To be completely honest, I hated high school. While I was lucky to attend a great school that gave me the skills and opportunities to get into my first choice college, I had a tough time with friends and feeling connected to my school. When it came time to head to college, I knew it was up to me to start fresh and connect with the people I met so that I could feel differently the next four years. As an official (no graduation, still got a diploma!) graduate of Indiana University, I can confidently say that the last four years were some of the best times of my life. I met the best people on the planet and I found my passions and gained tremendous confidence in myself. College was not a walk in the park for me, I battled with homesickness, depression and impostor syndrome at times, but I always kept fighting. I learned so much at school, but not all of it was from my business classes! Here are five things I learned in college that helped me have the best four years yet.
1. Just Show Up
My dad taught me early on that the most important thing you can do for your education in college is just show up. With big lecture classes (especially the freshman year pre-requisites) it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s okay to skip class if attendance isn’t mandatory. You got to bed late, you don’t feel well, you have other things to study for – the list goes on. While it’s easy to make excuses for not getting out of bed and going to class, it’s even easier to start falling behind in a lecture-based class. Missing in-person practice problems, Q&A sessions and test tips are never worth the extra hour in bed. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I never missed a class, but I held myself to a high standard and dragged myself to class even when I swore I wasn’t going to make it the night before. Not only is it good to attend class for the reasons above, but you never know when a professor is going to notice your extra effort. Sophomore year, I came to my 8am small discussion class in the pouring rain to find that I was one of only 3 students to show up. Not only did my professor take that class to help us work through our final paper one-on-one, but he gave us bonus points on our participation grade! Trust me when I say half the battle is just showing up, and it’s worth it!
2. Everyone is the “New Kid”
One thing that helped me feel less awkward when trying to meet the people on my dorm floor or in my classes was to remember that everyone is the “new kid” and everyone is just trying to make friends. It can feel daunting to introduce yourself to so many new people, especially if you came from a small town or a close friend group back home. I challenged myself to put myself out there in every social setting I could, seeing as I knew absolutely no one going to my school. The first day in my dorm, I knocked on everyone’s door and introduced myself. Was it awkward, yes. Did I become so close with the people on my floor that to this day they are my best friends, also yes. Just try to remember that everyone is feeling the same awkwardness as you, and everyone is looking to meet new people! You never know when you’re going to find your best friends for life.
3. Find your people
While I found my best friends on my dorm floor, there are endless opportunities to find a close knit community on your campus. When you first get to school, clubs and committees will line the halls handing out information and invites to their first meetings. Put yourself out there and join activities and clubs that pique your interests. At any school, there are countless ways to get involved with groups of people who love the same thing as you! I joined Greek life, gave tours of my business school dorm, and became involved with my diversity scholarship through tutoring at the local high school. I met so many amazing people that had the same interests as me and it made my 40,000+ student school feel a lot more homey.
4. Get the Help You Need Before You Need It
There is no worse feeling than sitting in a lecture hall and not understanding a word that is being said to you. I’d know as I had to retake calculus. I took the class my first semester of college, and when I began to struggle it took me a while to admit I needed help. It can be a blow to the ego to not understand something when it seems like everyone around you is doing it with ease, but the best thing you can do for yourself is get help early and often. The second time I took the class, I knew I was still going to struggle if I didn’t change what I did wrong the first time. I found a tutoring program on campus and went twice a week to ask questions, work through homework and get more exam prep. It took 200 times more work than the first time, and I even still failed the first exam, but by the end of the semester I had an 88 in the class. I even got a 97 on the midterm that I had gotten a 50 on the first time around. It’s okay to struggle, but it’s not okay to do it silently. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if you need to go to office hours or private tutoring. Be confident in yourself and watch yourself succeed when you get the help you deserve.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Say Yes
Lastly, my advice for your time at college is to push yourself to say yes to new things. Go out to dinner with new people, attend club meetings for topics you’re unfamiliar with, take classes that aren’t required, and push yourself to explore all that college has to offer. I knew that going to school far from home would require a lot of pushing myself and “saying yes” in order to make friends and build a new life. There were times where I wanted to stay in my dorm room and miss out over fear or homesickness, but I always kept fighting to put myself out there. Going to school takes a lot of “starting over” which can be frightening at times, no matter how great your high school experience was. Try and step out of your comfort zone and say yes to new opportunities to meet people and discover more about yourself.
Overall, I wouldn’t change my college experience for the world. I found my best friends, challenged myself academically, learned the foundations for a successful career and most importantly, gained the self confidence to move on to the next chapter of my life. If you’re reading this and you’re about to head to college, congratulations. You’re about to have the best four years of your life.
Below are some of my favorite photos of me and my friend group. I hope you find your people just like I did.