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7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

As a 2020 high school graduate, I don’t think I had a “normal” college experience, let alone where I come from. I’m not afraid to admit that college hasn’t been the best 4 years of my life and I don’t want to limit myself to only having the time of my life there. 

Needless to say, I’m in my fourth year of college right now, and perhaps I have a few tips under my sleeve that I’ve gathered in the last few years. Here are 7 things I wish I knew before starting college, because let me tell you, no one can prepare you for it. 

You stay in touch with high school friends if both parties put in the effort.

My best friends at the moment are from my high school years, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But here’s the catch. We put in the constant effort to check in with each other, make plans together, and hold each other’s hands when things get overwhelming during college. Because yes, college is new and ever changing, so it tends to be overwhelming at first–or throughout the whole thing if I’m being honest. It hasn’t always been easy. There are people from my high school years with which I barely talk or see, but that’s okay! We completed our purposes in each other’s lives and we’ve moved on. It’s also important to not force friendships to stick together if they won’t flow the same way. It can cause more damage than good. Just wish them the best, and accept that more amazing people will come along the way. Remember that friendships are mutual, both sides will put in the effort if you are meant to be in each other’s lives.

Don’t run away from the hard things.

I’ve procrastinated way too many times taking my science courses, or switched majors in order to get the least amount of math classes in my curriculum. I know, ridiculous. A part of me forgot what I was capable of. It’s still hard sometimes to remind myself that I’ve been able to do hard things in the past, that I have the mental capacity to handle whatever it is that comes my way. Taking the easy route doesn’t always make things worth it in the end. That being said, I’m not saying you should overexert yourself. Self care will always come first in my agenda. Know what you can handle, remember that you are capable, and challenge yourself every once in a while to expand your abilities. 

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Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

You are allowed to leave, even if it’s just for a little while.

During October 2022, I was having a therapy session about how I didn’t like my university, and how I wanted an out, so I decided to take a Special Permit, which is basically to take classes in another campus, in this case, during that upcoming Spring semester. Best decision of my college years. I’m not currently in my dream college, or ever will be, if we are being realistic, but I needed a break without falling behind and I didn’t want to delay my established graduation date. Last semester I studied away, resetted my mindset towards my original campus, and now I’m making peace with it by making the effort of being here. You are allowed to find some way of taking a step back if things aren’t flowing how you would want them to. Of course, sometimes the only way out is through, but there can be alternatives to making your college experience more bearable. 

Everyone has their own college experience.

Whenever people tell me college has been the best four years of their lives, I can’t help giving them a bit of a side eye (It’s called a bombastic side eye now, isn’t it?). There’s the good, the bad, and there’s the ugly. For me, it hasn’t been the best, but that’s because I don’t want to limit the best four years of my life exclusively during my young adult years. The important thing here is to not compare your experience with anyone else’s. Don’t feel bad for not partying every weekend, or not being able to handle a lot of extracurricular activities at the same time. College classes are already time consuming as it is. Even if your experience is different from what you see online, be proud that you are still thriving in college in your own way.

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Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Saying yes is the way to see the fun side of college

I’ve always said it: for me, Her Campus is the best part of my college experience. That’s because I gave in and said yes to applying, joining, and bonding! Saying yes has made me laugh, smile, and know myself better in different environments. Getting out of my comfort zone hasn’t been easy for me, not after everything that has happened in the last few years since starting college. However, little by little, I’ve been trying to branch out, and it hasn’t all been bad. Obviously, I don’t want you saying yes to things that you already know won’t make you feel good, don’t let the peer pressure of living your life to the fullest overstep your boundaries. But, saying yes every once in a while doesn’t hurt anyone. 

It’s okay if you don’t stick to your four year plan.

I’ve spent countless hours analyzing and organizing my courses per year and semester to graduate in a certain amount of time. Past me must be laughing or something. Allow yourself to take your time with college. At least where I’m from, there’s barely anyone that actually finishes college in 4 years. Let go of the rush and pressure, college is here to stay, your degree is waiting patiently for you. Don’t let anyone judge whenever they ask “so why haven’t you graduated yet?” They aren’t the ones balancing 15-18 credits, while also working at a part-time job, and trying to have a social life. Take. Your. Time.

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Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

The things out of your control are only temporary, you’ll be okay.

The reactions of the other students and professors after a presentation will only last a few seconds, then class will be over, and you’ll be okay. The heavy rain right when you have to walk to the other side of campus will cease soon, you’ll be okay. That stain on your shirt from lunch? You’ll either wash it later or change your outfit when you get home, you’ll be okay.

I know these are silly examples but I want to prove to you that no matter what the day brings you, or which planet is in retrograde, it is only temporary, even if it feels like it’s the end of the world, and you will be okay. 

Extra tips:

  • Less weight in your bag! You know there are things you won’t be needing to bring to every class. Leave them in your dorm! Or at home, or your car, depending on your situation. Your shoulders and back will be grateful.
  • Dress up all you want! In my college, we have an unspoken “rule” called “IUPI Fashion Week” which is basically, during the first week of school, everyone goes out in their best outfits, but then it just… stops. Well, if you want it to be “IUPI Fashion Month/Semester/All Year Around” then go for it! Dressing up always makes me feel better and more confident in my own skin, who cares what others think? However, don’t let that stop you from dressing as comfortable as you wish! There are days where I just want to feel comfy in my attire. 
  • Bring food from home! The lines can get a bit extreme during everyone’s lunch hour, and you’ll not only be saving lunch time, but money too!
  • Romanticize studying. I think that might be one of my favorite words:  ✨romanticize✨ Easier said than done, but it helps me focus and pretend I’m one of my favorite characters in a TV show. 
  • No expectations. That ‘s it. Don’t expect things to turn out one way, it won’t happen.

College hasn’t been the best years of my life, but that doesn’t mean that I will pretend it didn’t happen. I’ve learned a lot about people, about myself, about careers, about growth, and I know there’s still more to come. 

Taylor Swift said it best “You’re on your own kid” but she also said “You can face this.” Remember that.

Lots of love,

Lya 🤎

Lilliana Correa Garcia is a wellness and experience writer at the Her Campus Rio Piedras Chapter. She focuses on topics such as mental health, self love and having the best college experience even if it may be an unusual one. She also adds a bit of her hobbies such as books and creative endeavors to her storytelling. Beyond Her Campus, Lilliana works as a Jr. Executive at Rosado Toledo& where she helps maintain a clear communication between brands and the agency and makes sure the clients’ needs are being met on a daily basis. She has worked as a freelance social media manager for small businesses such as restaurants and hair salons. She interned in the advertising agency previously mentioned which opened the doors for her to join the team part time. She is currently a senior at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, majoring in Public Relations and Advertising. In her free time, Lilliana enjoys indulging herself in fantasy novels and woking on a draft of her current novel. She also loves visiting coffee shops around her area to spend time catching up with her friends. She’s a whole hearted Swiftie and is committed to learn every single song by heart.