I wrote this for my younger sister who’s in the midst of college applications. As a 27 year old looking back on college, here are some thoughts:
The most important thing is to go somewhere far away enough so you can give yourself the room to grow and explore who you are. If you can afford to go out of state, go. The main benefits of college comes from new experiences and new types of people you’ll meet—both of which is hard to find if you (along with 200 of your high school mates) are going to a state college twenty minutes away.
5 years out of college, where you went to college will matter very little when it comes to where you are in life. Obviously getting into an Ivy League will make it easier for you to find that first job, but after a few years out, you’ll find that you’re working alongside coworkers from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds, and you may even find that your CEO didn’t even go to college.
Each summer in college is so precious. It’s equivalent to a what-if scenario that you get to play out in real life without any real consequences. What if you became an investment banker and worked 100 hours? What if you researched monkeys in Tanzania for a living? What if you worked for a 5 person startup? You only get 3 wishes from your fairy summer genie. Don’t waste them.
Know your alcohol limit before going to college—spend one night in with your closest friends (or very liberal parents) and see how many drinks it takes before you puke. Set that as the line you don’t cross. Drink one glass of water per drink you’ve had at the end of the night so you don’t wake up hungover.
Not sure what to major in? When in doubt, study something math/science-y. Mathy majors can find jobs for both math and liberal majors. Liberal majors can only find jobs for liberal majors.
You’re going to have a lot of things competing for your time in college. Random late night adventures is what creates lasting friendships – so when in doubt, say yes to hanging out. Also remember, studying together (esp. at 5am in a dining hall) can also make for lifelong friends.
Ditch your high school mentality of good grades=success. Take the harder, more interesting subject instead of “gut” classes that get you an easy A. Very few employers care about your GPA after your first job.
You’re going to be meet boys (or girls) at parties. Have a clear idea in your head of what things you are comfortable with, and stay true to that. Don’t judge others for their choice of values.
If you’re a girl, don’t underestimate how extremely horny guys are. It’s not their fault – blame their hormones. Plan accordingly.
You’re going to get the freshmen fifteen. It’s the perfect storm of unlimited food, lack of sleep, alcohol and late night jaunts. It’s unavoidable. Skip the hour long elliptical (yawn) in favor of short bursts of high intensity workouts, like Insanity, to burn off calories even after you finish exercising.
In most cases, you’re leaving a small pond for a much bigger lake. You might arrive on campus and get a cold splash of reality and case of the crippling self-doubt. Relax, go read Mindset, and focus on getting better at being you. In the end, that’s what college is really about.