University is truly a one of a kind experience.

I love living with my friends and being able to knock on their doors whenever I need someone to talk to. I live for nights out at the bar where we dance to throwback music while drinking overpriced mixed drinks. I love the freedom of determining what classes I take, what my schedule looks like, and the independence of being on my own.

However, university has also tested me. I have dealt with stress, anxiousness, and disappointment over and over again. Just when you think you’ve won one battle, the next one comes and smacks you in the face. 

Here are 10 things I wish I had known before going to university that would have prepared me to be more realistic and optimistic! 

1. The transition will be harder than you think

I have always considered myself an independent person and after spending 10 summers at overnight camp, I thought going to university was going to be a breeze. I was wrong about that.

When the first week of classes rolled along, I felt anxious knowing that I wouldn’t be returning to the comfort of my home for the next four years.

The thing is you don’t have to feel ashamed for feeling home-sick or anxious in your new surroundings because it is only normal to feel that way when trying to adapt to change. I know I found comfort in the fact that everyone was going through the same thing and we could support one another. 

2. First year will determine your social situation for the next three or so years

For me, first year really set the bar for what the next three years of my life would entail. Some people get lucky and have a great party floor where they meet all of their best friends. Others don’t have such luck and are unsure of how to go about making friends.

If you find yourself in this situation, or just want to branch out from your floor, it's important to know that there are other ways to meet people, it just may involve a little more effort. Look into joining clubs, intramurals, sororities/frats, committees, and also make an effort to get to know the people in your classes. Everyone is in the same boat and chances are, they are looking to meet you too!

3. Cliques don't suddenly disappear after high school

So many people told me that cliques are not a thing in university, which has proven to be so false. While there are many people looking to branch out, there are some that are happier sticking to those they know from back home. It’s like high school all over again for some, which can be extremely intimidating to those on the outside.

The great thing about university is that it acts as a fresh start where you have so much say in who your friends are. Plus, it’s alright to be apart of multiple friend groups and utilize those groups for different purposes. You’ll always have your high school friends, but you’ll never meet new ones unless you open yourself up and give others a chance. 

4. You don't always have to go out and party to have fun 

There have been so many nights where either me or my friends felt pressured to go out just because "it's the thing to do." Don’t get me wrong, I have had some of the best nights of my life out at the bars but it’s not something I constantly feel I have to do.

I’m lucky enough to have friends that are not about that 24/7 party scene and can have just as much fun curling up on the sofa with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and watching The Bachelor.

University is not all about the partying and there is no need to force yourself to go out when you simply don’t want to. You can create amazing memories other ways and even save yourself some money and a day of being hungover.

5. Your cooking probably won't be Pintrest worthy

This may sound like a silly one, but a big reason why I was excited to head off to university was so that I could cook for myself and channel my inner Ina Garten.

But once I was living off campus in a house, I found that I was tired from class and wanted to satisfy my hunger with as little effort as possible. On top of that, living on a student budget and cooking meals for one proved to be a difficult task.

What I have found to work for me is to have a few staple meals and make big batches of them so I can eat them throughout the week. Check out these tips on how to meal prep like a pro.

The important thing is to find a good balance between not letting yourself get too lazy with your cooking (i.e. resorting to microwavable meals) and ensuring your recipes are simple but still nutritious. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself when it comes to cooking because the last thing a university student needs is more pressure.

6. Pick your roommates wisely 

I learned this the hard way. I think everyone has at least one bad roommate story to tell so just know you are not alone in dealing with this.

Just because living with someone doesn’t work out doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t be friends. Deciding not to live together could end up saving your friendship. And if they get upset and don’t want to be your friend because of it, then that's a sign that they weren’t a good friend in the first place.

Living with others is an-ongoing learning experience and you want to avoid as many issues as possible to make your home away from home as comfortable as it can be.

7. Don't compare your experience to others

This is something I really want to stress. Growing up, I was always told how university was going to be the best time of my life, which left me with such high expectations for my own experience.

I than developed a terrible habit of comparing my university experience to others. Social media obviously doesn’t help this, where I was constantly bombarded with people’s festivities and I really felt the FOMO. It drove me crazy!

There really is no point to compare because there is no one way to do university. So just do you and have the best time doing it because it will be over before you know it.

8. The stress you experienced in high school won't even compare 

Remember those times in high school you claimed you would never feel as stressed again. Well I have some news for you — university is so much worse.

While it may appear that you have more time on your hands, you will find that every part of your day will be crammed with never-ending readings, papers, and studying. And on top of this, you have to balance your social life, extracurriculars, exercise and whatever else you attend to.

It’s definitely a lot to handle and can feel very overwhelming at points, but the time always passes. My advice is to stay on top of things, don’t overcrowd yourself, and take it day by day. Most importantly, stay positive! 

9. Some things are out of your control 

This is another lesson I have learned the hard way. There have been so many situations where I would just dwell on how unfair things were. Whether it was getting stuck with a bad TA, receiving a grade I didn’t think I deserved, or picking a bird course that turned out not to be a bird course (FYI there are none of those). It’s only normal to get upset when things don’t go your way, but when it starts to keep you up at night, then it becomes a problem.

Life is not always fair. It’s as simple as that. Especially when it comes to the education system, which is not an easy system to be apart of. That is why it important to stay level headed and accept that some things are out of your control. To dwell will only make you feel worse but to take things for what they are and learn from them will only help you grow as a person. 

10. There are so many people and services out there to help you through it

When you’re at university dealing with all these feelings and stresses, it's pretty easy to feel like you’re alone. But the worst thing you can do is bottle these feelings up. 

In order to avoid getting to a vulnerable state, it is so important to have someone you can trust to talk things through with. And if that’s not cutting it for you, there are so many great services provided by your university that you can turn to for help. Check out this article on what college students should know about on-campus counselling.

So whether it's a counsellor, a friend, your mom, or your dog, as long as you have that one person you can turn to, you’ll find you’ll get along just fine.

If you're currently in university, I hope you can relate to one or more of these things. And if you're prepping for the big transition, hopefully this can help you out in some way. 

To end this conversation of optimizing your university experience, check out this advice on how to better deal with stress and these tips on how to make this semester the best one yet!