6 Things You *Actually* Need to Know Before College

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It’s high school graduation season, which means a new batch of "what to know before college" posts are hitting the web.

The Education Department rolled out a blog post urging future college freshmen to “understand your financial situation” and “prepare for a whole new world of time management.”


Don’t get us wrong, those are solid tips. But they’re also vague and kind of boring.

Instead, we’ve rounded up, in no particular order, what you *actually* need to know before college. You’re welcome.

1. The all-you-can-eat meal plan is not meant to be taken literally. You cannot gorge yourself on your dining hall’s ice cream every night and magically avoid the Freshman 15. I know, I know. We’re sorry, too. But it’s not going to happen.


2. Hookups that seem smart in the haze of a freshman Friday night can get really awkward really fast in the daylight. Do you really want to sleep with the guy two doors down when you know you’re going to run into him on the way to the showers every morning? If hookups are your thing, consider venturing outside your own dorm building. And for the love of all that is good, do not have sex with your professor or that teaching assistant, even if he (or she) is god-like. This is not the movies. It won’t end well.


3. Get off campus and explore your town. College towns are some of the best towns in America, but freshmen have a tendency to live in a freshman bubble. That’s understandable and it can feel a bit like a glorious summer camp for a while. But remember the rest of the world is still turning and there is actually life off campus, too. And, while the locals may seem like no-fun old fogeys, be nice to them. Would you really want roving packs of 19-year-olds rambling down the middle of your street in search of burritos at 3 a.m.? We didn’t think so.


4. Majors matter. Absolutely take a variety of classes your first year and pick a major you enjoy. But remember that majors have an impact beyond your four years (or more) in school. You might feel like archaeology is your calling, but really do some research about what your opportunities will be after graduation. As in, set up an in-person appointment with an actual adviser. Don’t just rely on Google. If, after that, you think you can swing that archeology career, more power to you. Just have a plan (and be cognizant of the fact that the plan might shift - that’s ok!) and go in with your eyes open.


5. Study abroad. Don’t pass up this opportunity because it sounds scary or financially out of reach. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, triumphing over your fear of the unknown is a really rewarding learning experience. You don’t have to have all the answers at the outset, either. Just take it step by step and ask older students and advisers for help when you feel overwhelmed. As far as finances, there are tons of scholarships to study abroad. The government would love for more people to study in Latin America. The private sector wants people to study in China and Southeast Asia. You might not be able to find someone willing to foot the bill for you to eat baguettes at Versailles every weekend, but if you’re open to taking Japanese lessons in Tokyo or studying business development in Mexico City, you may just find organizations or companies willing to help you out.


6. So this tip is actually on the Education Department’s list as well, but in case you didn’t click that link and read through, we’ll list it here. Learn to do your own laundry. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes at the idea that anyone could get through high school without ever handling the wash. But a lot of people did. If that’s you, that’s ok, but go figure it out. Now. You do not want to be the student that floods the laundry room because you put in half a box of detergent.


Most of all, enjoy college and be open to the experience. Be smart, be safe and be cautious when it’s warranted, but take advantage of opportunities to try new things, as well. Also, study. Theoretically you’re picking classes that are interesting to you, so you might actually enjoy some of the assignments.

WE WANT TO KNOW: What tips would you add to this list?

Arielle Castillo, Kerisha Harris and Fidel Martinez contributed to this post.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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