There are many articles out there that tell you what you need to know before college, or before you graduate college. No one ever focuses on the during though, which four years is a pretty big “during”. One day when you’re making those student loan payments, you can remember not only the education you paid for, but the life lessons and experiences as well. There are some things you just can’t understand until it happens to you, and these are my 8 biggest lessons I learned from being in college.

Its easy to acquire a lot of acquaintances; It’s not easy to make friends

One of the most common and cliché promises that people tell you when you’re about to go off to college is how many great friends you’re going to make in the dorms, at the dining hall, in your classes etc. In my experience, yes I have met a lot of people to say hello to and make small talk with, but in the years I have spent at college, I have made about two actual, call-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night-if-I-need-you friends. I felt like there was something wrong if I didn’t make new friends every semester, but now I realize that its impossible to genuinely get along with that many people. So, there is nothing wrong with having a lot of acquaintances and few friends.

That being said, hold on to good friends at whatever cost

We live in a social-media driven world where not caring is cool and cutting people out is praised. Even the best of friends can make big mistakes. While toxic friends are indeed necessary to cut out, really consider whether or not the person in question deserves the boot or just needs a nice talking-to. This lesson became especially evident in college which is a time that is quite frankly, an adult version of puberty and you need as much good support as you can get.

Participating in something because it’s what you’re “supposed to do” will drain you

This lesson was learned by joining a club for the sake of joining a club mixed in with the promise of these many friends I was supposed to make. I don’t know about your school, but clubs are super involved where I attend and they require a large majority of your social life. For most things in the real world, if it takes up a lot of your time and energy and it’s not something you want, put it in the same category as those truly toxic friends and give it the ole heave-ho. Save the time and efforts for your passion, because passion will always trump the “supposed-to’s.”

Don’t worry about what others think of your dreams.

Obviously you don’t need to go to college to learn this one, but I feel that it’s a time when it becomes most apparent. Specifically, as a liberal arts major at a S.T.E.M. school, I found it difficult to keep my sights set on my goals when I was surrounded by people pursuing what are considered safer career paths. At the end of the day though, it became important for my mental health to remember that I would never make it in those types of fields because I am not passionate about them. The science kids need help with editing their papers, and the liberal arts majors will definitely need medical assistance at one point or another. So we should all really just high-five each other instead of hating on different areas of study. Besides, it really is our differences that make us stronger, which brings me to my next point.

Sometimes you need to ask someone for help and advice. Other times you need to ask 5 different people for help and advice.

College is supposed to be a time of self-sufficiency so it can be quite upsetting when someone tells you to get help. However, to paraphrase something my current boss once told me, it makes life much easier to accept your strengths and ask for help that which you cannot do by yourself. I add in that you sometimes need to ask five different people because, especially at a big school, sometimes your advisor might tell you to take a class that they think you would like, but you actually end up hating it. Get second and third opinions on larger decisions, even from authority figures. Don’t be too proud to ask for help and even if it isn’t the help you were looking for – be appreciative.

When it comes to relationships, whatever it is that you are doing is perfectly fine unless it’s getting in the way of your goals.

This one is so simple to understand yet so difficult to grasp. If you are in a serious relationship, dating around, participating in hookup culture, don’t even know what hookup culture is, or just aren’t even worried about any of it (I tip my hat to you lot), you are no more correct or incorrect than anyone else. The college experience or your twenties or whatever phase of your life should be exactly that – yours. You can chase your goals with or without someone just make sure that your someone isn’t the goal you’re chasing.

Like it or not, your living situation sets the tone for your life.

As someone who was in denial about this for a long time, heed my warning. I have gone from living with slobs to living alone to living with friends and each year of my schooling has been largely affected by this. Make sure you pick your living arrangements carefully, and if you feel that you are having a rough time, make sure it isn’t because you are surrounded by rough people.

Essentially, each person experiences these four years differently.

This is another lesson important to understand early on. Be mindful and respectful of others’ goals as you pursue your own. This life is everyone’s rough draft and it’s important to trust your own path. But whether you are just starting out in college, are midway through college, or are looking back on the whole experience, try to think that even on the worst days, when he left you on “read”, you got a C- after an all nighter, and your roommates left their dishes in the sink again, so many people would give anything to be where you are right now. The unofficial number 9 then, is to be grateful.

Erin_ChinneyErin is an incoming senior English major at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing about experiences, books, advice, and her new love for running.