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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College

things I wish I knew before collegeMy parents, teachers and mentors always told me that college would change me.

“Josh, get the most out of it. It will be the best time in your life. You’re going to miss it when you’re done.”

These statements never really resonated with me. My thoughts of college were filled with anxiety and fear. I was leaving the comfortable escape of my home town and close friends.

My idea of “getting the most out of college” was also flawed. I assumed it meant going to frat parties and getting good grades (both of which I inevitably did). However, I wasn’t much of a partier. In fact, I was deeply introverted and shy. So what did I get out of it?

I originally posted this list to my Facebook as a simple goodbye to my college town. Below are the 10 things I learned about life my college classes didn’t teach me:

1. Realize how your actions affect others.

This applies to fellow students and teachers alike. Teachers are people too. People often forget that. If you are sitting in the back of the class on your phone or computer, they notice. However, if you actively come to class all of the time, participate and go to office hours then that B+ at the end of the semester can easily turn into an A if they think you deserve it.

Use empathy and put yourself in other peoples’ position before acting.

2. Do something compassionate every day.

This allows you to make friends and feel good about yourself at the same time. In every interaction I had with people at parties or in class, I would give compliments or just make people feel good about themselves. People naturally want to be around those that make each other feel good.

The trick with this one is to not expect anything in return. If you hold the door open for someone, don’t expect a thank you. Just do it for yourself.

3. The only regret you’ll ever have is NOT trying.

Society often tells us that failing means somehow that we are not good enough. Ironically, school is one of the biggest culprits with this. Students tell themselves that is they fail a test, then they will fail the class, then flunk out of school. This fear unfortunately manifests in other aspects of our life.

A more constructive paradigm to have in regards to failure is that it means growth. Failure is a learning opportunity. The plant that does not reach for the sunlight will never grow. So go say hi to that girl, join that club and take a risk.

4. Make goals and write them down.

You can’t hit the target of you don’t know where you are aiming. Towards the end of my senior year of undergraduate study I realized that I couldn’t do much with a BS in Psychology. I also realized that I had next to no chance of getting my Masters. Referring to #3, I at least wanted to try.

I saw that my poor GPA was not everything when it came to my application. In courses where I did make A’s, I asked professors for letters of recommendation. I then found out that I could take up to two classes in the graduate program. I aced those classes, studied and did well in the GRE and got into the program. See? Nothing is impossible.

5. The hardest part of balancing your life is being who you are vs. getting what you want.

Always lean toward the former. There have been times where I could get what I wanted from people, but I had to sacrifice my values as a person. The reward was never worth it in the end. Always be yourself. Your soul will thank you for it in the end.

6. People are people, no matter in what position.

We are all naturally selfish creatures, despite what role we are in. You may think someone will got to bat for you, but in the end their needs usually come first. Time and time again I had to learn this the hard way.

There is a cognitive bias called the Halo Effect. It occurs when positive feelings about one aspect of a person or object, influences our opinion about other ambiguous or neutral traits (i.e., “That man was so charming. I bet he’s also very successful.”).

Even if you think you see a “halo” around someone’s head, never assume they will do something in your favor because it is the “right” thing to do. The right thing is purely subjective.

7. Keep an open mind.

Every mistake I have made came from two fundamental areas: being selfish and making assumptions.

Remain like the innocent child. Ask questions constantly. By keeping an open mind, you’ll be able to absorb and learn things you never thought possible.

8. Everyone is equal.

It is you that gives and takes power to and from people.

As I mentioned earlier, I was quite the introvert when I first came to college. I would remember being at my first parties and being literally afraid to go up to talk to people. I thought they would somehow judge me or see how “uncool” I was.

When you care what other people think about you, you are giving your power away.

9. Hurting someone you love is more painful than being hurt yourself.

You will most likely find yourself dating one or two people in college. It is one of the hardest places to maintain a long-term relationship. This is because you will see potential opportunities every single day in class, the gym, and at parties.

When people get hurt, they put up walls to protect themselves from future pain. These walls serve to push other people away and create even more closure in others. The number one mistake I made in my 9 years of college was hurting someone I loved deeply. No amount of my own pain compares to the pain I experienced when I hurt them. Let your walls down.

10. Cherish down time.

You won’t look back on your college days and say, “Damn! I wish I got more sleep!” Interpret that how you want!


10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College

Josh Hudson, MFTI

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APA Reference
Hudson, J. (2018). 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 7 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.