5 Things I Wish I’d Have Known Before I Went to College

By April 24, 2019Sr Portraits, To My Kids


The wheel had just been invented, man was harnessing the power of fire, and I was leaving for my Freshman year of college. Such exciting times. After a four year sojourn through higher education, I stunned myself and others by graduating. [Double major in History & Biblical Studies, in case you were wondering.]

Thanks to Ashlyn I’ve been ruminating (college word) lately about my university years. Her family recently gave me the honor of photographing her Senior photos. As the session rolled, we talked about her future plans, including the exciting college experience in front of her.

And so I offer for your consideration . . . 5 Things I Wish I’d Have Known Before I Went to College.


Some folks go to College for the parties, others for the grades. I went, honestly, because I was told that’s what I was supposed to do. Here’s what I wish I’d have known: College is a time to intentionally grow a network of awesome people.

I’m not talking about your friends–you’ll make plenty of those. I’m talking relationships with people who are not your peers.

Professors. Administrators. Cafeteria and Maintenance employees. Business persons in your new town. Coaches. Ministers and/or charitable volunteers. Your friends’ parents.

As you swim the unfamiliar waters of college, and especially post-college, these relationships can launch you to places you can’t imagine! You’ll have a wealth of people who want you to succeed, and want to help. You’ve heard the cliche that “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” It’s a cliche because it’s true. If you think your stellar grades alone will swing wide the doors of opportunity . . . please think again.

Purposely build relationships with people that you like and trust. How? When you meet someone that you want to know (remember; not a peer), identify why you think they’re unique. Go to him/her and say, “I noticed that you [insert uniqueness here],then ask: “How did that happen?” or “How did you get here?” or “What advice would you give to a college kid?” or “Why is that important to you?” Keep asking questions. Listen more than you talk. If you catch yourself talking about yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

The beautiful depth of your life won’t be from money, or travel, or notoriety (all fine things). The life of TRUE wealth stems from relationships.


You’ll see parts of the country you never would. You’ll get to know your friends better. And, as mentioned previously, you’ll build your network with your friends’ parents.

And don’t forget to bring your friends home with you.

Oh–and you’ll have a ton of fun! Duh.


A math word problem for you, written in collegiate language, by the guy who dropped his Sophomore Personal Finance class:

  • Student X counts every person in his class.
  • He does this for every class, every year he’s in college.
  • The sum of this (nerdy/stalker-ish) calculation=1 Taco Supreme.
  • He then compares this to the total number of students on campus during that time.
  • Result?
  • He attended class with only 1/12 of a Supreme Variety Taco Party Pack.

You can’t control who’s in class with you. You CAN control who you meet from the other 91.66% of the population. Some of these you’ll meet through the dorm/apartments. Others you’ll meet through Clubs, Greek life, Intramural sports, Service projects, Student Government, Church, etc., etc.

So get involved! Choose some extra-curricular activities that interest you, and join. BONUS TIP: Do this within the first 2 weeks you’re there! Every week that you don’t, the odds decrease that you will.


You leave home, you live with new people, you learn new ideas, you think new thoughts, and then . . . ! You come home for a visit and think,

“Jeepers! Everyone has CHANGED since I left!”

Actually, friend, it’s YOU that’s changed. You’ve made scores of small changes (clothes, speech, thoughts, habits . . .) that you haven’t noticed. When you visit the familiar life you used to know (home), you expect everything to be just like it was. But it’s not. Since you haven’t noticed the changes in yourself, you assume that it’s everyone else. It’s not.

Change can be difficult. Remember that your family’s life has changed as radically as yours!

Your family sees that you’re growing. Remember that they’re growing with you.

Give them the grace that they’re giving you.


It’s your first day on campus.

You’re nervous about everything: “Will I go to the wrong class? Will I say the wrong thing? Do I look okay? What happened to Rick Grimes? How soon will the Sun burn out?” You suddenly find SO. MANY. REASONS. to fret!

You walk to class and everyone seems so . . . so . . . so dang . . . CONFIDENT! You’re the ONLY nervous Nellie within 400 miles!

It’s a lie.

EVERYONE you see once had a first day on campus . . . including your professors! You’re surrounded by people just as scared as you are. The ones that aren’t scared? They were on their first day.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself: You’re there because you belong there. If that doesn’t help, I offer you Bill Ramsey’s mantra for fear.

This is what I tell myself every time I feel nervous, out-of-place, or intimidated by a new situation. It’s corny, but it’s true:

“Somebody dumber than me has done this.”

I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I’ve met plenty of people dumber than me. They mange to survive. If someone dumber than me can do it, so can I! [Profound, isn’t it?]


And there you have 5 things I wish I’d have known before I went to college.

What about you? If you’ve ever been to college, what do you wish YOU would have known beforehand? Share your wisdom in the comments below.

And finally: below is an affiliate link to the book that I’ve most often given to graduating Seniors.



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