My 6 Biggest College Regrets
Back to school season is starting up. And with it, the internet is spewing forth generic college regret listicles that tell you to join more clubs, make more friends, and have more internships than the author did.
Well, allow me to use your valuable toilet-reading time for something more constructive: a list of college regrets that will actually help you have more fun and get more out of your incredibly costly and time-consuming college experience.
See, I joined clubs based on my goals and interests, and none of them helped me in any way. I also never joined the newspaper (besides writing a few movie reviews) but now I’m an editor. Oh, and I also technically didn’t graduate despite a stellar GPA and tons of time logged studying, because of one freaking astronomy exam. I also never had a real internship.
But I don’t regret any of those things. That’s not to say I don’t have any regrets — it’s just that they have more to do with how I approached college socially instead of academically. And since, let’s face it, if you’re reading this website you’re probably looking forward to college more for the parties than the extracurriculars, I figured I’d give you my advice for how to have the most fun four years of your life.
Anyway, here are my regrets.
1. I dated the first guy I liked.
The coolest thing about college is that after years of dating the boys you effectively grew up with, you’re suddenly surrounded by men. Or at least slightly older boys who have big muscles and chest hair.
So why the hell would you walk into freshman orientation and settle down with the first guy you meet who’s over 6′? I don’t know, but I did it, and it was really dumb of me.
See, the guys I grew up around were on the bro/jock side of the spectrum — unfeeling, uncaring, unable to play any musical instruments. They were even sometimes overtly sexist and racist. So when I met a guy in a hemp necklace (ughhhh) with an acoustic guitar (ughhhhhhhhhhhh) who seemed to understand that girls could have a function in life other than as a guy’s plaything, I fell for him immediately.
And it was cute or whatever, I guess, but I missed out on valuable September bonding time with my new girl friends. While my new friends were hungover af getting dining-hall-yellow eggs together, I was sitting in my boyfriend’s dorm googly-eyed while he played Dave Matthews Band on his acoustic guitar. I know, it pains me to even write this.
I even wasted my frat ratio — six girls to one guy — to get him into a frat he thought he was too cool for, so he could sit there and scoff at all the brothers who were actually having a good time.
We broke up after only about three months, obviously, because who marries the person they hooked up with the first week of college? And I never got those first three months of school back.
I might as well have made the only decision dumber than this, which would be to continue dating your high school sweetheart long-distance freshman year.
Cuz listen, in both of these situations, it’s just not gonna last. Do yourself a favor and stay single during the precious early days of freshman year.
2. I thought I was too cool for frats.
The word “basic” still didn’t exist yet when I was in college, but after years of secretly pining for a group of friends who understood my deep meaningful relationship with the Shins, I was determined to prove to everyone that I wasn’t mainstream in the least.
This led me to look down my nose at certain groups of people and avoid certain types of parties, all out of a misguided attempt at creating a unique and aspirational hipster-esque identity.
I would avoid certain types of parties, or attend them but make sure everyone in my group understood I was doing it ironically because I was too cool to actually enjoy it. I would strive to get into the parties I did think were cool — like basement shows — only to stand around awkwardly and try not to notice the stench of the deodorant-less freegans around me.
What I should have done was continue going to all the parties (which, trust me, I did) while keeping an open mind and relaxed attitude throughout, instead of wondering what attendance at a certain event meant for my personal image.
A party’s a party and college is for new experiences and having fun — and isn’t it always true that the nights you think will suck usually end up being the best anyway?
If I could go back in time to college and only tell my freshman self three words, they would be these: “Get over yourself.”
3. I didn’t take care of my body.
As you’ve probably gleaned through the party-centric nature of this list so far, I drank and socialized a lot in college. College is the time when I discovered hummus and pita, bacon cheese fries, the wide world of beer, and my alma mater’s most famous export: the fat sandwich, which I became a huge fan of during my monthlong pothead phase.
Everyone goes a little overboard in college. But I think my roommates will all agree that we went a little too far with the dietary freedom that came with living away from our parents for the first time in our lives. In addition to binge drinking at least three nights a week but usually more like four or five, we’d spend the next day housing disgusting food and never, ever working out.
This led me to gain 15 pounds sophomore year of college. See, because I was such a dumbass, I thought that since I hadn’t fallen victim to the freshman 15, I could stop watching what I ate. I honestly thought this! And I gained weight.
And the extra chub didn’t just lead me to look less cute in my going-out tops. It also made me tired, cranky, and unhappy. Why spend what’s supposed to be four of the best years of your life hating your body? If I had worked out and ate just a little bit healthier, I would have had much more energy and been a lot happier all around. I really regret treating my body like a toxic waste site for four years.
Oh, I also smoked cigs and took a shit-ton of (legally prescribed! <3 u, big pharma) Adderall. This was definitely ill-advised in terms of health, but super fun most of the time and I don’t regret it as much. Also, crucially, I don’t do either one anymore because that shit’s not cute after graduation day.
4. I tried way too hard to be woke.
Now, this one makes me want to go back in time and slap myself in the face and scream, “Snap out of it!” Cher in Moonstruck-style.
When I was in college, I was totally obsessed with learning how to pick out what was offensive about pretty much everything — and then loudly critiquing anyone who said something even slightly racist or sexist.
It was just the natural collegiate progression of my know-it-all personality. When I was in second grade, I used to correct my teachers when they flubbed their grammar. And when I was in college, I would correct guys at parties when they used “problematic” words or committed “microaggressions.”
And did it make any of them less racist or sexist? Fuck no! It just made me a shitty party guest. I wasn’t fighting the good fight. I was just being annoying.
It’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with being woke af — it’s just that if you use it as a tool for proving your superiority or putting other people in their place, you might as well not do it at all. Plus, some of the nicest, most kind-hearted people use offensive language or tell “bad” jokes. It doesn’t always mean they’re a racist or sexist piece of shit. Give people the benefit of the doubt and judge them by their actions, not the fact that they’re using last year’s word for transgender.
The thing that cured me of this women’s-studies-know-it-all-itis was, several years later, realizing that no matter what, everyone’s a little racist and sexist — myself included. And yeah, you can fixate on the way that manifests itself through offensive language and jokes if you want. But it’s probably a better use of your time to actually get mad about about things that matter, instead of things that offend people because they tangentially relate to things that matter.
The reason why people get mad about offensive jokes is because it’s easier to yell at someone about a joke than it is to fix the actual structural problems in our society that actually cause sexism and racism to continue. Just keep that in mind next time you’re tempted to whip out your woke-ness for no good reason.
5. I thought I couldn’t start working until after college.
I always knew I wanted to be a writer, since I was three. Yes, three, I’m not kidding. But for some reason, I decided to not actually try and get published in a meaningful way until after I left college. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
Yes, I had a personal blog where I dissected Lady Gaga videos and ranted about the best breakup songs. But why wasn’t I hustling and emailing publications like Galore, begging them to run my stuff instead of tossing it up on my piddly little blog that only my mom read?
Part of this problem was that my parents had instilled in me that I should never do any work for free. This is a nice idea, but in the internet age, you can’t get published without experience and you can’t get experience without already having been published. And I was writing anyway, why not just give it to someone who will help me get a real career out of it?
My point is, whatever kind of work you want to do, find a way to do it in your free time that will help you get to the next level. I was writing in my free time anyway because that’s just what I do. And instead of making it work for me by collecting bylines in real publications — many of which were just starting to build an online presence at that point and would have gladly taken free writing from a college student — I just posted it on my own WordPress, like a fart in the wind. Unbelievable.
My final word on this: because I had no bylines or real experience when I was finishing school, my first job was at a local newspaper covering planning board and council meetings. It was good journalism experience but so deeply soul-sucking. If you don’t want that to be your fate, don’t be like me.
6. I didn’t hook up with enough guys.
I know, this is not a common regret for most people after college. In fact, you’d think the opposite would be true.
But I was so paranoid about having a bad reputation, I was way too picky about guys. I’m not saying I should have gone out and banged everyone alive, but I definitely missed out on a few years of experimentation that many people use to their advantage.
I also had a serious boyfriend for much of the later years of college, which I don’t necessarily regret — but I can’t help but wonder what kind of fun I missed out on by hanging out one on one with a guy all the time, once again.
Basically, college is one of the only sexually judgment-free times in your life. Take advantage of it.
Now my biggest non-regret…
Yes, I realize this list is almost all about the social aspects of college rather than the academic. And that’s because the only thing I don’t regret is studying the exact subjects I wanted to study: English, French, and film.
And it’s weird because, according to general knowledge and common sense, I made a huge and costly mistake by concentrating on liberal arts instead of something more practical that will lead to a real job.
But I wasn’t about to major in business, so I focused hard the topics that I intensely wanted to study. Why? Because I had a weirdly intense feeling that college would have been a waste if I didn’t spend it learning everything I possibly could about these topics. And it worked out really well for me, so I’m not here to tell you not to major in liberal arts.
I enjoyed every minute of my classes in those topics. Well, most minutes at least. And that’s because I studied them to enrich myself and expand my knowledge. It made me a well-rounded person and also helped me understand the context for modern culture, which has served me incredibly well in my job as a writer and editor since day one.
Everybody’s different but if you’re motivated by passion for your work like I am, picking a major for personal fulfillment rather than strategic reasons might be a good move. It might not land you on the fast track to Wall Street, but passion is a powerful thing. If you feel passionate about what you’re studying and you work really hard, you’ll figure out a way to turn it into a career.
Just heed my advice make sure you have a lot of open-minded, non-judgmental fun along the way. Smile more, have fun, meet as many new people and have as many new experiences as possible, and don’t try to prove yourself to anyone but yourself.
Because loan payments are a bitch and you’re not gonna be able to afford life for at least a few years after college ends, so you might as well make the most of it.