The Best (and Worst) College Advice

Not all college advice is going to be good, but hearing it and knowing when to dismiss it is important. Here's the best and worst college advice we could find!

Heading into college, you’re going to get plenty of advice. Some of it will be super helpful; some of it... not so much. It’s okay to ignore any “advice” that sets off red flags in your mind. Trust your gut, you know? But what happens if don't know what red flags to look out for? What if something seems like good advice and it turns out not to be? Don't worry. We've got you covered! To help you discern some of the good advice from the bad advice, we asked college students and alumni to share the best and worst college advice they ever received. These are alumni (and students) who went through it (and are going through it) so you'll know which tips to follow—and which ones to avoid.

The best advice

Treat your day like a 9-to-5

Before I started college, my cousin told me to keep track of my time and treat my day as if I worked nine-to-five. I didn't really like the advice at first; I wanted to be able to choose my class times and take naps in between, so treating college like a “job” wasn’t what I wanted to do with my newfound freedom.
 But then I started working on homework late and staying up all night, which caused me to fall behind in my classes since my schedule was all over the place.
 I realized I needed to have a more stable plan, so I began using the nine-to-five time gap to get work done. Even if I only had two classes that day, I’d use that time to get reading done or catch up on other work. I had more time in the evening to hang out and relax. And I got my sleep schedule back on track. — Ashley Baboot, Virginia Tech, Class of 2016

College is really about two things...

The best advice I ever received was from my Introduction to Economics 
professor, who said the diplomas we received at graduation were the
 least important parts of our time there. To him, college was all about two things: to learn how to learn and to
 network with people. Classes gave you a firm foundation, but knowing how
 to recite a textbook wouldn’t land you a job. Instead, you need to know how to pick up the skills you need throughout your life, and you need to lean on your contacts to put you in touch with the career 
opportunities you can apply that knowledge to. To put it in the
 words of another professor: “Don't learn just to get a high GPA; learn so 
that you can never stop learning.” — Jason L. Bauman Jr., Indiana Wesleyan University, Class of 2008

Get internships!

Yes, it stinks that some internships are unpaid, but they are well worth it. Sometimes you have to put in the grunt work in order to get what you want. For me, I knew I would rather suck it up, work my butt off, and be 
poor during college than graduate and not be able to land the job that I
 wanted. At one point I juggled two internships, a part-time job, and an
 executive position in our Ad Club and attended school full time. I had
 drive and knew what I wanted. It wasn’t necessarily my skills that made me
 stand out; it was my drive. I was hired less than a week after graduation. — Michelle Hewitt
, Indiana University Southeast, Class of 2014

“Explore with structure"

Prior to leaving for college, my mother told me to “explore with structure.” I didn't understand it at the time, but she wanted me to walk that fine line between being enamored with all of the programs and activities available to me on campus and being totally focused on one thing, since I didn’t have enough experience to justify having this kind of focus. So “explore with structure” was a way for her to tell me to be deliberate in my discovery process—to have a plan but still make sure I was exposed to different things. — Kofi Kankam, Harvard University, Class of 1997

Put yourself out there

I was told that I should attempt to meet new people in college. None of my friends from high school would be attending my college, so that seemed a bit intimidating. There was also the fact that it was difficult for me. Most of my friends were the ones I had known since elementary or middle school. But after receiving this advice, I decided to attend an event I had been invited to through my school, Whittier College, before the start of the school year. Although I was nervous about not knowing anyone there, it was through this event that I met one of my best friends for the next three years. I am glad to say it was the best advice that I could have followed going into college. I do not know how I could have survived without the support of this friend. — Alexandra Tamayo, Whittier College, Class of 2016

Do what on a Friday night?!

When I first arrived at college, like many students I got caught
 up in parties, tailgates, and building a social circle. Then grades came out, and I was in danger of losing my 
scholarship. I finally did something smart and asked for help from
 a counselor. He asked, “What have you been doing with your time?” I said, “Studying.” He laughed. Then he told me
 to start studying on Friday night. Friday night! No one studies on Friday night. He said, “John, if you want to be more than average, you have to do what the average won’t do.” So I studied every Friday night. I didn’t like it at first, but I
 got used to it. It made all the difference. Eventually I graduated, and I received the highest academic
 award given by my school. — John Paul Engel
, University of Iowa, Class of 1991

Related: A Day in the Life of a College Student

The worst advice

Pick your college solely based on “sticker price"

My family ruled out several universities based on the “sticker price,” which I now know is not good advice! Many schools offer multiple ways to reduce that price for a student, especially a student they want. And in my case, we limited our look to in-state schools, thinking they would always be a better value. Again, this is not necessarily true—there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and many offer some great values and deals for students. Cast the net wide! — Beth Probst, Purdue University, Class of 1990

...or on athletic scholarships

As an athlete in college, the worst advice I ever received was to choose my 
college based on the amount of athletic scholarship money I was offered. I never researched the classes available or the majors open to me. Three years into college, I ended
 up getting a sports-ending injury and was stuck trying to figure out where
 my degree was going to take me. I was lost. — Anna Crowe Bates, The University of South Florida, Class of 2010

Don't shoot for the stars

I was a chemistry and marine science major for undergrad and ended up getting a bad test 
grade in my Calculus II class. Up to that point, I had a perfect GPA, so I went to a 
tutor. He told me that keeping my GPA was a “lofty goal” and that I should 
just move on. I didn’t take his advice and eventually got an A in the class after
 working hard to understand the material and doing extra credit. — Apryl DeLancey, University of Tampa, Class of 2003

Play it safe with your major

I entered college undeclared, but my mother kept telling me to major in a high-paying, stable field, such as medicine or law. This made me a nervous wreck during my first semester, as I attempted to take various classes to determine which field interested me most. I expressed interest in psychology, but that wasn’t a viable option to my mother, and her constant pressure to pursue a different major stalled me from pursuing it. Eventually, I decided to ignore her advice and major in psychology and French. Although I knew she had my best interests at heart, I did not need her to decide my future for me. I can honestly say that attempting to appease your family is one of the worst types of pressure you can place on yourself. You should explore your own interests. — Alexandra Tamayo, Whittier College, Class of 2016

Related: 4 Interesting Ways to Help You Find Your College Major

Ultimately, as we mentioned above, trusting your gut goes a long way, but you only go through the college search process once (or twice if you go to grad school) so you aren’t expected to know everything. Using your best judgment and the aid from people you can trust, you’ll be able to find your dream college, no problem.

Use the CollegeXpress College Search tool to find your perfect college today!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Damian Rangel

Damian Rangel

September 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me tackle college expenses, which will allow me to put more of my time and effort into my studies without the need of worrying as much about finances.

Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Charleston Southern University

North Charleston, SC

Molloy University

Rockville Centre, NY

University of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Angelo State University

San Angelo, TX