High school is coming to an end and you’re about to start college, which probably feels exciting, bittersweet, and a little scary. College often comes with huge changes. Some people meet their best friends. Some people may struggle to find their people. Classes might be exactly what you imagined, or classes could make you miss your high school teachers. But the one thing that may unite every single college experience is that college is about discovery, and you’re likely going to learn a lot—not just about your intended major, but about yourself.

Here, students share what they wish they had known before college.

1. It’s Just a Step

“Don’t be scared that you’re not considered a kid anymore—college is the next step into real life.”

— Sebastian M. , Temple University

2. It’s Okay Not to Know

“If you don’t know what you want to do, that’s okay. Try everything in college. You never know what you’re going to love.

— Joshua R., Kean University

3. You’ll Work Even Harder

“No one really prepped me for the difficulty of the classes or exactly how busy I would be and how imperative it is to study when you’re not busy. I wish I knew that finding a good balance of studying and extracurricular activities is key to being successful in college and later in life.”

— Courtney V., Florida State University

4. Ask for Help

“I wish I knew to never be too proud to ask for help. I never wanted to ask teachers or professors for help, even when I was completely lost. I only started asking for help as a junior, and it was the best thing for me.”

— Alyssa C., St. Joseph’s University

5. You’ll Have to Entertain Yourself

“The one thing I wish I knew about college is how much free time you have! In high school, I was running all over the place. Once you get to college, there is a lot more downtime—and rightfully so, because school is harder, professors expect more, and there are so many distractions. My word of advice: Do your schoolwork and get involved in clubs or activities so you can meet new people. That’s the best way to make productive use of your free time and acclimate to your new environment.”

— Shane H., New York University

6. Talk to Teachers

“Talk to your professors. It always helps to go to office hours, but if you can’t make it, then answer questions in class. Or better yet, ask questions. Introduce yourself after class. It makes you want to come to class if you know the professor.”

— Nain L., Rutgers University

7. Be Open to Everything, but Still Be Yourself

“Walk around with an open mind. An open mind leaves more space for knowledge, adventures, friendships, lessons, and perseverance. Make room in there and be ready to defend some of your own beliefs.”

— Erin S., Shenandoah University

8. Remember: It’s All Small Stuff

“Don’t take everything so seriously and don’t stress the small stuff that you ultimately have no control over.”

— Gillian M., Florida State University

Remember, making mistakes and stepping out of your comfort zone is how you grow. There is no roadmap for how to do college perfectly. Missteps are part of your learning journey. But keeping an open mind, connecting to your classmates, trying new things and yes, even asking “been there, done that” students for advice can help you make the most out of your college years.

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