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A few things I wish someone had told me before I went to college

Aw college, the hallowed halls of higher education, molding the great minds of our next generation…. 

I think it is safe to say that college has evolved over the last few centuries, from esteemed halls of prodigy, to a holding zone for young adults between the ages of 18-22, who aren’t quite ready to become responsible adults yet, but have also outgrown living at home and curfews.

The focus has shifted from being a space for the most brilliant minds to congregate and build careers and more to that of a four year long social gathering focused on fun, personal exploration and social programming. 

That in mind, I loved college! But as we know, college is certainly not all about education and learning. Today’s college experience is now embedded with social traditions, cultural norms, and hegemony surrounding the types of experiences you shouldbe having. The college experience has absorbed lots of ideas about dating, sex, lifestyle and relationships, some of which are downright harmful. The truth is that the college experience is going to be different for everyone and what might be really fulfilling for one person might not be for someone else. 

Yet there are definitely a few things I wish I had known, and can now look back on with a new appreciation and understanding of: 

  1. Most college guys, no matter how awesome, will probably not make good boyfriends 

Most college guys are in party/hookup/selfish mode which is pretty much mutually exclusive to the boyfriend/ selfless/ commitment mode. And trust me I know that every girl out there thinks she can “change” him, or “he just hasn’t met the right girl yet,” and while there certainly are some diamonds in the rough out there, most college guys just aren’t ready to be good partners. They are in a self-centered phase of life where most guys are still maturing and figuring themselves out. Yet, while they are still in college surrounded by booze, hookup culture and irresponsibility, most college guys are just simply not in the frame of mind to be good boyfriends or even boyfriends at all. 

The moral of the story is that for the most part college guys need to be taken with a grain of salt, and don’t be surprised when that cute guy you’ve been seeing every weekend for three months “doesn’t want anything serious.” 

2. Be okay being alone/ single  

If most college guys are simply not commitment material that means that girls need to learn the fine art of being single. And an art it really is, especially when the culture is constantly telling us that we need a relationships status to define us. Ladies, learn to be comfortable being on your own, and being your own identity independent of another person.

On the other hand, lots of girls feel that college is a time to experiment or to not be held back by a relationship, and so they turn to hookup culture to meet their physical needs while also maintaining independence. And yet, sex is almost always messy, even if you think you are just keeping it casual. Pair bonding and hormones and old-fashioned feelings are a very real part of sex we cannot and should not ignore. 

3. Hookup culture is not for everyone and that is okay

Hookup culture is a vast and ingrained part of the college experience, in which most college freshman step onto campus thinking they are going to get laid every night of the week. The media in particular has promoted such an idea in TV and movies, and magazines. College students are left with the impression that not only is hookup culture a significant part of university, but that it is necessary to a fun, fulfilling collegiate experience. While yes, lots of college students are going to have casual sex it is A. Not necessary to your college experience and B. No, you won’t be the only one that feels that way. In fact most students will actually not be partaking, or at least not partaking to the extent you think they are partaking. I feel like many students participate because they feel like it is what they oughtto be doing or that if they don’t they are missing out on the sexual revolution. Sex is a very personal choice, and one that should not be molded based on the peer pressures around you or the social stigmas attached to what collegeshouldlook like. 

4. Wild partying and abundant drinking is not an indicator of how fun and fulfilling your college experience is

As with sex, the college experience is convoluted with images and connotations about what sorts of debauchery you ought to be partaking in in order to be living your best collegiate life. The truth is that while college will certainly be filled with fun and late nights and wild adventures, don’t believe the lie that alcohol must be the catalyst for all your best college stories. Some of your best college memories will be cooking dinner with your roommates, or going for a long heartfelt walk on campus with you bff, or a spring break road trip, or renting kayaks at the local lake or hiking with your dorm floor. College doesn’t’ have to be hedonistic to be fun or satisfying.  


5. Get involved in activities and find a tribe 

Again, this is pretty cliché advice, but the college experience is fueled by finding groups of like minded people with similar interests. Whether it be clubs, sports, teams, the arts, or student government find something you enjoy doing and a group of people you enjoy doing it with. This is a great way to make lifelong friends as well as pursue passions and interests in a particular niche, something that becomes harder to do after college when life gets in the way. 

6. Know the different between when you are better off going to sleep and when to stay up 

I feel like puling all-nighters and wild nights spent staying up into the wee hours are portrayed as staples of college, but I am here to tear that myth apart. Sleep is important. There will be some nights where staying up is necessary, like having an important conversation with a friend or a fun night out that you know will make a really special memory. However, most nights rest is essential, and you are better off going to sleep. Your future self will thank you. 

7. Never take everything you learn in class as the gospel truth, always be a discerning consumer of information 

Yes, for the most part your professors are intelligent, worldly, experienced individuals who are probably smarter that you, but the difference between the mass hordes of students who get pushed through the college system, and truly wise students, are those who ask questions, analyze what they are told, and are discerning consumers of information. Anyone can sit in a class and take notes like a robot, but the best and brightest will question what they are told and go deeper. Remember most universities have an agenda in regard to what they want their students to walk away with after four years, and it isn’t just a degree. It is your job to figure out what that agenda is, and then judge it to see how well it correlates with your beliefs, values and judgements about the world. 

8. Going to college is not for everyone- there is no golden ticket to success! 

In light of the college admissions scandal, please note that going to a four-year university is not the golden ticket that we have been programmed to see it as.   It is also not the straight and narrow to success.  And yet, all students are different and everyone is on a different path, in which a 4 year degree is not necessarily the best path for every student. Likewise, your college experience is what you make of it. whether you are at Harvard of a poorly ranked state school, your college experience has the potential you allow it to have. We put way too much of an emphasis on pushing kids through a college system that doesn’t work for everyone and pressuring them to enroll at “prestigious” institutions rather than places that fit who they are and their goals. 

9. Use all that free time wisely!

Never again will you have as much free time as you do in college. Class from 11am until 2pm! Then afternoons and weekend free! Oh you don’t have Friday classes? What a paradise of irresponsibility! Partying every night! Sleeping until 2! But not so fast! All this free time is a precious gift not to be squandered on drunken bacchanals and sleeping until 2! After college it is 40 hour work weeks and days where you wished you just had 2 extra hours in the day to do something other than work, exercise, laundry and sleep. While you’re in college use all that time to pursue passion projects, start a business, get a side job and start saving money, join an inter-mural league, pick up a new hobby, learn a new language, exercise, the list goes on and on. Trust me on this one! Make sure you make it worth it! Never again will you have that kind of free time to pursue your dreams and goals. 

College is a tricky time full of expectations and hazy glimpses of an unclear future, and there are loads of things I wish I had known and can see clearer, now that I have left the dorms and dirty frat alleys behind. College is a time to explore and experiment and pursue, and yet life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself, sometimes you just have to learn from other people’s mistakes. 

Good Luck,

Ellie xoxo

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