An Open Letter of 10 Lessons to My College Self

Irrational freakouts of college- who can’t relate? Personally, I loved my college experience. I went to college in New York City, which I loved, but it certainly came with its share of stresses! Looking back, I can see that a lot of the stress I experienced was self-inflicted. Here’s what I would tell my college self now.

College is an amazing time, but there's a lot I wish I would've known during that time. Click through for my letter of 10 lessons I wish I would've known to my college self!

College is an amazing time, but there's a lot I wish I would've known during that time. Click through for my letter of 10 lessons I wish I would've known to my college self!
College is an amazing time, but there's a lot I wish I would've known during that time. Click through for my letter of 10 lessons I wish I would've known to my college self!

Your student loans will be harder than you think to pay- be careful

You chose to go to an expensive school. A prestigious school, yes, but expensive nonetheless. Luckily, three years after graduating, you will still feel confident that the benefits, education, connections, and experience were worth the money. But, your student loans bother you more than you would’ve imagined.

My advice is not to go to a cheaper school. Like I said, there’s no price on your experience. But, be creative with how to pay for school. Don’t do work-study or retail, you’ll make way more money (and have way more fun!) bartending. Max out 18 credits/semester because there is a flat fee for 12-18 credits. Take summer classes so during senior year you can go to school part-time and work part-time. Don’t live in student housing or have a meal plan, live and cook independently (it’s cheaper). Think outside of the box!

If you have student loans, consider refinancing your loans. Doing so was one of the best moves I’ve made post-graduation. Curious if refinancing is right for you? This infographic from Bone Fide Wealth is super helpful.

Don’t overwork yourself

You’re quite motivated.

That’s a great thing, for the most part. But, don’t push yourself as hard as your natural instinct. Get at least 7 hours of sleep, make time to work out, and remember that grades on each paper and test are very small factors into the future you’re creating for yourself. Networking, volunteering, traveling, and getting to know professors all have extreme value and, in some cases, more value than spending sleepless nights on a paper.

You will hesitate about traveling- don’t

It’s hard to choose traveling over summer internships or jobs- especially when you need the money. However, you have the rest of your life to work and your travels will inform so much of who you become as a young professional. Go for it.

One of the smartest things you did in college was signed up for airline credit cards to rack up frequent flyer miles.

 

Wake up early

In college, you’ll often try to “become a morning person” or wake up earlier. But alas, you often don’t wake up before 8 or 9 AM. You do stay up quite late getting things done, but still, you too easily surrender to being a night owl.

Well, fast forward two years and you’re up at 5:30 AM every morning. You don’t have to get up this early for work or anything. Rather, you’ve realized that almost everyone is more productive in the morning and you’ll quickly learn to love that alone time. You start a side hustle about two years after college and the only way you pull that off is during your early mornings. (You even created an awesome planner for your side hustle early mornings!) Build that habit now and start living a healthier, more productive lifestyle.

Related: make the most of Mondays

Don’t take anthropology

It was just the worst.

Volunteer

It’s too easy in college to get caught up in your own business of working, school, stress about future, and, obviously, having a social life. Volunteering, which is something that’s always been very important to you, will get pushed down on the priority list. Don’t let it. Volunteering will not only help you help others, you’ll meet others, learn more about New York, and learn more about the type of career you want to pursue.

Related: how to volunteer as a young professional

Create a personal website earlier

One of the most the most stressful part of college was during the spring of senior year, frantically applying for jobs even though you weren’t quite sure where to go or what to do. The good news is that: 1- everything worked out and you got a great job, and 2- everyone goes through that, you’re not alone. But, you ask, if everyone goes through this, there must be something you can do to stand out?! There is!

You’ll make a personal website (my first and last name.com) about two years after graduating and it was one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Your only regret is not doing it sooner! It’ll help your internship applications, job applications, and overall networking.

Related: how to create a personal website

Pay attention to your social media

I wasn’t totally irresponsible with my social media. But, I recently did a time consuming social media audit and clean up, and there was plenty on there that did not need to be. Be proud of your digital footprint and be humbled by how powerful the digital world truly is. Plus, social media is an incredibly powerful networking and career tool, so it’s worth staying careful.

Related: the ultimate guide to cleaning up your social media

Take things less seriously

The thing about college in the United States is that for the most part, they’re sort of a bubble. This gives them a lot of their charm and fun! But, they also make it easy to sort of forget what’s going on the rest of the world. Try to keep perspective and understand that no matter what struggles you’re going through, you will get through them. They are not as bad as they seem and you are stronger than you think. (I still to remind myself this advice daily.)

Dream bigger than you can imagine

The opportunities waiting for you on the other side of college are bigger than you could ever dream. College is amazing; appreciate all the amazingness of it, make the most of it, and take every opportunity you get. You never know where things can lead you. The sooner you stop accepting that challenges and limitations are “just part of life”, the wider and vaster your horizons will grow. Don’t limit yourself to anything and keep pushing yourself.

What would you tell your college self?

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