things i wish i knew before collegeThere are so many things that I wish I could whisper in the ear of my 18-year-old self.

It hasn’t been too long since I was enduring the daily college grind. Just a few years ago, a few months after graduation, I was carefully slipping my diploma out of a sealed envelope and into a polished frame.

My time in the real, adult world has been short—and yet totally full. No, it hasn’t been that long, but there’s a lot I’ve learned in the time between graduation and being forced to grow up.

There are so many things that I wish I could whisper in the ear of my 18-year-old self. So many things I wish I could communicate to the Junior who binged on Breaking Bad and Brownies instead of attending Biology.

The best I can do is share my experiences with high school students who are starting to prepare for college. Here’s the advice I wish someone would have given me before I went off to college:

1. You have to learn how to live with a roommate

You’re probably picturing life with a roommate as something from the movies. You think you’ll instantly bond with your roommate, that you’ll be fast friends. You’ll study, eat and hang out together. You’ll do everything together.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not always the case.

You’re bound to clash with your roommate on some things. Maybe they play awful music (and play it loud) while you’re trying to study. Maybe they leave crusty dishes in the sink. Maybe they use the last of your shampoo and forget to replace the bottle.

Living with a roommate isn’t always going to be easy.

I wish my pre-college self knew this. I wish I would have known that great roommate relationships don’t just happen. You have to have an upfront conversation with your new roommate, immediately. Lay out some ground rules. Decide who’s in charge of buying toilet paper and who’s in charge of buying milk.

When it comes to roommates, remember that it’s not always going to be easy. And when it’s not easy, you need to speak up and practice a little patience.

2. You have to be responsible with your freedom

When you’re in college, there’s no one there to tell you to do your homework, or wash your laundry, or pay your cell phone bill. No one is going to wake you up when you sleep through half of your 8 A.M. class. Your parents aren’t there to keep you on track.

Suddenly having all the freedom in the world is at once an amazing and odd sensation. It’s amazing because you can eat Lucky Charms for dinner, guilt free. It’s odd because all of a sudden, out of nowhere – you’re an adult. You’re responsible for yourself.

I wish I would have known not to take advantage of my freedom too much. Skipping class to take a nap has its consequences.

Remember that you still have a job to do. Your job is to be a good student and to take care of yourself. And to call you mom every once in a while, so she knows you’re okay. Please call your mom.

3. You have to hold on to the really amazing friends

Friends are going to come and go. You’re going to outgrow some of them. Some are going to move away and lose touch. It’s just what happens.

But I wish my pre-college self would have known to hold on to the really amazing ones. My post-college self could definitely use some of those friends still in my life.

Whether they’re helping you cram for finals at 3 A.M. or listening to your gory blind date horror stories – you know that friend is a keeper. When you find a keeper, hold on tight.

Build a lasting friendship. You’ll need them after college, trust me!

4. You have to find all your financial aid options

Paying for college is confusing. You’ve got scholarships, grants, fellowships, loans…what do they all mean? Where do you find them? Are you eligible?

Too many students find only a small part of the financial aid that they’re eligible for. It’s not their fault – they just don’t know where to look.

Before I went to college, I wish I would have looked for all my options. I applied for the FAFSA and accepted the academic scholarships my school offered. But there are so many other scholarships out there that I could have potentially received had I applied. I wish I would have used a tool like Red Kite.

Red Kite lets you find all your financial aid options, all in one place. And everything is customized to your interests and major. Don’t miss out on free money for college!

5. You have to be open to changing your mind

You’re in college. You’re not supposed to know everything. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out.

If you get two semesters through your college career and realize that going the Pre-Med route just isn’t for you, change courses. College is where you discover yourself.

I wish I would have been more okay with changing my mind. When I decided to change my major, I felt like I was abandoning everything I thought I wanted. But the reality is that I didn’t know what I wanted yet.

That’s okay. You’re allowed to change your mind. Don’t stress about it. Do what feels right.

Heading to college is a huge change. It goes by so, so fast. Before you know it, it will be over. Make the most of your experience. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid the mistakes and hardships that many new college students have had to deal with.

What’s the best college advice you’ve received? Tweet it @MyRedKiteSocial!