12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College

What are some of the rewarding or painful lessons that you should know before stepping foot in college? Find out here!

Updated 27 Apr 2022

12 Things You Should Know Before Starting College - Feature-Image
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What would you change in the past if you knew what you know now?

Would you have studied more (or less) in school? Would you have stepped up to be more courageous in uncomfortable situations? Or maybe you would have let go of long-held grudges or terminated toxic friendships.

We asked our community of college graduates what rewarding or painful lessons they had in college so incoming freshers can avoid the same mistakes.

Here’s what they had to say.

#1. College can be really hard

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 1 College can be really hard

The transition from secondary school to college can be challenging. From the mountainous volume of study material that you have to master to navigating the tricky corners of college social life, you may find that it’s a lot harder than you initially anticipated.

I wished I was told not to underestimate the difficulty of college-level education.

Hari Shankar, A-Level

College will be very difficult. Be ready to fail, get up and repeat the process.

Anon, Foundation

It sucks at first but it will get better. And it really does. Eventually, you will find people who are just like you and the day gets better from that point onwards.

Anon, Foundation

#2. You’ll need to learn how to manage time and stress

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 2 You’ll need to quickly learn how to manage time and stress

Attending classes, doing homework and coursework and preparing for class tests and final exams — these can all quickly pile up into a distorted mess if you fail to manage well. Not to mention the constant pressure to excel academically (whether self-imposed or from your parents), with 76% of our community saying that they experienced stress at least once a week.

Start early, make your own notes, do past year papers, ask your teachers questions and don't skip classes. Be independent. It'll do you good in the long run.

Leong Kar Yan, A-Level

Say no to last minute. Sit in front of every class and engage, engage and engage. It’s a better way of learning rather than regurgitating.

Amirul Noorazmi, A-Level

If you’re stressed, take a break to do something that calms you down instead of forcing yourself to continue. A break can often give you clarity of thought.

Chong Zhiwei, IBDP


Anxiety and depression can escalate into a serious issue, especially during the impressionable years of college. Taylor’s College Career & Psychological Counselling Centre provides free counselling to help you manage emotional stress, strengthen your personal growth and reduce uncertainty when deciding career options.

#3. But stay calm, as your lecturers will be there to guide you

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 3 But stay calm, as your lecturers will be there to guide you

If you find yourself struggling with your studies, don’t be afraid to lean on your lecturers for support and guidance. Participate in class, ask questions if you don’t understand or schedule meetings after classroom hours. Many lecturers will be more than happy to assist. After all, they are there to help steer your ship towards your destiny.

The teachers made a huge impact on me. They drove me to perfection and constantly encouraged me to outperform myself. They made me fall in love with learning all over again.

Soyu Han, SACE International

The lecturers genuinely cared about us and took the time to help us figure out our career path, strengths/weaknesses and how to improve.

Lyn, Diploma

The best part about college was the teachers and the methods they used to instil a student's interest.

Anon, Canadian Pre-University (CPU)

#4. Go out and make new friends

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 4 Go out and make new friends

Moving far from home and going to a college where you barely know anyone can certainly increase anxiety levels, especially if you are an introvert. The truth is, most people are probably as nervous and as out of their comfort zone as you are. Take a deep breath, smile and put yourself out there. It really isn’t as scary as you imagined it to be.

Say yes if people invite you out. Take the initiative and invite people out too. Don't be afraid to just walk up to someone and say hello.

Lyn, Diploma

Hang out with friends and classmates during lunch and engage with them during club activities. Keep a wide circle of acquaintances. Social life doesn't only involve partying — it includes club activities, smaller gatherings, etc.

Leong Kar Yan, A-Level

If you think you're too awkward, let it be. If people like you, they'll come back to you. If they don't, you won't see them again. Just be yourself.

Victor Chai, SACE International

#5. Because the bonds that you forge will be deep

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 5 Because the bonds that you forge will be deep

Your friends will be what defines your college experience. They will be the ones to encourage you when you think you can’t, laugh with you during the good times and cry with you through the rough times. These precious experiences that you go through together will be the glue that holds your friendship firm for years to come.

The best part of college is the friends. Everything’s better with friends.

Anon, Foundation

My friends are supportive as we help each other to survive and get through A-Level. We push each other and do not waste time with petty high school drama.

Kristin, A-Level

College is the best phase in life to make truthful friends!

Anon, A-Level

#6. But be wary, as not everyone will be good for you

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 6 But be wary, as not everyone will be good for you

College will be a place of congregation for many people from all walks of life. And you will soon learn that it’s impossible to get along well with everyone. Be open to meeting new people but don’t be afraid to say “no” if you feel that they’re not right for you.

Make friends who you can trust. True and right friends will grant you a superb experience in college.

Owen Ngu, A-Level

Find friends who will help you become a better person instead of ruining you.

Ja Nj, Diploma

Go through bad ones and you will know which are the good ones to keep.

Amirul Noorazmi, A-Level

#7. Go wild with clubs and activities

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 7 Go wild with clubs and activities

While this may seem like stale advice peddled by an older generation of parents, teachers and counsellors, it pays to be more involved outside the classroom. Even if your goal isn’t to build a flashier resume, getting involved will allow you to discover your true passion and hidden strengths, build valuable soft skills and connect with different kinds of people.

Join clubs and take part in events. They excite your college life and you gain valuable experience too.

Soyu Han, SACE International

I wish I had been more involved in various activities. Staying in your room and binge-watching TV series gets boring eventually.

Anon, Foundation


Taylor’s College has an exciting list of clubs and societies that will grant you an enriching college experience. From Doctors of Tomorrow and Model United Nations to Han Guk and Performing Arts, there's just about something for everyone!

#8. Because college is more than just hitting the books

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 8 Because college is more than just hitting the books

Your classes may provide you with solid hard skills and knowledge, but it’s what you learn outside the lecture halls that will define you as a person. While academics are important, don’t be too preoccupied with burying your head in books. Instead, venture out and enhance yourself with enriching college experiences.

Studies are something but not everything. What we aim for is not perfection but balance.

Victor Chai, SACE International

Getting good results is the main priority but getting to know people and doing what you love is just as rewarding.

Leong Kar Yan, A-Level

Enjoy life, don't just study. Go out and make friends as it's also part of learning.

Share Gabriella, Matrikulasi


It's not all about the As. Taylor’s College emphasises on 5Cs — communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and cultural adaptation — allowing you to develop and strengthen your character to be highly successful in your future years.

#9. Dating can be complicated

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 9 Dating can be complicated

The love scene in college can be harder than you think. Between the ambiguous texts and emojis and the grey line of “are we together or are we just friends”, it can be emotionally taxing, not to mention the detrimental impact it can have on your studies if things aren’t going well. However, this isn’t to say that college dating is a vehement no. On the contrary, a good number of people end up finding their soulmates in college/university.

You do not need a burdensome/toxic relationship. If you want to date, make sure it doesn’t negatively affect your studies.

Hari Shankar, A-Level

Keep things clear. If you're not interested, say no. If you are, boldly say yes. Life is too good for meaningless misunderstandings.

Victor Chai, SACE International

It works when both parties want to achieve the best for themselves. And stay away from douchey-looking boys — they play around a lot.

Soyu Han, SACE International

#10. But it’s okay to be alone too

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 10 But it’s okay to be alone too

The strings of envy can tug at you intensely when you start seeing your friends rushing to pair off and fade out of your life. It can be hard not to be consumed by it all, but remember that it’s not a race or a competition. Be comfortable in your own skin and learn to love yourself without the validation of a partner.

Don't feel pressured to be in a relationship just because everyone else seems to be in one. Do what matters most to you first.

Leong Kar Yan, A-Level

Love yourself and don't let yourself be defined by your relationship or lack of one.

Lyn, Diploma

#11. Because there’s no better place to discover who you are

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 11 Because there’s no better place to discover who you are

More than just a place for intellectual development, college is a time for you to mould and cement your identity. Who are you and what can you be? If you were shy and quiet in secondary school, take college as a new canvas to colour in your personality. If you’re already awesome, build upon it. Experiment, grow and blossom into the person you’re meant to be.

I met all kinds of people and figured who I wanted to be through all the experiences that I would never have dared to try if my friends hadn’t encouraged me. College changed my perspective profoundly.

Lyn, Diploma

College is not going to solve all your doubts for the future. However, it helps by building up character and personality traits as well as discovering your true self.

Kristin, A-Level

#12. And finally, just enjoy this precious time of your life

12 Things People Wished They Knew Before Starting College - 12 And finally, just enjoy this precious time of your life

Your time in college will be overflowing with tears, sweat, laughter and anxiety. But at the end of it all, it will undoubtedly be one of your most memorable journeys in life. So bask in its glory and heed these words of wisdom from those who came before you.

Love every moment of it. You'll regret being negative about it when it ends.

Nur Alifah Ilyana, Foundation

Go out. Be brave. Try. Study hard. Play hard.

Victor Chai, SACE International

It’s not about the paper in the end, but the knowledge you gain.

Amirul Noorazmi, A-Level


Taylor's College is moving to the Lakeside Campus in 2018! With epic academic facilities to supercharge your learning and first-class amenities to break a sweat or take a chill pill, Taylor’s College is the perfect fusion of both fun and study!

Want a more enriching college experience? Put these 7 must-have college experiences on your to-do list!

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    Loh Sue May

    Loh Sue May

    Editor and writer. When I'm not busy putting words onto pages, I'm messing with spreadsheets and playing air guitar.