7 Ways To Avoid Making Terribly Regrettable Choices In College


College passes in an instant.

I went to dinner with a couple of freshmen girls earlier this week. As I listened to them describe the impressions they had of their first semester in school, I began to feel a pang of nostalgia for the ease of that initial year as well as a sense of dread over the rapid approach of my cap-and-gown date.

When I began to think about the time I’d already spent at college, I remembered certain regrettable situations — all of which I’d repressed from memory to save myself from embarrassment. Often, we do things we regret during college. However, I realized that I could have avoided each of those moments with some foresight and stronger common sense.

Here are some tips that I culled from shameful, firsthand experience on what to avoid to minimize your cringe-worthy college moments:

1. Buckling to social pressure

It’s easy to bend to social pressure because most of us have an acute sense of #FOMO. Regardless of how exhausted, stressed, or busy we are, we don’t want to think that our friends are out having fun without us while we’re sitting at home on a Friday night, crying over our Calculus homework. Nothing would seem more pathetic. Sometimes, however, we just need time to ourselves.

So, when your friends come around and tell you that there’s a raging toga party tonight or that your crush is throwing a “hot tub bash” (this was an actual party theme — I can’t make this stuff up), exercise some self-control and tell them no.

2. Stressing excessively over grades

I used to be borderline Woody Allen neurotic over my grades, as most college students are. Why wouldn’t we be? Our professors, parents, and older peers have stressed time and time again just how essential maintaining a “decent” GPA is for our post-graduate prospects. The truth is that graduate schools, jobs, and the like do care about grades; after all, no math PhD program is going to admit someone who made a D in multivariable.

However, they care much less than we think. Instead, relevant work or extracurricular experience (see #3) matters more. For graduate schools, this entails research in the field. For jobs, this entails pertinent internships. So, that C in Intro to Ballet isn’t going to kill your chances of landing a sick finance internship, and all of the kids who spend their Friday nights cracked-out in the library have got it wrong.

3. Placing too little value on internship or work experience

Internship and job experience gives us a sampling of how the Real World tastes (like burnt coffee, stale donuts, and despairingly high rent), and for our future post-grad employers, they are often the best way of assessing our ability to handle ourselves in a work environment. Internships or jobs can also help us focus our interests, deciding what we do and don’t like — for example, working a job in the advertising industry might make us realize that our Don Draper dreams are less glamorous than they once seemed.

Most of us don’t have the time or energy to hold steady internships or jobs during the school year, but the summer is fair game. Especially if your best other option is sleeping in until noon and waking up to 10-hour Netflix marathons.

4. Worrying about how others perceive you

Many of us spend an unhealthy amount of time worrying about how we come across or what others think of us. We wonder — with all the painful self-consciousness we wished we’d ditched back in middle school — who thinks we’re cool and who thinks we’re lame. Does so-and-so like us? Why does what’s-her-face dislike us?

At some point, though, you’ll learn that it’s best to fully embrace DGAFism and realize that the people who matter will always think you’re cool, even when you’re not.

5. Sacrificing your health to different priorities

“Give me coffee or give me death” has become my mantra this semester — an indication perhaps that my caffeine-dependency, which powers me through the day and has fuelled me through one-too-many all nighters, has gotten out of hand.

During college, it is especially easy to treat our bodies poorly, with little regard to the consequences that could have on our health. We subsist off of coffee, junk food, and pizza-at-midnight. We rarely sleep — sometimes because we don’t have the time but often because we choose not to make the time. But, we need to be more careful because the college lifestyle can take its toll.

6. Drinking too much cheap alcohol

In order to get through your four years without major incident, all you need to remember is this: stay away from Everclear. No matter what anyone tells you and no matter how delicious that margarita someone hands you tastes, stay away from Everclear.

7. Staying within the same social circle

During freshman year, it was perfectly acceptable to introduce ourselves to and befriend random strangers after class or at parties. However, once we’ve formed cohesive friend groups, it’s difficult to break out of whom we know and whom we like. We settle into a routine, getting lunch with the same people on the same days or going out each weekend with the same group.

Branch out and get to know people outside your core circle of friends. Venture outside of your social comfort zone because when you come back, you can bring more, new friends with you.