Pre-College Guide: What I Wish I Knew

As I enter my senior year of college I cannot help but reflect on the years that quickly came and went, the friends I have made, and the experiences that shaped the woman I have become. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell my 18 year old self what I learned and what to do or not do prior to going to college. Since I can’t get my hands on a time travel machine I decided to make a list of things I learned and wish I knew prior to beginning college…



Sophomore Year

  1. The summer before going to college get into a fitness routine

Whether it is running for 15 minutes or following the Sweat with Kayla Guides, getting into a routine is a great way to get your body in shape for college and to adjust to a routine that you can keep all year long. Working out will release dopamine (happy hormone) so that you ward off stress and depression, and of course the dreaded Freshman 15!

2. Do not buy books at the school library! Wait until after the first day of classes

College textbooks are savagely expensive and will quickly empty your pockets leaving very little left over for recreation. I learned that I oftentimes didn’t even crack open my textbooks despite the syllabus stating otherwise. I know it is your first year and you’re worried about falling behind but believe me, its worth waiting to see if they’re necessary. I once had a professor say that he put the textbook on the syllabus to appease the department chair but we wouldn’t ever use it!

Also if you need to buy a textbook check out Valorebooks, Chegg or You can get them for a fraction of the cost. Also if you rent a book you can get reimbursed by sending it back early (This trick saved me $112).

3. Sell old textbooks immediately

I still have textbooks from 2013 that I cannot sell because they are “outdated”. If you buy a book, make sure to sell it as soon as the semester ends before a new addition comes in!

4. Do not forget the small things

Tissues, Clorox wipes, paper towel, sewing kits, first aid kits, and tool kits are some of the small things I overlooked getting since I was so focused on making my new dorm look cute. These are items you will NEED throughout your four years. You will get blisters from heels, cuts from rugby try outs, and you’ll need that screwdriver for some odd project. Also your roommate may be filthy. Get these items and don’t forget to pack them.

5. Do not buy expensive things and bring them

This might seem weird but I learned this the hard way. I essentially threw out $1000 by the end of my sophomore year because I was busy focusing on the finer things rather than the practical things. I do not recommend buying designer sheets, they will get ruined either by you, a roommate, or your roommates crazy friend. You want those Pottery Barn plates that cost $35 a dish? They will be chipped by the end of the year. You think that $100 faux fur rug will look amazing as it hides the dingy cement floor? It will be bald by the time you move out. Do not spend a fortune on the small decorative things, or even on dishes and pots. You will likely be sharing them whether you give permission or not (people do steal) so it is best to keep your finer things at home.

6. Do shop savvy

I spent wayyyyyyy too much money on storage containers at the Container Store my freshman year just to have my roommate use my underbed storage as a snow sled (true story). You do not need to spend a lot of money to get the storage you need and if you are smart about it you can maximize your storage without spending a lot of money. Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target all offer great storage solutions! Also remember not to over-buy storage containers. You won’t need every single container they sell, instead opt for underbid storage or the stackable ones.

7. Make your dorm your cozy new home

I didn’t do this till my junior year of college but it is an incredible feeling coming back to your beautifully decorated dorm after a long hard day of classes. Your room will be your safe space, slice of heaven, your retreat, so why not decorate it as such? I looked through Pinterest to get a few ideas and I think you should too!

8. Hiding in your dorm away from the world

Tisk Tisk!! All Freshman are in the same boat. You are quickly meeting new people in orientation groups and classes and it can get a little overwhelming. But it is the perfect time to reach out to others and to start making those friends. I am a natural extrovert but even Freshman week I felt out of my comfort zone, but that’s OK! Getting out there and meeting new people makes college less lonely, and its never a bad idea to meet someone you can share experiences with.

9. Get Involved 

Typically during the first week of school clubs and organizations host a fair where new and returning students can learn and interact with different activities on campus. Sign your name up on everything you are interested in or perhaps never thought of doing before. I did this and I met some of the friendliest people ever. I joined a sorority, did yoga club, ballroom, ballet, volleyball, and made it on student council. Clubs and orgs open doors to people and networking opportunities, which will be valuable when you start looking for work. But right now they’re a great way to socialize and destress!

10. Map out your weekly homework and social obligations

It is easy to get caught up in the newness of college life but it is just as easy to fall behind in classwork. Make sure to stay on top of all of your work by staying organized. I write down my weekly homework and social obligations (club meetings) in an agenda AND on a dry erase calendar in my room. If I can I write down upcoming exams so that I can map out study time. When I was taking Chemistry and Biology I set and alarm on my phone so that I could stick with my study routine and dedicate the time for these two very difficult classes.

11. Travel Abroad

I wish I took advantage of this one and I am kicking myself for it. Studying abroad is one of the most enriching experiences one could have while going to college. Sometimes a university will even count it as a language requirement if you go to a foreign speaking country. I want to go back in time and do this for myself since it really is the only time most people can live abroad without any heavy financial burdens and a lot of guidance.


For those of you beginning your Freshman year in a few short weeks I wish you the best of luck! These next 4 years are going to fly by and will be filled with many moments of growth. Embrace each experience and cherish those you connect with!

Xoxo Caitlyn

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1 Comment

  1. October 6, 2016 / 3:22 pm

    I agree with every one of these things!! Especially mapping out your obligations – I’ve had moments where I’ve actually forgotten about tests until the day before :/

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