7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

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Are you an incoming college student? Exciting times are ahead of you! College is a unique and focused time, so enjoy it, learn, grow and have fun.

I learned some helpful things about college after graduating from college. My time at college was good, but I would have benefited from knowing these seven tips beforehand. Here are a few ways to approach college to get the most out of your experience.

1. Stay Active and Healthy

The Freshman 15 is real. Don’t panic, eat healthy. Dieting isn’t healthy – fill your body with natural and healthful things instead. Eat real foods, drink lots of water and limit processed foods. Find exercise you enjoy and carve out time for it each week. You can walk to class, go for runs or bike rides with roommates, use the school’s gym or download free yoga videos to do in your room. Have fun with it and make sure you get enough sleep too!

2. Get Involved and Connected

Sometimes the best way to make friends and have community is by serving, volunteering and working. Look for ways to get plugged in. Is there a campus ministry, a club, intramural sport or campus job that appeals to you? Give it a shot! You might love it.

3. Get to Know Your Professors

Your professors are great resources to coach you through your time in college. They are also great references for getting jobs or applying to graduate school. Figure out who the best (not the easiest) professors are and take their classes. Schedule times to meet during their office hours and pick their brain. They’d love to help you. And who knows, you could be building lifelong friendships!

4. Learn to Communicate

Whether it’s making new friends, keeping up with old friends, talking to your family, asking professors for help or working out a sticky situation with your roommate – communication is crucial. Communication is a skill you’ll take with you after graduation. Don’t fear the group projects, papers, speeches – there will be hundreds, but they’ll help you speak, write and communicate well.

5. Have a Plan

Have a plan for every major area of your life. It’s important to care for yourself holistically from the physical side of health and exercise to the emotional aspect like talking, journaling and praying. There will be times when your relational health is at stake and you’ll have to decide who to let closest to you … and who not to let close. You may need to think through your social boundaries and have a plan for when you’re invited to parties or need to step away from an iffy situation. You’re in charge of your schedule now. Will you make time for your spiritual health by having quiet time and being active in a church community? It’s up to you, so have a plan beforehand.

6. Learn to Manage Finances

College is an expensive investment. Get as much financial help and information as you can. Understand how student loans work and what your options are. Research and apply for scholarships and grants and ask lots of questions. You might want to look into work study opportunities and resident advisor positions to help pay for school. Start budgeting and be creative. Look for free or inexpensive ways to shop, eat, explore and have fun. You can rent textbooks or buy them used, plan $5 dates, go for hikes and make your own coffee. Your options are endless!

7. Think Ahead

College is a fun and unique season, but it’s good to plan ahead for your post-college life too. Look for opportunities to volunteer, intern, work part-time and help with events, fundraisers, research or whatever is in your field on interest. There’s no right or wrong answer – from volunteering at the local animal shelter to studying abroad to volunteering during Spring Break. It’s never too soon to gain experience and start building your resume.

Are you a current college student or a graduate? Tell us what you would add to this list!

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Esther Laurie is a staff writer at ChurchLeaders.com. Her background is in communication and church ministry. She believes in the power of the written word and the beauty of transformation and empowering others. When she’s not working, she loves running, exploring new places and time with friends and family. It’s her goal to work the word ‘whimsy’ into most conversations.