Heather Knobel, Colgate Class of 2022

There are many things you will hear from many people in preparation for your college experience. Your parents will probably tell you how to do your laundry and make sure you don’t mix your darks and lights in the same load, and your family friend who just graduated from the college you are about to attend may tell you about the best bars in town. The truth is, there is a lot that people won’t tell you because it isn’t as obvious. Here are my tips on what I wish I knew before attending college.


1.   Finding a balance:

I’m generally good with time management but I wish I knew how important that skill is in college since there is a lot more freedom. There is freedom in several aspects of college. For one, you get to decide what you do and when you do it without your parents telling you. There also tends to be a lot more freedom when it comes to attending class. I was never a student to skip class in high school, and I’m still not in college, but I will not deny how tempting it was to close my eyes and go back to sleep after waking up for my 8:20 am class.


Unlike high school, college has a lot more flexibility in terms of what you do day-to-day. During orientation, I just wanted classes to start so I could get into a routine. Generally, my weeks felt pretty similar, but it is often hard to decipher a weekday from a weekend, so it’s crucial you find your balance between work and play.


2.   Orientation is awkward, but it is also one of the most crucial moments of the year:

If you are anything like me, excited to go off to college, meet new people, and learn from amazing professors, but dread the thought of those awkward and forced conversations with peers that you think you’ll never talk to again then keep reading and think again.


Going into college, I just wanted to get started. I had talked to some people before getting to campus, and I really wanted the chance to spend time with them, but I was forced to play name-games with people I didn’t have much interest in talking to. However, some of the people in my orientation groups have turned out to be some of my closest friends. It was not an instant friendship, but orientation certainly helped bring us together.


Additionally, it is important to ask questions. All the freshmen are in the same boat and likely wondering the same thing but are too afraid to ask. I’ve also learned that the more outgoing you are, the more people will want to talk to you. Say hi to everyone because it never hurts to be friendly.


3.   Keep an open mind and try everything even if you think you won’t like it:

You might surprise yourself…do something different and unexpected. Take the class, attend the meeting, eat the weird thing in the dining hall. I cannot even tell you the number of people I hooked on ranch dressing!


College is an experience to find yourself and seize all opportunities that come to you. I’ve learned that good things won’t always drop in your lap, sometimes you need to go out and search for them. Don’t be embarrassed to try something and don’t be worried to go alone. Whatever you try could become your biggest passion, but you’ll never know unless you do it. 


4.   Go to office hours:

Office hours became some of the best parts of my day. No matter how complex the question may be, office hours are one of the best ways to get your questions answered. It also gives you the added bonus of getting some of that one-on-one time with your professor that you have been so desperately craving.


Forming close relationships with professors is extremely important because you never know when you may need their help. For example, my Intro to Psychology course was a lecture class, which meant it was quite large; however, attending office hours gave my professor the opportunity to get to know me. Our close relationship came in handy when he signed me into his class on Human Cognition for the following semester when it was full. And sure enough, this same professor became my academic advisor when I declared my major.


Don’t ever be embarrassed to ask a question no matter how small. Remember, your professors know a lot more than you do… trust me.


5.   Don’t be afraid to say “NO”:

If you are the type of student who wants the opportunity to go out and party (despite what the Princeton Review says about which schools party and which don’t, they all do at some time or another) but also really cares about your academics, this one’s for you.


Similar to finding a balance between work and play, you need to build up the courage to say “no” when you know you have work to do, and you are feeling pressured into going out with friends. While it may seem like the biggest party of the year, work should always come first and what’s even better about college is there will always be another opportunity to go out again. Don’t feel pressured to say yes to something you cannot do, or you do not want to do. No one will judge you, and no one has the right to be mad about your decision. The point of college is, of course, to make lasting memories (which I guarantee you will) but it is also about getting an education, so always put your work first and don’t worry about saying “no.”


Freshman year of college is an experience unlike any other. There are things that you will discover along the way that you end up wishing someone had told you, but I firmly believe that these five bonus tips will help to keep you on the right track to finding yourself, making wonderful friends and memories, and, most importantly, getting that education.