University is, as we are frequently assured by knowledgeable and worldly job-holding actual adults, the best time of your life. It is certainly true that at no other time in your life are you going to enjoy such a large amount of free time, relatively few responsibilities and the high level of freedom common to many students. In exchange for this way of living, seemingly the only sacrifices required on the part of the student are turning up to the odd seminar, and sometimes living off beans and somehow miraculously under-cooked noodles for longer than should be humanly possible. However, a large number of students certainly are not having the best time of their lives, and struggle with university life in some form or another. A survey conducted by the American College Health Association in Spring 2013 found that 23.3% of students surveyed had felt “very sad” in the two weeks immediately prior to the survey, with 10.1% reporting having felt depressed to such an extent that it interfered with their everyday lives. In areas that can be directly linked with college experience, 34.8% of the students claimed to have found managing their finances traumatic and difficult to handle, with 26.6% experiencing similar stress over career issues. As such, it is unsurprising that many students, for one reason or another, do not have the ability to make the most of their time at university. This list catalogues the top ten regrets about the university experience among students and lists what they would have done differently if they could go back, which may hopefully serve as a “what to steer clear of” guide to the apprehensive student.
10. Not making the most of what their campus has to offer
A common regret amongst students is not having availed more of all of the facilities offered to them on their campus. As a student you often have access a wide range of facilities, for example world-class library facilities, state-of-the-art gyms, and swimming pools, which all too often go unappreciated until it’s too late. It’s all too easy to walk by these things everyday without really noticing them, but it is evidently well worth taking the extra time to experience everything your campus has to offer, thus easily avoiding this particular regret.
9. Not studying harder
Another common regret amongst university graduates is, perhaps inevitably, that they wish that they had studied harder. Obviously very few people graduate feeling that they literally could not have done better academically, and it’s of vital importance to have fun while in university. Nobody could call studying incessantly with no form of social life a well-rounded or beneficial college experience, but it is evidently best to strike a balance between the two (or you could always go down the “work hard, play hard” route, if you have the energy).
8. Casual hookups
Another large regret amongst university students is having casual sex. A 2013 study by Psychology Today conducted in numerous U.S. universities indicates that many students who participate in casual hookups feel negatively towards them. However, the study also points out that many college students who engage in casual sex may do so as a result of an underlying unhappiness or depression, which assumedly would not result in a pleasant sexual experience. While it is a tricky subject and by no means a conclusive study (the interviewees were all heterosexual, for example), the evidence is that a large amount of university students regret their hookups, so proceed with caution.
7. Choosing the wrong course
A 2012 study indicates that 37% of a nationwide sample of students in the U.S. wish that they had chosen a different major. This dissatisfaction seems something of a double-edged sword: while many students regret not having pursued a “more employable” subject matter, such as courses in technology and I.T., surely studying a subject that you have no particular liking for in order to get a job for is a disastrous action plan — the amount of unhappy, artistically-inclined accountants that there must be at large doesn’t bear thinking about. No matter whether you pursue a subject for the love of it or for its employment prospects, most people will always wonder if they’ve made the right decision. Of course, there are the lucky ones whose interests happily overlap with a good chance of employment; should you be one of these people then please do appreciate what you have, and take pity on the mélange of starving artists that surround you.
6. Career-related regrets
In a similar vein, a common regret amongst students was that they hadn’t begun to think about and be proactive towards their career while still at university. Too often students feel that they muddled their way through college, doing just enough to pass their exams, and were then unceremoniously flung into the world of work with little to no idea as to what to do next. Frequently they wish that they’d taken advantage of any of the job-related opportunities with which they were bombarded at college, such as career fairs. Easy as it seems to be to get caught up int the university bubble, its inevitable explosion is clearly one of some force.
5. Not having travelled more
A survey conducted by tour company Contiki indicates that 75% of over-35s wish that they had travelled more when they were younger. While college students are frequently broke as is physically possible to be, they are often at more of a liberty to travel than almost any other age group in the world, given their level of independence combined with relative lack of responsibility. Students are also at the perfect age to slum it in terms of travel: we are hardly likely to regret a few nights sleeping in the world’s dodgiest hostel for the sake of a weekend in Holland, whereas the experience of travelling and being exposed to other cultures will — cheesily but truthfully — stay with us for a lifetime.
4. Not making/upkeeping friendships
University is likely the last institution that you will attend that fits within the “new school” experience. As such, most students end up with a whole new group of friends in university; however, a big regret of many students is their failure to upkeep these new friendships, or even, in some cases, make them in the first place. Of course, there are many reasons that students might struggle to make friends; however, the evidence is that this will be an enormous inhibition in terms of getting the full university experience. If you have university friends, try to keep in contact with them, and if you don’t have university friends, at least try to make some — what’s the worst that could happen?
3. Not saving more money
Although no-one knows better than students just how poor the average student is, a large regret of many graduates is that they didn’t save more money while in college. A 2102 survey conducted by Accounting Principals shows that, of those questioned, 31% wish that they had got a job while in college and started to save earlier. While saving any money at all while in university seems a daunting, if not impossible, prospect, it’s surely a good thing to get into the habit of saving with whatever amount might be feasible at the time, even if it is ridiculously small.
2. Not joining societies and/or clubs
A large number of students report regretting not having joined more clubs and societies while at university. Frequently, involvement in societies is instrumental to a student’s acclimatising to college and meeting like-minded people whom they are likely to befriend. Often, too, a societies are a great way to avail of classes for little or no expense — see dance society, choirs etc. (and if the prospect of something usually highly priced for free doesn’t attract you, then you’re clearly not an official student).
1. Romantic regrets
Probably unsurprisingly, a vast number of college students report having felt regret over their romantic endeavours while in university. A wide variety of results come in under this headline: some students report regretting having got into a serious relationship early in their college life, while a number of others regret having missed opportunities; failing, as we so often do, to seize the day. While obviously a lot easier said than done, it is important to remember that the phrase “we more often regret those things which we do not do than those which we do” is a (tongue-twisting) cliché for a reason. As college students, with relatively few serious repercussions for our actions (within reason) and probably more freedom than we will ever experience again, it makes sense to take the occasional risk and put ourselves out there every so often.
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