It’s the day you and your family have been waiting for. Your first day in college! For the first time in eighteen years, you’ll learn what it means to live without your parents.

After hours of making sure you are settled in, it’s time to say goodbye. As you hug your mom and dad, you experience a mixed feeling of fear and excitement. The freedom and the unknowns of living alone overwhelm you.

Welcome to adulthood!

For those of us fortunate enough to attend college, this can be the most delightful moment of our life. However, failure to adapt to and manage the immense responsibilities a campus life carries can turn into a nightmarish experience.

Drawing on my university experience, I’m sharing four skills I wish I mastered before entering college. Had someone even mentioned those to me, my college life would have been a hundred times more memorable.

Bear in mind that these pearls of wisdom are neither normative nor prescriptive, but suggestive. After all, it’s your right and privilege to learn to fail and fail to learn.

I Wish I learned Time Management

The richness of experience college life brings may generate extreme time management challenges. A college student has a host of campus club activities, studies, reports, and get-togethers, among others competing for their time and energy. If you don’t know how to manage your time, your campus life can be disastrous.

If a student wants to enjoy every opportunity a college offers without harming their studies and health, they must master basic time management skills. Students must learn to organize themselves. If I were a freshman today, I would create a flexible Priority List of how I intend to spend my time in college.

You can decide in a 168-hour week where to spend your time and keep track. You needn’t follow this list to the letter, but you must use it as a benchmark. Adjust it as you go. If you don’t make a priority list, you’ll see yourself respond to friends’ and classmates’ priorities and you risk your health and academic performance.

Be deliberate in how you use your time because it can break or make your college experience.

I Wish I Were a Little More Self Disciplined

students in class
An undated university lecture

For many college students, that’s the first time they make decisions without their parent’s supervision. Mommy and daddy may think they can control you, but that’s just an illusion. I have been with classmates telling their parents they were ready to sleep while we were driving to a party.

That freedom means you must learn to be disciplined. Otherwise, you risk cracking under distractions, peer pressure, and personal impulses. My advice is for students to draft a “college bucket list.”

That list should include the things you want – and don’t want – to do. In my case, I decided I could booze with friends, but I would never get drunk; I would not get tattooed; I would not smoke. Those simple self-established rules proved very effective in guiding my actions and keeping me out of trouble.

I know this could sound like the most uncool thing for a college student to do. Isn’t a student supposed to try everything? I thought so too. But my time spent assisting students who have fallen prey to peer pressure and compulsion taught me otherwise.

Students, in order to fit in, engage in activities that feel cool at the moment but generate remorse in the long term.

Paradoxically, the students we follow are those who know what they stand for. Deliberately or not, these students have a definite internal guiding system. Would you rather follow a fickle student or a decisive one?

Trust me, if you want to look cool and attract friends, you will find the self-discipline to stick to your ideals and resist temptations of utmost importance.

I Wish I had More Fun

An undated night out with classmates

After graduating from college a few years now, I realized my best moments weren’t spent in the classroom, but during the times I spent joining campus clubs, going out with friends, and traveling to other countries.

One surprising aspect of a self-disciplined student is the uncanny ability to enjoy themselves. They embody the popular saying, work hard, play harder. However, the key difference between a disciplined student and their counterpart is the ability to separate the two.

A four-year college is perhaps the best opportunity to have fun. A college student rarely has to worry about tuition and life expenses because their parents usually provide them with allowances that cover basic life necessities.

Once you start a postgraduate study or enter the job market, your time for fun can become a luxury. As a full-time employee, I still enjoy myself a great deal. I’m more financially stable and more mature, but I still wouldn’t trade those times for my college experience.

Therefore, it is important you make the most of your college life and create memories to share with kids and grandkids.

I Wish I Made More Meaningful Connections

An undated picture with friends on NTHU campus

You’ll meet many people in college. Some you’ll never hear from after you graduate; some maybe and others definitely. It’s important you forge meaningful connections with the latter group.

These are the friendships you intend to maintain beyond the gates of the campus. Our social life is dynamic, therefore we must thrive to create a small group of friends that we count on for a long time.

Creating strong bonds with a limited group of friends improves both our emotional and physical well-being. Studies have found that our brains release dopamine and oxytocin in the presence of great friends. Thus, it’s important we keep friends we can rely on when we face challenges.


These are the four things I wish I knew when I joined college. I bring these to your awareness as a reminder that success in your college life is too important to be left to chance. Be deliberate. May you enjoy every minute of your college life.