Three months ago, you needed permission to leave class to use the bathroom.

Now, you’re preparing to spend thousands of dollars on classes you’ll take in a community inhabited almost exclusively by adult children who sometimes cry in Ubers and can barely comprehend boiling noodles on a stove.  

You’re a college freshman, and this is your reality. Shouldn’t there be some kind of guide for this?

The Arizona Republic asked college students and recent graduates what they wish they had known going into college. Here’s what they had to say.

From Arizona State University students

“Just because you can go to Taco Bell every single night does not mean you need to eat Crunchwrap Supremes and Cinnamon Sticks every single night.”

Alfred Varela, senior

“I really wish I would’ve known how to change my study habits … because studying in college is definitely a lot different than studying in high school. … I definitely did not study as much or as hard as I needed to in high school.”

— Megan Koehler, junior

“Even as a freshman there are points throughout your college journey where you probably will get anxious, very, very stressed, sometimes even scared or afraid for the future. It happens to everyone, and I think people should know that they are not alone.”

Janae Lewis, junior

“Call your parents, talk to your family … especially for out of state students. I feel like they forget about their parents; they get to college and just get excited and focused on making new friends.”

— Claire Mushet, sophomore

“I wish I would’ve explored my possible career options earlier. … I kind of just took a whim on my major and I’m feeling a little bit behind as I go along.”

Kylie Mercer, junior

From students and alumni, online 

“Going to class and getting good grades is only one part of college. Good grades and a degree are no guarantee you can walk out of college with a job. … Do ongoing career research and networking. Seek internships. Develop communication and leadership skills.”

Reddit user Professor_mc

“If I could do it all over again! I’d get to know my professors better and build strong relationships for references!”

Irene Armstrong @IreneeArmstrong (Northern Arizona University class of 2019)

“Reach out to people you admire as often as you can, even if you think it’s a long shot. Cold email them and you’d be surprised who responds. Successful professionals love sharing their wisdom with students.”

— Anita Ramaswamy @AnitaRamaswamy (Tufts University class of 2019)

“I wish I had known to get more involved with clubs or student organizations. College was a really fun experience for me but I know it would have created a stronger social aspect if I’d gotten more involved.”

Carissa Lynn Perez Gonzalez @c_perez713 (Arizona State University class of 2018)

“Say no wherever you feel like saying no. You don’t have to go to every party or everything you’re invited to. Take time to rest your brain, study sleep cycles and find one that works for you.”

Mitchell Atencio @mitchellatencio (Arizona State University class of 2019)

Sometimes it will be lonely and that is okay. … You will find your people who are friends that feel like family, totally independent of your family at home.”

— Mary Kate Wolken @marykate_wolken (Creighton University class of 2019)

“Do not take the dining hall food for granted while you have it. It’s not a five-star restaurant, but it’s damn sure better than whatever it is you’re pathetically trying to cook when you move off-campus.”

James Camoriano @camo_jd (Arizona State University class of 2014)

“Always pack snacks. A baggie of pistachios might be the highlight of your day.”

Eliana House @HouseEliana (Arizona State University class of 2019)

“Interest builds up quickly on those student loans, so be mindful of how much you’re borrowing!”

Gianna Rea-Sandin @GReaSandin (University of Colorado Boulder class of 2012)

“Relax a bit more! Obviously, you do what you need to do but it can be one of the most fun periods of your life.”

— Justin Brooks (Northern Arizona University class of 2007)

Editor’s note: Mitchell Atencio is a former reporting intern for


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