Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College
by Frank Brazell
When I look back on my four-year, undergraduate education, I am left with many fond memories: meeting my wife, forming lifelong friendships, and the spontaneous road trips associated with being young and free. At the same time, there are just a few things I wish someone had told me on the front-end of things. Here is a brief rundown of my thoughts, in the hope that it will help the college graduates of tomorrow.
1) Pick a degree or major that appeals to you.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me as in impressionable 18-year old, you’re being pressed to choose a major that will lead to a JOB, which in the end is one of the major reasons for going to college in the first place. My mistake, however, was to choose a major in which I had absolutely no interest or passion, in the hopes that it would land me a job after four years. I slogged through two years in that major, hating every minute of it. And then came Intro to Philosophy… Instantly, I knew I had to change majors, and immediately jumped ship to something I was more passionate about— Humanities. In the end, by switching to something I was more passionate about, I was actually able to find a job, moreover a job that I love, and one that uses the skills and knowledge learned in my major!
There’s nothing wrong with choosing a major more likely to convert to employment after four years, but make sure you don’t select something solely for the economic benefits. Do something you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
2) Don’t be afraid to go in Undeclared.
Along the same lines, there is a ton of pressure on incoming college students to choose a major early, to lock in. But many new college students haven’t experienced enough to even know what they want to do; it isn’t fair to expect them to have their whole life planned out. So, if your college has the option to enroll without declaring a major, and you’re still unsure what you want to do, why not go in Undeclared? Alternatively, if you don’t know what you want to do, start with General Education classes that apply to a variety of programs, so that when something does peak your interest, you don’t end up having to take an extra semester’s worth of loans to finish your degree.
3) Think carefully about Student Loans.
Speaking of Student Loans, I really wish someone had sat down with me to discuss how long they might take to pay off. This isn’t the case for everyone, and I know my own debt is tiny compared to some of the people I went to school with. Even still, our education system makes it way too easy for an 18-year old to lock in to 30 years’ worth of student loans with nothing more than a digital signature (I know that’s an extreme case, but extremes do happen).
4) It’s okay to take your time.
College is just as much about the experience as it is what you learn in the classroom. You spend a lot of time growing during your years as a student. Rushing that process, or even finishing in the standard four years for a Bachelor’s Degree, could result in you missing out on certain stages of personal development. You should never feel shamed about taking more than four years to finish a Bachelor’s Degree, especially if you are allowing your classroom experiences to form who you are as a person.
5) You’ll miss it when its done.
I know not everybody feels this way. Some people are so ready to be done with school. After all, you’ve probably already been in school for thirteen years, and you’re ready to get on with life. But in my case, I realized midway through my Junior year that I really enjoyed the freedom of being a student working only a part time job and having my weekends free. So I squeezed the life out of college, and experienced a lot (see point number 4) as a result. So build those friendships, take extra time to build relationships with your professors, and enjoy your experience!