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What I Wish I Knew Before College

by Jenn Wilson, Content Manager

Transitions. All of us have experienced them, and only some of us enjoy them. Making the jump from high school to college is often the first “big” transition a person goes through, making it especially daunting. The fear of the unknown can be overwhelming at times, so here are a few useful pieces of knowledge that I wish I knew before taking the leap of faith into my college experience.

College student on  laptop.

Learning is more important than grades

Here’s the thing, I’m not saying that grades aren’t important. What I am saying is that the purpose of college is to explore various fields of study and grow your base of knowledge. If you have an interest separate from your major, dive into it more through free electives. It's tempting to take electives that will get you the "easy A" but don't interest you or teach you anything new. Step outside the box when considering what classes you will take every semester. Learning can also come through extracurricular activities. Try as many as you want! I joined the sailing team freshman year despite having no clue how to sail. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped, so I pivoted and found something else I could do with my energy. Throughout my 4 years, I was on the executive board of 3 clubs, was involved with a fellowship, and competed in a club sport, among other responsibilities. Looking back, I only truly enjoyed half of the activities that I ran around campus for all day. I felt accomplished, but not satisfied with how I was spending my time. My one take away from this is get involved, but make sure it is with things you enjoy.

Expect Stress

It's inevitable: you're going to have moments where you just want to bang your head on a table and cry. When these moments arrive, remember one thing: BREATHE. I never mastered this myself, and it was hard for me to stay calm when I got stressed. I had to learn that there are very useful steps to take when I was a bit overwhelmed.

  • Prioritize. Recognize deadlines and different importance levels of assignments, and attack one thing at a time. I loved having a checklist with me at all times, it helped me realize that my work was manageable and there are a lot of hours in the day.

  • Reach out to your professor. Your professors were in the same seats as you and understand how college can get. Ask for an extension if you have to; the worst they can say is no. If you are struggling with the material, ask for some extra help. I never met a professor who didn’t want to help their students outside of class. They appreciate it when you take the extra effort to understand what they are teaching.

  • Talk to others! Whether you go to the counseling center or have a night in with your friends, this is a way to realize that your stresses are not uncommon. Talking it out can help you move forward with a plan.

Write. Everything. Down.

High school was simple for me. I got up at the same time every day, went to cross country practice after school, and then was home until I woke up and did it all again. College is the exact opposite. One day you might have an 8 am, and the next you don’t have class till 2 pm. You will have a lot more deadlines, club meetings, and appointments. Once I realized that I should pick up a pen and start writing everything down in a planner, I felt in control of what I needed to do day-by-day. Save yourself the embarrassment of missing a meeting just because you forgot about it!

Resources are there for you, so use them!

I wish I still had a career center that I could take a 2-minute walk to and get advice on anything from my resume, to my cover letter, to phone, zoom, or in-person interviews. These are invaluable tools that you will not have forever, so take advantage of them. You will thank yourself later when everyone else is stressing about their resumes and you are confident that yours is ready to be submitted with your application.


No one has it figured out. Heck, I’m sure that some of your professors don’t even have it all figured out yet. You are not perfect, so let yourself make mistakes and learn from them. This is the time to do it. Remember to breathe and be yourself, you got this!


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