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18 Important Things You'll Wish You'd Known In College

Super smart advice from people who've been there. Inspired by this Quora thread.

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A Quora user asked: What are some important things you wish you'd known in college? And then a ton of people offered up some seriously smart advice.

Here are some of the lessons they had to share (and a few of my own, based on my personal experiences). Any you'd add? Leave them in comments.

1. Other people are just as anxious and uncomfortable as you are.

Honestly, no one knows what they're doing and everyone feels out of place and uncomfortable at least some of the time. You aren't the only one.

In case it helps, you might wanna read 19 Tips To Impress Literally Everyone You Meet, for some good small-talk pointers.

2. Get involved in activities.

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As early as possible! The more things you try out, the more you'll learn about what you care about and what you enjoy. It's also a great way to meet people who you share values and interests with.

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3. The more effort you put into making friends who you genuinely like, the better and stronger your friendships will be.

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A lot of people in college just befriend the people who they live near, or have classes with. This means that you can end up spending a lot of time hanging out with people who you don't totally mesh with — and that can be a pretty lonely feeling. The best friendships are made intentionally: When you actively seek out people who enjoy the same passions, activities, and interests as you. When you put yourself out there and ask someone to grab lunch with you. When you pass up opportunities to hang out with people you don't really like, in favor of going out and meeting new people who you might really click with.

The point is that it helps to be an active friend-maker, and not just passively hope that it happens.

4. Don't be scared to be weird.

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Do you. It's much easier than trying hard to be someone you're not. And it also makes you interesting and memorable! Embrace your quirky strangeness.

5. Your major doesn't really matter.

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Seriously! I know doctors who majored in philosophy, a lawyer who majored in music, a computer programmer who majored in physics, a sales rep who majored in English, and an editor who majored in history. Obviously take whatever required courses you need to take for a particular career path (like to get into medical school, for instance). But otherwise, study what you love and what really makes you think.

6. Learn how to write a strong cover letter.

It's not something you're born knowing, and it's not something you learn in college unless you intentionally figure out HOW to learn it. Here are some tips that can help, and here are some other things you should remember. Also, the incredible Ask A Manager blog posted this great before-and-after cover letter example to show you the difference between a standard cover letter and an exceptional one — which helps show why this is so damn important.

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7. Take classes that you're actually excited about, if at all possible.

This is really your best opportunity to take classes in things that just interest you, for the sake of being interested and learning new things. Take advantage of it! You never know what you might discover.

8. Try everything!

Try as many things as you can to find out what you really like. Check out the student newspaper, or the intramural soccer team, or the debate club, or a knitting circle, or a rugby team, or WHATEVER else strikes your fancy. Figure out what you really enjoy, and then nurture that.
Nathan Bullivant / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: 63815037@N06

Try as many things as you can to find out what you really like. Check out the student newspaper, or the intramural soccer team, or the debate club, or a knitting circle, or a rugby team, or WHATEVER else strikes your fancy. Figure out what you really enjoy, and then nurture that.

9. Volunteer in your community.

Help others, help your community, and help remind yourself that college life isn't everything — there's a big, complicated world outside of the bubble. Helps put things in perspective.
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Help others, help your community, and help remind yourself that college life isn't everything — there's a big, complicated world outside of the bubble. Helps put things in perspective.

10. Take a computer science class.

You never know — you might even enjoy it and go on to learn an incredibly useful (and marketable) skill.

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11. Don't be afraid to open up more and be vulnerable with people.

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If you want to make good friends, sometimes you have to share some things about yourself that are a bit personal — and that's scary, but it'll also make other people feel a bit more comfortable sharing vulnerable things with you. That's how strong friendships can grow.

12. Get regular exercise.

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If you need to take a gym class to make sure it gets done, make it happen. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Add it to your calendar and don't skip out on these important meetings you have with yourself.

13. Realize that not everyone is getting blackout drunk every weekend, and you're not actually missing out on anything when you skip a party or several.

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Truly. FOMO is all in your head. You know exactly what you're missing when you skip the pong tournament. What you don't know you're missing is when you only ever go to pong tournaments and never check out what else is going on.

14. If you're having a hard time, there are resources you can turn to.

Your college probably has a health clinic with mental health resources, in case you need someone to talk to. Your resident adviser can help you find the resources you need to feel better.You can also seek help from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), and by calling the national suicide prevention lifeline if you need support.
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Your college probably has a health clinic with mental health resources, in case you need someone to talk to. Your resident adviser can help you find the resources you need to feel better.

You can also seek help from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), and by calling the national suicide prevention lifeline if you need support.

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15. Manage your expectations about your first job after college.

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Understand that most entry-level jobs after graduation are going to be draining and difficult and maybe boring and occasionally menial with long hours and not a lot of pay. Very few people find their dream job immediately. Most people can take years before they genuinely love what they do for a living. And many people don't ever love their jobs — and that's OK, because you don't have to love your job to be good at it, or to enjoy your life. The key is to work hard and figure out what makes the most sense for you. It's a process!

16. Before settling on a career path, talk to people in that field to find out what it's actually like.

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Making money is important, but it's not the only thing. Ask people: What are their hours? What do they do day-to-day? What's the end goal? Where do they see themselves in five years, or 10 years, and what will that job look like? This helps you understand what you're getting yourself into. Don't just assume work is going to be like what you see on TV.

17. You never have to have sex if you don't want to or aren't interested or aren't sure you're ready.

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That's totally fine. Everyone else ISN'T doing it. And if you're not in the mood, it's totally OK to say so. Your body, your rules.

18. Go to class. Do the reading.

If it's boring, do a better job finding more interesting classes next semester. College is a really awesome opportunity to explore your passions, meet your best friends, and have a blast. But it's also one of the only times in your life where you can actually devote real time to learning. Take advantage of it.
Robert Ulrich / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: roger_ulrich

If it's boring, do a better job finding more interesting classes next semester. College is a really awesome opportunity to explore your passions, meet your best friends, and have a blast. But it's also one of the only times in your life where you can actually devote real time to learning. Take advantage of it.