My college career has ended, and my little sister is preparing to leave for college,
even though she’s still a baby who can’t be old enough for college. I’ve been reflecting on the things I’ve done during college. Some are things I am thankful for, while others are ones I wish I had been wise enough to avoid. So without further ado here are my tips to succeed in college.
- Find your place and find yourself
High school can be hard and limiting, socially. College, on the other hand, has a place for everyone. I found my place in the Mississippi State University Ballroom Dance Club and with the Baptist Student Union (BSU). BSU allowed me to grow spiritually and gave me the opportunity to do missions in Orlando for ten weeks. The ballroom club helped me get in shape, develop better posture (my posture used to drive my mom crazy!) and gave me something that makes me feel joy. I cannot imagine my life if I hadn’t had an RA who was involved with the club. Thanks Liz!
You don’t have to do these things but you should do something. If you wanna join a sorority, go for it. If you wanna be a member of the Brony Club, I won’t judge you. Well maybe a little but that’s the great thing about college. It’s the time to do what you what to do and say, “I don’t care what other people think. They can think I’m weird but I’m okay with that.” One day, my freshman year I wore a frilly pink shirt and pants with low heels and a headband that looks like it belongs to a medieval. I shamelessly told people that today was princess day and didn’t care if they thought I was weird, and it worked.
Both the BSU and dance club have given me opportunities to grow as a person and given me the opportunity to meet awesome people. In fact, I found my junior year roommates, Claire Cook and Krista Smith, through my family group at the BSU. Which leads me to my next point…
- Choose your roommates wisely
You don’t have to be best friends with the people you live with. You don’t even have to like them. But you do need to be able to live with them. If you like things to be clean, don’t live with your super fun but super messy friend, and, of course, vice versa. If you want a quiet home, live with your mellow friends. If you want home to always be exciting and fun, live with people who are lighthearted and fun. Basically, just figure out what you want home to feel like, and see who you know that fits in that. I don’t like to talk in the morning so I need roommates who understand why I seem moody at 7 a.m. They have to know I don’t hate them; I’m just not ready for the world yet.
However, I want to dispel a myth. It is totally possible to live with your best friend. I lived in a small dorm room with my best friend during my sophomore year. And you know what? She’s still my best friend. We had to be mature enough to let things go sometimes. But the only recurring issue was that she is hot-natured, and I’m cold-natured. There were times when I froze and she burned up, but we lived to tell the tale.
- Be a good roommate
It’s not all on them to make you comfortable. Living with people requires give and take. You may know their worst qualities but that just means they know yours as well. Keep that in mind and try to be someone easy to live with. If you have a problem, don’t be passive aggressive. Get it out in the open!
- Make friends with people in class and your major
My sophomore year I sat by a girl named Caroline Caver in Communication Theory, one of my favorite classes (Shout out to Dr. Nicholson). Eventually we worked together at Chickfila and ended up in a handful of classes together. Even though we didn’t hang out or anything, when I missed classes or couldn’t remember due dates, she’s someone I could rely on to help me out. There are a handful of other people that I always looked for on the first day of class or tried to pair up with during group projects. It’s always comforting to know there’s a classmate you can trust to proof your grammar (looking at you, Jake Jones!).
- Find someone a year or two ahead of you in your major
Seriously, this is one of the most important things that helped me. Through the BSU, I met Jamie Lott. Jamie was also getting a degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations, but Jamie was a year ahead of me. While we were both students at MSU, Jamie was constantly giving me advice about which teachers and classes to take. Even during my senior year, she was an invaluable help, always there to talk me off the ledge affectionately known as “PR Orgs.”
Now, we come to the regrets. I was involved in a couple, low-key internships in college, but if I could start over now, I would definitely take off a summer and get an internship that gave me tons of experience even if it was unpaid. Looking for jobs is hard, and I wonder if I would have a better chance with more connections and more experience. Maybe things would be exactly the same for me, but who knows.
- Work out
Take advantage of the gym membership included in your tuition. Chances are this is a much nicer gym than anything you’ve used. It’s also a great stress reliever, and if you’re in college, you need stress relief. But more than that, get in the habit of being healthy and working out while you still have a decent metabolism. You will gain weight in college unless you make a real effort not to stay in shape or have super awesome metabolism and most of us don’t. Fun fact: you can’t eat a #1 from Chickfila every night in the Union and not gain weight. It’s just not possible.
- Get Involved
Wait, Jackie, didn’t you already cover this in point number one when you said “Find your place?”
Hold your horses! When I say get involved, I don’t mean you should be associated with just one or two organizations. College campuses have such a vast array of people and opportunities. The more involved you are, the people you meet. During my first BSU meeting at MSU, the president of MSU, Mark Keenum, spoke and said,
“Five years from now you will be the same person except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
So meet as many different people as you can. Meet and develop friendships with people that have opposing views or different backgrounds than you. It will make you a better person.
I loved BSU and ballroom dance club but if I could start over, being more involved is something else I would change. There were so many things I thought about doing but for whatever reason (some valid, some not), I didn’t, and who knows what I could have gained from that experience.
So to all you soon to be college freshman, especially Mikayla, go out and enjoy and succeed in college! I am here for you and rooting for you.
P.S. It’s ok if you change your major, and it’s ok if it takes more than four years to graduate. Seriously, a big percentage of people have to go an extra semester or two. It’s not the end of the world.
Hey people who’ve been there, done that, what advice did I leave out that would help someone else? Let me know in the comments!
Now, enjoy some of my favorite pictures from college including a lot of the people talked about in this post.
Mikayla and I as little girls. Can you say “Best Friends Forever”
Mikayla, Chandler and I when Mikayla graduated.
Hannah Peay, Kelsee McKim, Sarah Carpenter and Tessa Brennan were my amazing group members during Orgs class.
Roommate senior year: “This is what slowly losing your mind looks like.” One of my great (and fun) roommates
Jamie and me at a super cold football game. She was my college mentor and one of my favorite people!
Nandita is just one of the great friends I met thru ballroom dance. She’s gorgeous, talented and super smart
Carley was my kids club partner during summer missions.
This little doll was one of the girls I bonded with during kids club. She’s from Ireland, and I still miss her occasionally.
Emily Pogue, my college sophomore roommate and best friend with me at a football game.
This was before a football game with some of the sweet friends I made thru BSU. Erin Bristol/soon to be Alford, Emily Pogue, Anna Matheny and Kimbo (Kimberly if you wanna be proper) Keel
I was such an awesome student they named a hall after me. Strangely enough it was for architects but I didn’t argue
At orientation getting ID’s with Chelsie Jackson. I always joke that I look as pale as a vampire here.
Dancing the tango with DJ
Claire, Melanie and Jamie showing me how well they can stretch
This is one of my roommates, Emily Akers, looking super cool with a light saber
My rock ministries family! I miss y’all!
Performed with these girls 3 times a week for a summer. Lots of bonding happened.