18 Things We Wish We Knew When We Were Starting College

Freshmen orientation. You can almost smell the nerves in the room, but you’re not worried. Dorm room, check. Class schedule, check. Textbooks, check. Watching your siblings and friends go through their college years has prepared you for the years ahead. Surely there were bumps and bruises, but there’s bound to be people on campus to help you avoid making life changing mistakes and make the most of your time at the school. Right?

Here at the Department of Education, we asked some of our interns for any advice they would extend to incoming freshmen to make their college years un-regrettable…


“Do not restrict yourself to the lectures and textbooks for your education. Most of your education and discovery as a student will occur outside of the classroom; pursuing your passionate interests and engaging in lively conversations with your peers. Your role in academia is not to consume knowledge, but to actively contribute to it.”

Isaiah Kamrar (Southern Oregon University)
Intern at the Office of Educational Technology


“Get off campus! Study abroad, take advantage of opportunities to have these experiences. The funding is out there, just a matter of going out and finding it. I had never been abroad before coming to college, and now I am preparing to go abroad for the third time, this time to South Korea. Languages open doors, make you marketable, and are so much fun. Have a great first year!”

Ruth Sangree (Mount Holyoke College)
Intern at the Office of Postsecondary Education


“Fear is for those who don’t get out muchtry everything and always be willing to say “yes.””

Nathan Baker (Cornell University)
Intern at the Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs


“Get as involved as possible on campus and don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty because they are always more than happy to get to know you and help you out.”

Jasmin Chavez (McDaniel College)
Intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics


“Get off campus! Learn about and immerse yourself in the communities and in the world around you. Colleges often have great resources and connections to local volunteer opportunities and global fellowships. Figure out what you’re interested in, do some research, and get out there!”

Jenny Jin (American University)
Intern at the Office of Early Learning


“Try to find a way to get off campus for a weekend every now and then, whether it be taking a trip with a team/club or with a group of friends from your dorm. It’s super refreshing and you’ll appreciate campus even more when you get back.”

Jackson Paul (Middlebury College)
Intern at the Office of Communications and Outreach


“As a freshman, you don’t need to know exactly (or even remotely) what major you want to complete. You DO need to pick a goal, make a plan, and stick to it. That could mean trying at least two new subjects, joining a club or activity, or even just completing general education pre-reqs. When you are working towards a goal that enriches your experience, you’ll learn new things, gain confidence and feel less topsy-turvy. Make college work for youeven if that means moving at your own pace. It’s not a sprint, it’s a long, winding marathon!”

Taylor Myers (University of California, Berkeley)
Intern at the Office of Postsecondary Education


“Look for the offices, resources, and staff that will help you be successful during your time in that school.”

Jessica Andino (Georgetown University)
Intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics



“Get your hands dirty with projects and initiatives!  You don’t have to get paid for it, but experience goes a long way. It’s important to never let people’s negativity be the reason you defer from your dreams. If you stay true to yourself, you’ve already succeeded.”

Michaelle Andre (Bowie State University)
Intern at Federal Student Aid


“Don’t stress the little things. College is an amazing time, so have as much fun as you can!”

Michael Martin (Le Moyne College)
Intern at Federal Student Aid

11 – 17:

11. Focus on what is within your control. Focusing on what is not within your control will hinder your ability to positively influence what is within your control.

12. Do not compare yourself to others.

13. Quickly familiarize yourself with all the resources your campus has to offer.

14. Reach out to those sources as soon as you feel you need someone to hear you out or help you understand a difficult concept covered in class.

15. Really try not to fall behind in class; catching up might be more difficult than you imagine.

16. Early on, get in the habit of staying active, making time for a good night’s rest, and eating well. This will help you deal with the stress and stay healthy (beware of the freshman 15!)

17. Maintain and build strong relationships. You might be tempted to focus all your energy on your new friends but don’t forget those that have helped you get to where you are.”

Sarah Torres (University of Pennsylvania)
Intern at Federal Student Aid


“Be open-minded and flexible. No matter how tedious some of your tasks may be, treat everything with high priority and of equal importance.”

Kaileine Najacque (George Mason)
Intern at Federal Student Aid