Congratulations! Now what? Advice from Pittsburgh Prep

Congratulations! You’ve made it: the acceptance letter has been received, the shower shoes have been packed, and the posters have been carefully selected to promote your aesthetic taste. You are now ready to begin your first year of college!

…right?

Ok…maybe you do still have a few more questions about this next step of your journey.

Sure, sometimes it helps to go through all of the websites listing “college essentials,” but what about those things that aren’t listed? What about some concrete advice from former collegians who specialize in academic success for a living?

Lucky for you, Pittsburgh Prep is here to help out!

We interviewed our staff members and asked them one question: If you could go back and tell your college self one piece of advice, what would it be? While our staff members could’ve written an entire encyclopedia with their wisdom, we have consolidated their advice into the blog post below. Think of it as a College Survival Guide: Pittsburgh Prep Edition.

So sit back, relax, and crack open one of those brand new notebooks you bought from Target–you might want to write some of this down!

Audrey: If I could tell my college self anything (even though it was literally just 2019!). I would say to have more fun. I was so focused on school and work that I didn’t allow myself time to just breathe. At the time I was working 40+ hours a week while trying (and succeeding) to graduate early so I took on more classes than a normal student would. Both of those things combined led to very little free time! While I’m proud of where I am today I think I could have relaxed a bit during college. I would also tell myself that it’s okay to not have everything figured out and it’s okay to change your mind. Nothing is set in stone and sometimes you have to follow your heart and take a break from being so focused!

Sasha: Use a planner or agenda! College is a completely different world than high school; it moves quickly and professors treat you as they would any other adult. It can be crazy fun and very exciting, but it is important to keep tabs on deadlines and expectations for your courses. If you are able to manage your time effectively by using a planner or agenda, you will find that you have more free time for extracurriculars and friends!

Valeria: I would tell myself to let go of the idea of perfection. Life happens and you’re human (so are your professors – talk to them more), there’s strength in vulnerability. College is hard but also amazing! Don’t forget to take it all in 🙂

Emily: Remember to find peace in the small moments. These years will fly by with papers, tests, projects, internships, meetings, and more. However, the small moments of joy, laughter, and the seemingly mundane will be the ones you remember and cherish the most. Remember who you are and stay close to the people who bring out the best in you. Join all the clubs in the world. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. Buy a good pair of winter boots. Communicate with your professors. Utilize your planner. Cherish that work study position at the library. Also: midnight bingo IS cool.

Sherry: I’d probably tell myself to relax a little bit and try to be more open to engaging with people I didn’t know.  I assumed that I’d be too “weird” for most of my peers in undergrad and therefore didn’t make many efforts to befriend them.  In retrospect, I had a lot to offer them, and it wasn’t until enough people went out of their way to befriend me that I realized I could do the same for others and pay back the favor!  Now I love meeting new people and getting to learn about where they come from and what makes them who they are!

Hoon: ​​Take your time. No need to rush things. Stay focused on the bigger picture, and have faith in the progress, no matter how slow or stagnant it may seem to be. Find strong advisors who care for you and your development, and let go of people or actions that aren’t helpful. You’ll get there, slow & steady. And reflect, write a journal, make 3 great friends, and know that you can’t do everything or be everywhere even if you want to. Work on something you’re good at, and also work on something you’re not good at, both are equally important. Also, don’t have pineapple on pizza, no matter what happens. And travel, since taking a semester abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You got this.

Jacqueline: Be as involved as possible. Join all the clubs, volunteer, go to the fun events the college puts on, go to sporting events, go to study groups, and try new things (within reason-don’t let yourself get rundown!) Most of my college experience was during the lockdown so it wasn’t until senior year that I was actually able to do real things- and that is when college really became fun! I met almost all of my best friends in college through clubs/ going to study groups. Be open to new friendships and of course, keep working hard in your studies! Soak in every moment because it really does fly by – you might even find yourself wishing to be back in your freshman dorms when you graduate!

Josh: If I could go back and tell my college self one thing, I stress the importance of SMALL STEPS! Don’t give up on what you want to do or be because it’s so intimidating… do it in small increments. Focus on what you want and not your past. Every decision that you make is a vote for the kind of person that you are. Skipping the extra dessert, taking the time to master that formula, reading that book, or getting extra sleep instead of joining the Mario Kart tournament IS going to help you be who you want.

If I didn’t listen to that… I’d recommend a haircut lol

Nathaniel: My advice would be to join as many clubs and activities as possible at first but then be sure to only stick with the ones you’re really interested in and excited by! College is an amazing opportunity to try all sorts of new things and meet awesome people, but it is also crucial to maintain a balance so you have plenty of time to thrive both academically and socially.

So there you have it: your very own college survival guide from yours truly at Pittsburgh Prep! We understand that nobody has exactly the same college experience, but we are still hopeful that some of our learned experiences can lend a helping hand to at least one person in the class of 2026. We’re wishing you the best of luck, and always remember you have Pittsburgh Prep to support you in all you do!

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