Moving across the country for college was the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.
Unlike most “regular” college students, I did not have to stress about where I was going to college. Because of swimming, I only applied to one college and was accepted in October of my senior year of high school.
My main stressors revolved around the college experience itself. I grew up in a relatively conservative, overprotective household. I did not party, drink, stay out late, or date boys in high school.
“What do you wish you would have known before College?”
Rather, my time was consumed with swimming, AP classes, spending countless hours at Disneyland, and binge-watching Criminal Minds, Stranger Things, and Dr. Who with my best friends.
Needless to say, I was a giant nerd and was nervous about what college life would be like for someone like me. I wanted the college experience that was portrayed in the media through films and television: I wanted to party, date, fall in love, and make lifelong friendships.
For the most part, I was able to experience these things. However, as I reflect on my past three years of college, there are some things I wish I’d known before I started…
5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Started College
1. You Don’t Have to Be Best Friends with Your Roommate
I was fortunate enough to come into college with 50 automatic best friends. Being a part of a sports team, I had already met my teammates and selected another incoming freshman on the swim team to be my roommate. I didn’t have to worry about making friends.
Rather, I spent my freshman year experiencing life with the swim team. My freshman year roommate and I clicked automatically and were inseparable. I was shy and she was outgoing, so in a way, I became her shadow.
“I put most of my identity and time into being her best friend.”
Wherever she went I would follow. I put most of my identity and time into being her best friend. I did not make much of an effort to talk to anyone else or branch out outside of our shared dorm room. We would go on to live with each other for the next three years.
It took me two full years to realize that she was not a friend that I wanted to have. She would ditch me at parties, not fully support me, and talked mainly about herself. In my eyes, it was a one-sided friendship, and I was not benefitting from it.
Had we not been roommates and spent all of our time together, I think that things could have been different. I should have taken more time to develop my sense of identity without her.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Friends Outside of Your Social Clique
My roommate was my first and only friend for a while. It took her constantly ditching me for me to realize that I should probably make more friends. At first, that meant finding other freshmen on the swim team to hang out with.
Soon this developed into befriending a couple of sophomores, juniors, and two seniors on the team. Before I knew it, my social circle only consisted of swimmers. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for the most part, we always knew what was going on in each other’s lives because we had to spend 20 hours a week with each other in the water.
My junior year, I studied abroad with a group of 20 students from my college in Greece for 13 days. To my delight, I discovered that there were actually some people that I was able to bond with. In 13 days, I made more “non-swimmer” friends than I had made over the past three years of college.
They had been going to my school this entire time and I never took the opportunity to get to know them. My college experience could have been vastly different if I would have made a better effort to get outside of my comfort zone, put myself out there, and tried to make friends outside of my small social circle.
3. Long-Distance Friendships Involve Work and Effort
When I went to college, I assumed that my best friend from home would always be my best friend. I seriously underestimated the amount of work and effort that is involved with maintaining long-distance friendships.
I always knew that she was going to be there for me when I needed her, and I would reciprocate that same support. However, I did not consider that me reaching out to say hello and ask about her life was important for strengthening the friendship.
She would text me or call me to ask if I had any life updates, we would gossip about people we went to high school with, and of course talk about all the significant other drama.
“I assumed that my best friend from home would always be my best friend.”
For a while, this was a reciprocated schedule. But after a couple of months, it mainly became her reaching out to me. I would reply, of course, but I always waited for her to contact me first.
It wasn’t until I went home for summer break that she explained to me that she felt that the friendship was becoming entirely one-sided. For too long I neglected one of my longest friendships.
We are still best friends to this day, but it took me realizing that if her friendship was important to me, I needed to make changes to my communication skills.
4. The Party Scene in College Is Real, but You Don’t Have to Participate
I may not have experienced any outrageous parties like the media portrays, but coming from my overprotective family background, drinking and partying in college was an entirely different world.
When I first entered college, I thought that I needed to drink, have a fake ID, and go out to clubs to be socially accepted. The entirety of my freshman year I tried my best to live up to these “cool” social standards. But these “activities” were not me.
I like to lay in bed and watch Netflix until I go to bed promptly at 9:30 every night. While nobody ever forced me to drink or go out to parties or clubs, people did give me a hard time when I would say that I just wanted to stay home.
My junior year of college I realized I did not have much in common with the group of people that enjoyed “going out” every weekend, and I decided to stop trying to fit into the “in-crowd” and to finally be me. Yes, it is college, but not everyone’s top priority is partying.
5. Do Not Accept the Love You Think You Deserve
When Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower told Charlie that we choose the wrong people to date because “we accept the love we think we deserve”, I thought he was directing that statement towards me.
I was never in love before coming to college. The only thing I knew is that I wanted a love story like Allie and Noah in The Notebook. The first day of freshman year, I thought that I found that love. I continued to “love” this person until the end of my sophomore year.
“I wanted to find love so badly I was willing to compromise myself, morals, and values in the process.”
I continued to “love” him even after he manipulated me, cheated on me, and stopped talking to me for months on end without an explanation.
Because of his shared love for Disney and Jesus, I thought that I “loved” him. I wanted to find love so badly I was willing to compromise myself, morals, and values in the process.
After I realized he would never “love” me and want to be with me, I moved on.
This helped me realize what I truly wanted in a life partner, and I can say that I am fully and truly in love now. However, I wish I would not have lowered my standards and changed my ideals for a love I thought I deserved.
So, there you have it; these were the 5 things I wish I would have known before I started college. What do you wish you would have a before college? Share your stories in the comment section below!
Written By: Megan Delgado
Megan is a rising senior at Queens University in Charlotte, where she’s a member of the 5-time NCAA Division 2 Champion Women’s Swim Team.
Originally from Southern California, she’s the biggest Disney nerd ever and dreams of raising a corgi.
Megan is majoring in psychology, minoring in human services, and has wanted to be a writer her entire life!