Before I started college, I googled top tips on how to succeed in postsecondary education, and I honestly wish I’d found this post. Although some things may seem completely obvious or arbitrary, these are the things I wasn’t told, and I wish I had been.
Perhaps because I’m a woman (ah, stereotypes), I was expected to understand some of these, yet when it came down to it and I left home, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it would be an easy transition into college, and I can tell you right now that learning to take care of yourself is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. So here they are: Seven things I wish I knew before I headed off to college.
1. Your body will change.
Weight is a big problem for girls starting college, but not for the reasons you might think. When I started college, I didn’t realize how much my eating habits reflected my emotions. When leaving home for the first time, priorities become so hard to distinguish, but the thing that is most important is to create healthy habits (like eating regularly and well!).
Be conscious of what you consume and make sure you moderate it, because college is a very emotional time and it is so easy to lose track and let it get away from you. A great way to ensure you’re keeping a regular routine is by making meal plans at the beginning of the week and a food journal throughout. This will also help save on groceries and avoid waste. Nutritious meals take time and effort, and you’re going to have to learn to do it sooner or later. Start the habit early because it’s hard to break a bad food cycle later on.
2. You shouldn’t be a slob just because you can get away with it.
Sure, it is expected that you’ll struggles with cleanliness because that’s the stereotype. This does not mean it’s healthy. As a student, you have a million and one things to do, and chores and hygiene should not be at the bottom of your list. Your mental health is contingent on the state of your living space and your personal care, so get up with enough time to go through a clean hygiene routine, wash your dishes when you’re done with them, make your bed in the morning, and take out the trash.
You won’t believe how much of a difference it makes. Sorting out your priorities is difficult, so trust me when I say that these things are top priority, only second to eating and sleeping well.
3. You don’t need to have one “ultimate” goal for college.
No matter what it is, going to college with one ultimate goal in mind is a bad idea. Meaning that going in with the hopes of finding the perfect boyfriend, partying to your maximum capacity, or graduating top of your class are all very lovely aspirations, but they will leave you lacking in other departments.
My biggest suggestion is to not take everything so seriously. You’re going to mess up and struggle, so give yourself a break. Take every day as it comes, and keep a few smaller goals in mind. This could be eating healthy, getting the most of your classes, whatever works for you. But your experience shouldn’t hinge on achieving one gigantic thing.
4. You may not have lots of sex or dates or intimate moments.
College is a time to explore, discover, and experiment. But sex is not the end all-be all of your college social life. Now is the time to explore your emotional intelligence and decipher your own inner workings. There is nothing wrong with being confused and not understanding yourself; it’s completely normal. But there is no need to rush anything; you can have sex, but just make sure you really want it.
5. You might be tempted to lose focus on your school work.
That guy you like keeps texting you and you missed the majority of a lecture? You stayed up too late and need to sleep through a class? Either scenario is going to bite you in the butt at some point.
Remember: A professor doesn’t care whether you pass or fail because it’s your job to care. If you’re struggling to stop texting, turn your phone off. If you really need to sleep through class, don’t. Just listen; it’ll make passing so much easier. Success isn’t easy, and that’s why it’s so rewarding.
6. You’ll have trouble with laundry at first.
If you’ve never done your own laundry, or you just aren’t used to the crappy machines at your college, don’t be ashamed to ask questions. The last thing you want to do is put your detergent in where the bleach goes and wind up with bleach on your favorite sweater.
It might seem simple, but googling how to do laundry is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. You’ll learn valuable things, like clipping your bras before washing them.
If you’re struggling to find motivation to do your laundry, figure out a system that works for you. For example, give yourself a chocolate bar when you’re finished, because you’re going to be stressed beyond belief from other things, and life is just so much easier when all your clothes are put away.
7. You don’t have to do it all alone.
As I said, learning to take care of yourself is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, so find a support system. Whether it’s the girlfriends in your dorm, you call your mother or sister or cousin every day, or you a counselor at school, make sure you talk to someone.
Building up stress and anxiety can cause lasting problems that you don’t need at a time when you’re facing so many challenges. Creating healthy habits means proceeding with a level head and doing the things you need to do one step at a time.
Waking up every morning and having a hardy breakfast, drinking lots of water and keeping a semi regular sleep schedule are key in being successful in anything that you do. Now is the time to establish these habits, because they will be hard to break later on. Start with a solid foundation so that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Most of all, cut yourself some slack. You’re going to make mistakes, it’s going to be hard, you will probably cry, and that’s okay. You probably won’t be able to do all of these things from the get-go, so build up to it. Just try again tomorrow.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.