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Life > Academics

What I wish I knew Before Coming to College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

When I first came to college, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I heard from my friend’s siblings, my parents, and classic media that painted a “clear” picture of what college was supposed to look like. I heard the infamous experiences along with the portrayal of what “Animal House” showed college life to be.

 But, these insights only prepared me to an extent. I wish inexperienced me knew not to value my success in college through how many people I knew or could talk to.

Friends in college:  

College is a huge shift in scenery, especially for out-of-state students. You may have the idea that as soon as you step foot on campus or the dorms you’ll be able to find your first best friend, but I promise it’s not that straightforward. While possible, you may want to be aware most college students become friends in other ways besides becoming close friends by just blinking at each other. Now, don’t get the impression you will never have friends, I just wish that past me was not sad and frustrated because  I didn’t consider close friendships take time and don’t just magically occur overnight. 

In my experience, there are several ways to make friends in college. There’s not a manual on how to make friends in college so I was lost until I met other like-minded individuals through events, classes, campus transportation, and even through asking a dumb question. In fact, I met my group of friends in classes, in my dorm, and in clubs and organizations. I luckily came to the realization I wasn’t the only one in that boat as I started to explore the campus. 

Settings In Campus To Become Familiar With: 

It should be obvious when you first step into college you aren’t supposed to know the ins and outs of campus, but sadly that would be too much of a realistic expectation to uphold yourself to. When classes, dining halls, and study spaces became an integral part of my everyday life, I began to panic because I had no idea what to do. On the first day of classes, I was so nervous about not knowing where and who I could talk about these subject matters with. I remember sitting near unfamiliar faces and caring too much about what they thought of me. I wish I realized everyone beside me was also a freshman and also felt like a fish out of water. Just like me. My parents told me to ask for my fellow student’s contact information for class-related subjects, and boy they were right. It may seem daunting to ask others for their personal information but this guarantees a safety net for academics and allows the door to open to potential friendship. I realize how stupid this sounds, but I’m serious. Because I had some of my peer’s phone numbers, I was able to study and hang out with them outside of the classroom. This allowed me to get to know them better and realize we had more similarities than just what subject was taught in the classroom. 

In the case of studying either solo or in a group, it is always important to know the ideal places. The holy grail of studying places may come from others’ recommendations or some self-exploration. But, it’s important to make an effort to study in other places other than your dorm desk. The reasons behind this madness can be attributed to a lack of space, becoming easily distracted in your own space, and the existence of your roommate:  very easy to become overwhelmed and distracted in a space that is too homey or comfortable. Plus, the room itself will probably not be expansive and therefore not an ideal space for a large group of people. The good news too is you won’t be tempted to crawl into your bed and take a nap if you’re studying in a space that is not your room! Besides the topics of study places and peers, one similar space you might share besides the classrooms would be the dining halls. 

I don’t know what you expect the dining halls to be like, but I thought they would be a guaranteed place to meet friends. My initial impression was not wrong, but there is nothing wrong with eating alone. I was so scared people would judge me for enjoying alone time Sometimes there were windows where my schedule would not match up with those of my friends. Now I know if anyone actually judged or made fun of someone for sitting beside themselves in the food hall, that would be highly inappropriate. I found my alone time in the dining halls opened me up to more acquaintances and friends because they or I asked to join each other. What I mean by this, is if a person is not doing homework or listening to music, there’s a good chance they are open to conversation.  Besides finding out the unwritten rules of the dining hall, I wish I paid more attention to the many chances and opportunities offered by the University. 

Campus Resources and Opportunities:

I knew college would be a device to open more doors for my well-being and future, but I was never fully aware of the extent when I first came to college. I wish I knew of all the resources available before I caught the dormitory colds. Everyone who is not a germaphobe has a superiority complex when it comes to their immune system, but I can promise that complex goes flying out the window once you catch your first college cold. I learned the ins and outs of dealing with college bugs through the school’s health center. Definitely listen to your parents lamenting about packing a proper first-aid kit. It’s also good to be aware that due to the close proximity of those on campus and in the dorms, colds and other bugs are passed around quite easily. 

One of the biggest things I wish I knew about when coming to college is the importance of clubs and organizations. I never thought I would be as involved as I am today. I wished I knew how much I would enjoy the community of Hercampus writers and being able to have my own writing published. I wish I would have known I would become closer to people through clubs and academic settings. I wish I knew I was also going to be involved in giving back to the community by leading student-given tours or being a mentor to incoming freshmen. I know these opportunities may not interest other students, but the variety of organizations and clubs is a crucial gateway to networking. With the help of these clubs and organizations, I was also able to become aware of what work field would better fit me and became open to changing majors. So there’s no need to feel dead set on your original major. Because of my openness to joining clubs, I found my love for classics and Anthropology on the sooner side. While I wouldn’t change my college experience, I wish I had more of an understanding of the different paths a university can offer besides the popular majors most students gravitate towards. There should be more awareness of these opportunities.

The Reality Of College: 

Overall, I wish I was more prepared, with more realistic expectations, for college. It would also be fair to have a deeper understanding of the importance of time management. The realization of the need for balance and sacrifice is something you learn eventually but something I could’ve learned earlier on. This being said, one of the amazing things about college is that I learned how important it is to try things, expand one’s horizon, and understand the different but similar perspectives of your peers. Even though I would have preferred to have more realistic portrayals of college, I wouldn’t want to change anything because then I wouldn’t have ended up in the same spot I am now!

Katie Jacobson

CU Boulder '23

Katie is a Senior at the University of Colorado- Boulder. She is currently studying in the Classics department along with minoring in Anthropology and Creative Writing. Her hometown is Laguna Niguel, California. In her free time, you can find her discovering new music, reading, or grabbing a bagel from the Hill.