As I come upon my 22nd birthday and graduation on May 11, I have realized that there are quite a few things that I learned during my four years at UNC Charlotte. Each and every thing was either learned in a classroom, in my own head (through months of therapy) or simple trial and error. Please read the following in hopes to get some sort of valuable information to make your years here at Charlotte better.

  1. Plan everything accordingly. And when I mean everything, I mean everything you possibly can (because admit it, some things are out of your control). Yes, you can’t plan on immediately getting a job after college (or even anyone to hire you) because getting a job these days requires one to five years of experience at an entry level position. But to a degree, you should plan for your future so that you are not dependent on others. Plan to find jobs, a hobby, something you’re passionate about; just plan something (so that you have something to look forward to).
  2. Avoid all-nighters. SLEEP IS NECESSARY FOR YOUR BODY TO FUNCTION. This is where planning can get involved. If you plan your work accordingly, you won’t need to drink three Red Bulls and make 12 cups of coffee. You’re making yourself stressed for no reason.
  3. Wait until after syllabus week to buy books. Not all classes will require the textbook, and most professors tell you whether you need to get it. It will save you money because textbooks are not cheap! If you do have to get a textbook for a class, find more cost effective ways of getting the material. Sometimes, by a stroke of luck you, could find a PDF of it on the Internet or at a cheaper price ( really saved me some dough).
  4. Get involved. I have an unfortunate problem of not being able to say “no” to things. Therefore, you can catch me at any event around campus. These involvements have meant a great deal to me and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Just do whatever you think you can handle because my two jobs, an internship, and a sorority all on top of a full class load is way too much for any person dealing with anxiety.
  5. You’re going to spend money, so plan a budget. If you have a job, plan on an estimate of income each week/pay period and divvy up how much you will spend on food, rent, emergencies and good ol’ spending money. It gives you a good frame for when you have a career and will actually have the full bills and responsibilities of an adult.
  6. It’s okay to ask for help. Whether it be in a class you’re struggling with or with an issue mentally or emotionally. If I didn’t get counseling for my anxiety, I don’t know where I would be. UNC Charlotte offers 12 free sessions with a licensed counselor on campus. FREE.
  7. Learn how to cook and limit your fast food. I get it, we all get tired and lazy, but even if it’s one dish, do it. All of your money can’t be spent on fast food because it adds up very quickly.
  8. Invest in items you want to last. My sophomore year, one friend at the time told me that I was a “spoiled brat” for spending $1,500 on my computer. I spent my high school graduation money on my Surface Pro and I knew that it would last me more than four years. I’m not spoiled, just thinking of the future. Even if it’s a nice coffee maker, a laptop, a car, or a pair of shoes, if you know it will last you, invest in it. It can be just as expensive to buy a cheaper-made one several times.
  9. Enjoy your time living on campus. I would give up a whole year of my degree to live on campus again, solely for the convenience of dining halls and access to other campus amenities. The dining halls were a huge lifesaver when it came to saving money because I didn’t have to buy that many groceries (or any for that matter). Also, going to study in the library is much easier if your walk to it is 10-15 minutes rather than a 10-15 minute drive.
  10. Go to campus-wide events. At these events, I met some good friends, hung out with friends I already had and just had a good time. Especially if you live on campus, take advantage.
  11. Don’t overwork yourself. Classes always come before a job or having fun. You’re in college to get a higher education, so make sure school is a top priority. There were some days over the past two years when I really regretted getting a second job because I was overworked and underpaid. Stick to school.
  12. Try to eat healthy. Choose the frozen yogurt over the ice cream. Become a vegetarian. Choose plant-based products over dairy. If something is going on with your body (acne, stomach problems, headaches, etc.), it means the food your body is putting in is not letting it function correctly.
  13. Be conscious of your grocery shopping. An easy way to find healthy food for cheap is to check places like Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Lidl. Aldi has great prices and a great produce section for a great price.
  14. Check your email and Canvas. Some days you’ll get an email of classes being canceled and other times you’ll find an assignment that’s due in 12 hours that a professor didn’t mention in class. Just check it.
  15. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. You’ll take off 15 years of your life by worrying if the person at Bojangles thought you were weird or not. If you let others run your life, you’re not living your life. Trust me, you lose all sense of yourself (what you like, dislike, who you hang out with, what music you listen to, etc.) when you let others run your life and thoughts.

The saying is that college is the best four years of your life, and whoever said it was totally right. You grow as a person and a human and learn so many things about yourself. Each day you get up and decide that you want to plan for the future, look out for your body and mind, and have fun every once in a while. You can hopefully take two steps toward your own happiness.

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