Going to College? Take Their Advice – The New York Times

Posted: October 10, 2019 at 7:45 pm

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We asked readers about their college experience, and what they wish they had known sooner both inside and outside the classroom. We heard from hundreds of students and former students across the country and in Canada. The answers have been edited and condensed.

Brittany Collins, Westhampton, Mass., Smith College; Holyoke Community College; Greenfield Community College; University Without Walls, University of Massachusetts Amherst

In the way that my acquiring a disability put into perspective the ways in which perfectionism was guiding my academic path, so do I wish that I had sought balance outside of the classroom in college. When I returned to school after my leave, I found in the peers around me stories and experiences at times more educational than those found in textbooks.

At community colleges, and in an online degree completion program, everyones lives had altered from the path. We were thrown hurdles and had to adapt, find workarounds, wait, try, resolve. Yet there we were, in one classroom a patch-worked bunch of learners committed to sticking out lifes turns in pursuit of education.

Rachel Lo, Oviedo, Fla., University of Florida

I wish I had taken better care of myself my physical and mental health. And prioritized my sleep. I wouldve been healthier, less stressed and more resilient during difficult periods. The sooner you ingrain healthy habits early on, the better.

Angelica Munyao, Rochester, N.Y., St. Lawrence University

Forgive yourself for the many mistakes you may make along the way, and be kind and supportive to yourself; in acknowledging your own imperfections and process, you may find similarities in other people that help you build meaningful relationships.

As for the activities or hobbies you wish to try out, go for it and at least you wouldnt have to wonder about what could have been. Of all the places to explore your interests, college is among the best; look around you, and try opening some of those regular (probably daily) email newsletters once in a while.

Kate ODonnell, Brantford, Ontario, University of Waterloo

Do whatever you can to graduate with as little debt as possible. Take a year here and there to just earn and save, take a co-op program, whatever you can do. Your possibilities on graduation get a lot more interesting if you can hit them without a huge debt-monster riding on your shoulders.

Ben Sickle, New York City, N.Y., Bowdoin College

Dorm living exposes you to more germs than your body has ever seen. Be prepared to be sick. A lot. You wont have a parent right there. Have a plan. Take self-care and hygiene seriously.

Sophie Strassmann, Cambridge, Mass., McGill University

I overestimated, for better or worse, the amount of people in higher education who were there to pursue knowledge and truth. As someone who was driven by these, I began to see my internal compass as an asset.

As I watched intelligent people give up dreams, leave programs, it opened up places and opportunities that I dreamed of being in. For better or worse, I started recognizing my own intelligence to the point where I wasnt even looking at what others were doing.

Zoe Roberts, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University

If you act like youre supposed to be somewhere, people probably wont question you. Dont be afraid to go places by yourself. Take advantage of opportunities that interest you, regardless of what others think whether that be a guest speaker or a party. People admire those who arent afraid to go out by themselves (as long as they let friends know where theyre going and stay safe)

Maxine Seya, Newport Beach, Calif., Northwestern University

Its O.K. if it takes a long time to make friends. Youre comparing the depth of friendships youve had over 12 years at home and new friends youre only making a couple semesters into college. Its normal not to feel as close to anyone at college as at home. Itll come.

Wade Shimoda, Honolulu, M.I.T.

I wish I had known how to study. I did well in high school, but apparently I didnt have to study that much to do well, relative to how much I had to study in college just to do O.K. It took me a while to figure out how to study, and to this day, I dont know if I ever truly figured it out.

Gabriel J. Betancourt, San Diego, University of California, San Diego

Advice-givers arent joking when they tell you to network with professors. The kids who start early see exponential growth in available opportunity. The later you start, the less you reap. Some kids find the prospect easy, others find it difficult.

Worried about being too green and wasting your professors time? Reframe the problem. Their job is to teach, yours is to learn. Do your job.

Sarah Olson, Corvallis, Ore., MiraCosta College and Oregon State University

I wish I had known that its O.K. to not go straight to university. When I graduated high school, I felt lost and alone getting a job and starting community college while all my friends left for their universities and got to live in dorms. I made myself miserable with worry that I was behind and missing out. But community college changed my life for the better, and I want other people to know its O.K. to take a nontraditional path.

Miguel Ovies-Bocanegra, Minneapolis, Southern Utah University

I wish I wouldve known the academic resources on campus that were offered to students. In particular, multicultural students. Sometimes, well, the majority of the times, we fall between the cracks academically. Theres general academic advising and tutoring across the campuses nationwide. However, most campuses dont have a safe haven (academically) for a student who identifies outside the most represented group on campus, white students.

This barrier we face innately projects fear or intimidation to reach out and access services that may or may not be offered on campus.

Brando Asitimbay, Queens, N.Y., Lehman College

I believe it is important for every college student to figure out what their call is in life, whether it be medicine, politics, or business. Once this is determined, everything else will come naturally.

Michelle Garcia, Brooklyn, N.Y., SUNY Oswego

Take some classes to expand your mind, like philosophy, literature, theory. I had a good, practical education within my major and minors, but I wish I used the time and space to just think a little more deeply.

Grace deMeurisse, Bellingham, Wash., Western Washington University

I wish I had known how to separate my learning from my grades. My educational experience became profoundly better and more enriched when I learned how to start learning for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of monotonously turning in an assignment for the grade I would get in return.

Tina Yu, Boston, University of Michigan

I wish I had known to take more leap-of-faith classes classes outside of your comfort zone, or classes that dont have anything to do with your major but sound incredibly interesting. I often think back and wish I had taken more of these quirky classes that intrigued me, because while you generally know what to expect out of Econ 101, can you really say that same thing about a class like DNA Origami, Hula, Practical Botany, or Apocalyptic Media?

Amanda Starkey, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., Ferris State University and University of Detroit Mercy

I am a first-generation college grad. When I was in my early years at college, I assumed everyone else was so much smarter than me, and that for whatever reason I wasnt good enough to reach for the program I really wanted.

Now, Im excelling at my career with a B.S. and M.A. under my belt. I wish I would have had more faith in my ability to achieve great things. I would have gone to medical school like I always dreamed.

Caitlin Sherry, Mississauga, Ontario, McMaster University

Understand that you can only do so much work in a given day and its O.K. to fall behind when you need a break. SLEEP!

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Going to College? Take Their Advice - The New York Times

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October 10th, 2019 at 7:45 pm

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