

You’ll learn about who you like, what you like, new passions, relationships, cultures, and so much more! If you want to maximize how much you learn about yourself this requires a good balance.

A good balance between doing things and… not doing things. You will learn about yourself when you’re out and about just as much as you will when you’re all by yourself.

What I recommend: Don’t be afraid to join clubs, Facebook groups, club sports teams, gyms, and whatever else is offered at your university.

Try new things! If that’s hard for you, find just one friend that would be open to going to things with you. College is about being vulnerable and opening yourself up to new things. Take the leap, it’s worth it!

Consider Community College

Some will say the first 2 years of college were the best. Others will say, save your time and money. I say, take a good look at yourself and really think about what matters to you.

I’ve noticed that the people who loved the first 2 years of college were party animals and extroverted people. They were in it for that “college experience”. Plus, a lot of them had parents that paid for their college.

If you pay for college yourself, want a smooth college transition, don’t really care about partying, and would rather save money, then consider community college first.

Classes are cheap/free, give you what you need, allow more freedom to do what you want, can help avoid rent, and plenty of other headaches related to freshman year at a 4 year university.

No matter what you decide, you’ll still have at least 2 years at a university where you can catch up and enjoy that party time. Evaluate your situation and decide what’s right for you.

Related Post: 10 College Dorm Essentials Every Student Needs

Professors are Valuable Assets

Having a professor by your side can give you many advantages. Try getting close with professors that you respect. Maybe you like their teaching style, or have a passion for what they teach.

Professors are (usually) there for students to ask questions, give them advice, and expand your mind.

I had a professor who would offer me free coffee in the morning just because we were friends. Believe me, I was no teacher’s pet either. Some connections just happen naturally when you’re engaged in a subject and want to learn more.

I know people who have received job opportunities (yes, a job!) from a professor who needs research help and other small tasks. Better yet, a professor can also write excellent recommendation letters for job applications which you’ll be needing very soon!

Take advantage of your connections to learn more about your passions, receive job opportunities, and more!

The First Year is Wild

So take it slow! Don’t overwhelm yourself with new things immediately. It will seem like you can take on everything in the beginning, but that’s not true. You have 4 years… spread it out.

Here are a few things you might get bombarded with all at once:

  • Clubs
  • Frats/Sororities
  • Full time classes
  • Sports teams
  • Hobbies
  • Making friends
  • Freshman events
  • Partying
  • Decorating/Organizing your room
  • Work
  • Chores/Errands

If you can handle it, great! Some of the hardest working people I know had a hard time with this though, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

Step by step, you’ll be able to knock down everything you wanted to. Over time, you might even realize that better opportunities will come up and you’ll drop other things you had in mind.

Don’t Buy Textbooks Unless You Have To

Even if a syllabus says you “have to” buy the textbook(s), chances are you don’t. The amount of money you can save by not purchasing giant books that you’ll never read is insane!

Check ratemyprofessors.com and see what others are saying about the textbook. Some classes will say to just study the notes that the professor gives you. Boom, $300 saved in your pocket!

Some classes will say that the notes don’t help at all and to just read the textbook. If that’s the case, get the CHEAPEST version of the book you can possibly buy.

Believe me, it’s not worth spending even an extra dime on books. They are usually a waste of, not only money, but time as well.

Related Post: 10 College Hacks for Students (Free Textbooks)

Have A Routine for Everything

You don’t have to be a literal robot, but having a routine to follow will really help you stay on track.

Here are a few things you can make a routine for:

  • Morning/Night Schedule
  • Classes
  • Diet/Food Plan
  • Exercise
  • Work
  • Chores

There’s plenty of things you can turn into a routine if you’re creative enough. Hopefully that list was a good start for college related activities.

Write down what you have to get done, at what time, how long it’ll take, what you need to bring, and whatever else you can think of. It might seem overwhelming at first to create schedules for all of these things, but you only have to do it once.

When everything is completed, all you have to do is follow it! Simple enough right? Okay, maybe it still takes some will power to get up and keep up, but it’s worth it.

Work on Your Future Before It Starts

If you are fortunate enough to know your passion or find it in college, this one will give you a head start. Are you good at something? Like, good enough that you could charge for it?

If you answered yes, drop everything you’re doing and figure out a way to make money from that expertise.

If you answered no, that’s okay! There’s plenty of other ways to work on your future before starting college:

  • Create a budget
  • Create a workout routine
  • Upgrade your resume
  • Explore new hobbies and make new connections

These are just a few things you can start doing right this second without any sort of passion yet. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world used this method to continue on the right path out of college.

The point of this is to have something to work on when you’re done with university. Another way to make money, grow your knowledge, gain more experience, etc. before the real world hits you hard.

Related Post: How to Be a Successful Teenager

Avoid Excess of Drugs, Alcohol, and Caffeine

I would say to avoid all of these completely, but college is about trying new things and these things just happen to be around.

When you continue to use these things in excess, especially when you’re just starting college, it will become a routine. This is a routine you don’t want. It will mess up your life.

You’ll become lazier, less motivated, more tired, and ultimately will have to rely on those things to make you happy or get you out of bed.

Have your fun and do your thing. All I’m saying is to avoid doing it all the time. You’ll thank your future self for not developing those habits.

Making Friends is Hard AF

If you’re not an extroverted ball of sunshine (I’m jealous), you will very likely have a hard time making friends. That’s okay though!

There’s plenty of ways to go about doing this, but it starts with you. Keep in mind that everyone else is probably in the same boat as you. Everyone wants to make friends, but might be too scared or simply don’t know how.

Maybe social anxiety has taken over. Regardless, friends are easiest made by talking over things you share in common.

If there’s a club that you can join and talk for hours about, chances are that there’s others that can talk for hours about it as well. From there, focus on building a foundation with just a few friends.

Related Post: 7 Ways to Make More Friends in College

College Goes by Faster Than You Think

Those 4 years might be the fastest years of your life, but also the most action-packed! So make the most of your experience and get out there!

Whether you’re a fan of college or not, there will always be something new to learn, someone new to meet, and new passions to arise.

If you hate school, then at least use your time to focus on making money, friends, and doing other productive things for your future.

Starting college should not feel like the end of college. Make it a goal to come out the other end as a new, self aware person. If not, you’ll just come out with a degree. Four years for a lousy piece of paper.

Don’t be that person. Make it count!


That’s 15 things I wish I knew before starting college. At least the important ones anyways. Come back to this post right before your first day of college. It just might give you that little spark to do something different!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions leave them down below. Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like