This past weekend I was asked to speak on a panel at HAULYP’s annual ‘Young Professionals University’ event. The topic of the panel was ‘Womanhood 101’ and we were tasked with discussing the things we wished we knew before undergrad. Things that weren’t typically shared with outgoing high school students. We were given a loose outline and went from there and from the feedback we got, it went well!
Our panel got me thinking, I know that you guys are likely out of high school (like well out of high school like me) and you likely didn’t get this kind of advice either. So I guess this post is kind of a “letters to my younger self” kind of post.
Do more research into roommates. I found my roommate on Myspace in the university’s unofficial group (yes, that was popular back then) and we chatted a bit and even met in person when she visited Houston before the year started. Things started off well, but it quickly deteriorated when she started inviting dates back to our dorm room. We shared a single space and I wasn’t going to hang out in my room while she was hanging out with her dates. In fact I ended up moving out of my room (that I paid for) early and into another friend’s room. That experience was enough to make me decide that I didn’t want to have another roommate, outside of a significant other, ever again in life. I would suggest you and your roommate(s) draft and sign roommate agreements and discuss what happens if those rules are broken. There are quite a few templates available online if you need ideas of what to put in the agreements, and some universities have an agreement templates or even require them. I would suggest reaching out to your RA about this when you move in.
Don’t feel the need to finish in 4 years, and don’t feel bad if it takes you longer. 12 credit hours takes WAY more than 12 hours of your time each week. Homework, papers, 4+ hour labs, will fill your weeks pretty quickly. See what you can handle the first semester, maybe 12 or 15 credit hours and go from there.
Dating and Relationships. Many people go into college still with their high school boyfriend/girlfriend. If that’s your plan then I would suggest having a discussion about expectations before you two go your separate ways. Communication frequency, visits, etc. People aren’t mind-readers. If you’re doing the long-distance thing and plan on visiting each other frequently I would suggest budgeting for that. People don’t often work their freshman year so “fun money” isn’t always available. Whether you two plan on driving to see each other, flying or even catching buses or trains, I would budget some funds at the beginning of the semester for that.
Safety is key. There’s a good chance that there will be a lot of students at your school or people in your area in general. Certain STDs don’t have symptoms and others don’t show up in specific genders. HPV is one that comes to mind; I personally know someone who was diagnosed with it and received it from an ex who was exhibiting symptoms. The best route is to be safe. Often times your student health clinic will have free or REALLY cheap prophylactics so I would suggest you hit them up or keep your own stash. Ladies, do NOT rely on your partner to provide protection. And stand firm in your decision to use protection.
Homesickness is real, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. I didn’t leave the state, but I was far enough that I couldn’t go home every weekend. I made sure to call my parents (this was before texting was SUPER popular) and email them just about every day.
Anxiety and depression aren’t strangers to college campuses either. The stress of a heavy course load or difficult class, the Greek process, student organizations can take a toll on a person, and that’s why I definitely recommend people learn to say “no” at a young age and stand firm in that “no”. Remember that “no” is a complete answer. That you don’t have to be and do everything all of the time.
Remember to take mental health days/breaks. Travel if your budget permits it, even if it’s somewhere close. That’s one of the things that I wish I was able to do more in undergrad. I took a few trips here and there with my girls, a few trips to Dallas, Galveston, New Orleans, and they were awesome! I was able to stop thinking about looming deadlines for a few days and clear my head. I came back refreshed and ready to tackle the world. It was what I needed, and it’s something that everyone needs now and again.
These were just a few of the things I wished someone would’ve shared with me before I left home for undergrad, what are some things that you wish you were told?