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 work 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 know 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, like 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 judgement 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!

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High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.



High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress really helped me by letting me know the colleges ratings and placements. They gave me accurate information on my colleges tuition rates and acceptance. They even let me know the ration between students and faculty and the diversity of the college. Overall they told me everything I needed and things I didnt even think I needed to know about my college and other colleges I applied for.

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

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