Now that my four years have come to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on my college experience, what happened and what could have been. While I loved my time in college, I do have some regrets and some things I wish I could change. Obviously, I can not change the past and if someone were to ask me if I wanted to redo college tomorrow, I’m not entirely sure my answer would be yes, but I do not think I would greet the question with a resounding ‘no’ either. College has been a time of growth for me, a time where I’ve better understood myself, my interests and my passions. With all this being said, here is what I wish I could have done or changed while in college and the advice I wish I had.
- My majors and minors
At UW-Madison, I majored in Communication Arts and Sociology and minored in Gender and Women’s Studies, Digital Studies, and Entrepreneurship. Upon entering college, I had no idea what I wanted to do and by happenstance I stumbled upon sociology and always liked the idea of communications, so that’s what I did. Looking back, I wish I had been introduced to Gender and Women’s Studies sooner, figured out the Legal Studies classes were exactly what my Elle Woods heart desired, and applied to the Journalism school, just to give it a shot. Perhaps my majors would have been Sociology, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Legal Studies in a different life with a Criminal Justice certificate, but alas this was not the case.
My advice: If you are unsure of your major, take a variety of classes on various topics. Don’t just take a class because all your friends are taking it; take classes in the subjects that interest you. This is the best way to figure out what you like, might want to major in or if you want to change your major completely. It’s also totally okay to wait to declare your major!
- Going out more
Okay, okay, this one's on me because most nights I just didn’t feel like putting on makeup and going out at 10pm. I also got a little too introverted during the pandemic, when I was finally of legal drinking age, and just drank wine at home instead of going out. Also, bars during a pandemic? No thank you. However, I will admit that I wish I had spent a little less time striving for all ‘A’s and a little more time just letting loose and having fun. In the end, the memories matter more than a 90 percent versus 95 percent on an assignment.
My advice: While I do not necessarily encourage it, if you are a party person, fake IDs do exist; however, there are more ways to have fun in college than having to worry about getting carded at bars. Simply getting together with friends instead of thinking about school work is something you should aim to do at least once a week. College is a time to have fun, and hey, we go to a top tier party school, so take advantage of it.
- Fast friends freshman year
When you come to college, often you are so desperate to make friends that anybody is better than nobody and you latch onto the first person you see. While I did not necessarily do this, I did become fast friends with many people on my dorm floor, most of which I don’t talk to today as our political opinions, religious views, and energy all did not align well. Had I taken a step back and really thought about who I was constantly interacting with, parts of my freshman year experience might not have been so toxic.
My advice: It’s better to make one great friend than a million mediocre friends. Take your time getting to know people in college. The odds of you being best friends with your roommate or the first person you meet in college is slim, but does happen. Don’t rush the friendship process: I promise you will find your close friends, it likely will just take some time.
- Going to sporting events
Prior to coming to UW-Madison, I went to a total of 3 football games in highschool, all of which I left early. While I can proudly say that I went to more football games than that in one single year of college, I do wish that I had attended more Camp Randall events where I could jump around and sing ‘Build me up buttercup.’ I also only attended one basketball game, of which we lost big time. All other sports games, I sadly was not in attendance at.
My advice: Try to attend at least one game of every sport, key word being TRY. I’ve never been a huge sports fan and my comprehension of most sports is slim, but I would have loved supporting Madison players in some capacity. There is so much school spirit at Madison that it would have just been fun to witness everyone’s cheers of enthusiasm.
- Not exploring campus as much as I should have
Madison has so much to offer that it’s difficult to see everything. I wish I had just taken the time to explore more and see what campus is all about. While there was no way of knowing that a pandemic would disrupt half of my time in college, and relocate me back home for part of the school year, for the time I was on campus, I simply wish I had just tried new things in Madison instead of going to the same libraries, same restaurants, and on the same walks. As embarrassing as it is to say, I didn’t even know where the Trader Joe’s was in Madison until a walk with some friends a few days ago.
My advice: Explore, explore, explore. There is so much beauty, history, and amazing places in Madison that are worth visiting. The Capitol is great, but maybe head a different direction or internationally get lost just to see where you end up. There are also many different transportation methods besides walking; if you have access to a car or feel comfortable taking the bus, explore that way too! Just soak in all the amazingness that Madison has to offer!
Although part of me wishes my majors and minors were different, I went out more, I wasn’t friends with some of the people I interacted with freshman year, I attended more sporting events, and I explored Madison and campus more, the fact of the matter is that my experiences all shaped the outcome of my college career. I wish 18 year old me had known what I know now, however, if that were the case, I do not think I would have grown so much as a person. It’s easy to imagine what could have been, but I’m content with what is. I’ve loved my past four years at UW-Madison and am truly sad to see my college journey end. Who knows though, there’s always grad school :)