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9 People Share The Secrets They Wish They Knew Before Starting College

Planning for college can feel like a lot, but it doesn't have to. Don't believe us? Take it from real-life college grads. And let Sallie Mae offer a helping hand in your planning today!

1. Go big.

"Study your passion and figure out the rest afterward! Nobody cares what your bachelor's is in, so you might as well go big or go home. And if your parents don't agree, just know they want to make sure you're OK in life. You don't have to pick a major right away — take some time to find what excites you."

—Jo S.

2. Live a little.

"I'd recommend going to a state school! Study something fun and have a good time, and worry a little less about debt. Student loans are real. A state school can help you balance financial responsibility while also allowing you to enjoy your college experience."

—Brad W.

3. It's not "all Greek" to everyone.

"There are ways to find community in college that do not involve Greek life. Don't feel pressured to pledge because you think it's the only way to make friends. It may seem like everyone is 'going Greek,' but students involved in Greek life typically account for less than a quarter of the college population. Don't worry — you'll find your people!"

—Clark M.

4. Advice on advisers.

"When you're working with an adviser, it's important to be vigilant. Make sure you triple-check that all the classes you're taking make sense for you and/or count toward graduation. And keep applying for scholarships once you're at school! A lot can be earned while you're still in school."

—Samra S.

5. Pickin' it up.

"The most popular classes and dorms will fill up quickly, but people will often drop out at the last minute. It's always worth it to reach out to that professor or RA and see if you can get into the class or dorm that you want. Oh, and everyone else is homesick, too."

—Christine S.

6. Take it all in.

"Meet as many different people as you can, and relish the fact this is a time in which your only goal is to learn for the sake of learning. It goes by way too quickly. Read everything, and learn to ask lots of questions."

—Caitlin C.

7. 17 going on 30.

"You actually have to be a grown-up. That means making sure your financial aid is taken care of, keeping track of what school supplies you need, going through proper channels if you need to drop a class, and working with professors when you're not doing great in a specific subject. It's strange to go from living with your parents to being on your own, but you're going to be SO much stronger for it."

—Eileen C.

8. Sweet freedom.

"You will have WAY more free time in college than you did in high school. This is obviously great, but it can also be really hard to manage without the structure of the long school day and after-school activities. Think about tactics for how you'll help yourself stay on track ahead of time so when that class-less Friday rolls around, you only waste part of it making cereal/fro-yo concoctions in the dining hall."


—Tory H.

9. Give yourself a try.

"Put faith in yourself — that you'll do well despite the seemingly endless workload, that you'll make friends despite very normal feelings of isolation. There are going to be a lot of real, valid emotions to experience initially, and they might seem insurmountable. But they aren't. I don't know one person who went to school and didn't leave a stronger, more enlightened and layered human. It might sound trite, but you actually can do all the things your mind might give pause to."

—Kyle D.

All images from Getty/iStock.

Sure, there's a lot to consider when planning for school, but there's a lot to enjoy too. Visit SallieMae.com to get your planning (and fun!) started today.