Wednesday, March 18, 2015

6 Things I Wish I Would've Known Before Going to College

I've always told people that I could write a book on everything I've learned or wish I would have known before I got to college.  I've learned so much (some good, bad, easy, & hard).  I feel like a lot of times you hear "lies" as you're in your junior & senior year of high school prepping for college.  So for all of you out there who are about to enter college, still starting off, or are thinking about going back, here is my list of things I wish I would've known before going to college. 


1. Declare a major
Now.  Like right now.  Even if you don't have a clue.  Do NOT put "undecided" on anything [even if you really are.]  I cannot stress this one enough really.  When I was in high school, everyone told me, "Don't worry about declaring a major yet," or "You'll figure things out," or "You don't really even have to know until you're done with your gen-eds."  Those are all LIES.  Even if you're unsure, make sure you pick a major when you first enter.  You can always change it along the way [I think that's one thing I was scared of doing, so that's why I put undecided for a long time].  Declaring a major helps in many areas.  It gives you at least some direction of what you might be interested in so you can "try things out" [because let's face it, you won't really find out in your regular gen-eds classes unless your major includes history, math, science, English, etc.].  Declaring a major also helps in class schedule & possible scholarships.

2.  Take more than 12 hours

My first semester of college, the advisor told me, "You only need to take 12 or 13 hours."  So my freshman year, I took 13 the first semester & 12 the second. I definitely could have handled more than that, but that's what the Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) student academic advisor told me (don't talk to a student advisor unless they're in your major & have done everything in a fantastic amount of time.. see #5 below).  Also, I've learned that at least at OCCC, they wanted my money (no offense to them).  They wanted me to stay there as long as I could.  I even got offered a scholarship there one time that only would let me take 6 hours in a semester.  THAT'S NOT EVEN FULL TIME.  If you want to get out of college as soon as possible & not have to give the school more money than they should actually get, do yourself a favor & take more than 12 hours.  I would honestly recommend 15 hours.  If you're a good student & a hard worker, 15 is not so bad.  Just don't take all your extremely hard classes in the same semester (again, see point 5).

3.  If you're considering "taking a semester off," at least take one class
Seriously, y'all.  I know so many people who have decided that they would take a semester off & they never go back.  If you're serious about just needing a break from school to work or something [& I get it that life happens, trust me my Dad passed away my freshman year], at least take one class to keep you in the groove of the college thing.  Even if it's an online class or an easy elective, take one class.  If you don't, you might find yourself during that semester off when it's time to enroll again that you're not as motivated as you were before [ergo people never going back to college].  There's nothing wrong with choosing to not go to college.  I don't think everyone is made to go.  But if you really do want to finish eventually, do yourself a favor in the long run & at least take one class.

4.  It's okay to go to community college first
Going back to my senior year of high school, I wanted to go to a major university so bad.  All of my friends were going & I wanted too as well.  But that's not the way life was going to work out.  My parents told me that I needed to go to community college first.  I remember people at school making fun of me or saying lame Otrip jokes [which hey, I can roll with most the time, but I was not okay with it at first].  Funny thing is, a lot of these people who judged me for going to community college first either eventually ended up there also, or dropped out completely.

Community college is a good way to go if you are afraid of going to a huge university right off the bat, don't want to have a bazillion student loans, can get a full ride [cough, cough.. fill out those scholarships, people!], or are wanting to live at home [also a money saver] & see what this college thing is all about.  Going back to point 1 though, declare your major even if you decide to go to community college.  It's MUCH easier to transfer with an Associate's degree than just getting your gen-eds "out of the way."  I found that out the hard way.  Even if you get a liberal arts or diversified studies degree [like myself], it's so much easier to transfer that way.  A lot of the times, gen-eds don't transfer well, but if you have your Associate's degree when going to a university, they "cross off" all the gen-eds that they require & you go straight into your major.  Which leads me to my next point...

5.  Meet with your advisor EVERY semester
As I said earlier, don't just talk to a student advisor.  Find a REAL academic advisor [a person whose sole purpose at the college or university is to advise students or they are a professor/advisor in the department you are wanting to go into].  I've found that anytime you want to meet with an advisor at a community college, they always want to stick you with a student advisor if you don't have an appointment.  [That is why you always make an appointment.]  Tell your advisor how fast or slow you want to get out of college.  If you're like me, I did not want to go a minute over 4 years being in school.  But if you're like others, a lot of people just want to take their time & don't want to be overwhelmed.  Tell your advisor that.  Don't get stuck in a rut like I was by people who wanted to keep me at school longer than I wanted to be there.  If you do college the right way, you should be able to graduate within 4 years-- which leads me to my final point...

6.  Take summer classes

I understand, you're sick of school & you need a good ole' fashion summer break.  But if you want to take [usually] easier classes in a shorter amount of time [typically 8 week classes, but some are only a month long!], take summer classes.  It'll help you graduate sooner rather than later & a lot of times, teachers are more fun during the summer & cut out assignments that they would normally make their spring & fall semesters do.  I've taken at least one summer class every year since my freshman year.  I actually enjoy summer classes because it keeps me in the hang of things.  I always try to find online classes to take as summer courses, so that way I can still work, go on vacation, or don't have to drive up to school.  BUT, if you're entering your senior year like I was last summer, I did not have as many options to take as online courses since I wanted to graduate this spring :).  Still, nonetheless, summer classes are such a great option & they'll get you out of school faster!

Well friends, that's my list of 6 things I wish I would have known before going to college.  I'm sure I could come up with more to add, but the 6 on this list are the most important lessons I've learned that I wish someone would've told me.  College is so much better than high school [in my opinion] & eventually [once you get past gen-eds] you will get to learn about stuff that actually interests you & what you want to do in life!

What advice do you have for those entering college soon?

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