What I Wish I Knew As a College Freshman

This past Tuesday I graduated from Ohio University with my bachelor’s degree in psychology. People asked me how it felt, and since “graduating” was marked only by turning in a final homework assignment really all I could say was anti-climatic. Four years gone and my closing thoughts are that the experience was… anti-climatic.

Graduating during the coronavirus pandemic is of course a bizarre time to be entering the workforce or doing anything of significance in your life. But the strangeness of this time isn’t really what I want to focus on, I want to get away from all the pomp and circumstance associated with college graduation and give my honest thoughts on the experience. 

So, incoming college freshmen and graduating high school seniors who are on the fence this post is for you. My real honest opinion about college. Not from people who went to college decades ago when it cost less and wages were higher. But from someone who actually knows what it’s like out there right now, here’s what I wish someone told me when I was in your shoes.

  1. You Don’t Actually Need a Degree

There’s an old statistic floating around that college graduates make a million more dollars in their career than people who don’t get a college degree. Well, that figure is decades old and the value of the dollar is less than it used to be. If you’re from an area where going to college is strongly encouraged you ought to be skeptical about the hype. Yes, a college degree is generally a good investment but like all things in life it depends on what you do with it. If you get a four year art history degree and end up working as a barista you’re probably going to fall financially behind everyone who went to trade school. In short, yes a degree is a good investment most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can get whatever degree you want and it will just “work itself out” and you absolutely don’t “need” a degree.

  1. Beware the Liberal Arts Degree

Be extremely cautious of majoring in something like psychology, English, history, chemistry, or anything else that doesn’t teach you practical skills without having a strong plan. If you’re going to get a liberal arts degree, make sure to get good  internships and jobs throughout college or are planning to go to graduate school. Because if you’re not going to grad school and you don’t have good internships I guarantee you’re not going to have any marketable skills or anything to talk about in interviews. 

  1. Understand Most Degrees Are Based on an Outdated System

When the majority of current bachelor’s degrees were being designed over a hundred years ago the job market was extremely different. Your degree wasn’t meant to teach you anything practical since it was expected that you’d go through a long training period with your company upon graduation, so the degree was meant to give you broad generalized knowledge. Nowadays, employees tend to change jobs more frequently so company’s aren’t as willing to invest in training. Additionally, work is becoming increasingly specialized so a broad base of knowledge is not as valuable as it once was. You need to actually have some job skills when you sit down for an interview, and the vast majority of those skills are not taught in college classrooms. Only a handful of degrees such as accounting or nursing teach technical job skills, as a result everyone else should be mindful to develop their skills outside of class. 

  1. Your Degree May Not Pay Off Immediately

To illustrate this point I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve been applying for dozens of entry level jobs and the majority don’t require my college degree. However, the next level up positions I’d like to be promoted to in the next five years or so often do require degrees, or at least a degree is considered an acceptable substitute for experience in the field. When I entered my degree program I thought it would pay off in four years, but be mindful when planning that you may need to be even more patient with your investment than that.

  1. Be Engaged on Campus

This point is a broader form of the common piece of advice to get involved in clubs. However, I don’t  think it’s necessary for people to join formal clubs or anything like that. I personally  love being in student orgs but what is actually far more important is to make connections with other people. How you accomplish that doesn’t really matter. I made all my friends freshman year at a one off event, I didn’t need to join clubs to meet people (though they certainly are a good way to do so). Additionally, connect with and appreciate the broader community and campus culture. Explore the local businesses, go to open mics, visit museums, or attend community events. Especially if you’ve gone away for college it’s really helpful to learn about the local area and it will help you understand, appreciate, and feel more at home in your surroundings.

  1. Make Sure You Have Your Own Definition of Success

My freshman year of college I thought I knew exactly what I wanted and I carried my overachieving tendencies from high school right to university. So I set a bunch of goals that I swiftly proceeded to accomplish one by one. I had a 3.8 GPA, got the exact job placement I wanted, was accepted into a leadership development scholarship program, completed two leadership certificates, and had two leadership positions in student orgs all by the end of my freshman year. You know what happened next? I realized none of it made me happy or satisfied and the only way I knew how to judge my own success was by conventional external measures that didn’t do anything for me internally. You’ll learn a lot about yourself over the next four years and it’s important to make sure you lean into that, you need to find out what really will make you happy and satisfied. Don’t let the collective influence of parents, teachers, friends, and network cable run your life like I did.

  1. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously or Sweat the Small Stuff

As you’re graduating high school you’re sure to be realizing how little so many of the things you obsessed over actually mattered. Don’t lose sight of that once you get to college. It may sound strange but the specific degree you get or jobs you have aren’t that important as long as you’re learning something. I’ve watched students completely lose their minds over details like what residence hall they’re going to live in. Newsflash, no matter where you wake up in the morning you are still gonna be the same person inside and that applies to pretty much all of the weird details freshmen obsess over. If you’re gonna obsess over anything, don’t make it your room theme, the hall you’re living in, or the sorority you’re rushing. Instead obsess over improving yourself and growing as much as possible instead.

  1. Grades Still Matter

On the flip side of not taking things too seriously, your grades do still matter in college! I remember in high school I was so looking forward to college and not caring about my grades anymore because everyone said it didn’t matter. Well unless you’re completely made of money you should still care about your grades. You won’t be eligible for most scholarships or internships without at least a 3.0 GPA and it isn’t too uncommon for a good opportunity to request a 3.5. While when you graduate your grades won’t be too important in the job search, the internship your good grades got you will be instrumental. Plus, accruing as little debt as possible will give you more financial freedom, flexibility, and possibly allow you to choose job opportunities that pay less but align more with your desires.


I’ve been a bit critical of college in this post and it’s not because I hate it or think people shouldn’t go. It’s just because I feel that people aren’t honest about the realities of what college is actually like and what a degree actually does for you. I absolutely love my school and I can’t wait to be able to visit it again and give it a proper goodbye, but I realized halfway through getting my degree that I had let the dominant culture convince me I “needed” a degree I never actually wanted. Now that being said, I wouldn’t say I completely regret it either, but you’ll probably have to ask me and see where I am in ten years before I’m completely sure. 

Realize that a degree is a great thing to have in most cases. But on the other hand plenty of people live happy, fulfilling lives, without being completely destitute who don’t get four year degrees. There are a lot of other ways to make something of yourself.

What’s truly most important isn’t whether or not you get a degree. What really matters most is that you’re living life according to your own definition of success. Don’t get a degree just because you think you have to, get a degree because it will move you closer to achieving something that you actually want.

16 Creative Ways to Upcycle Items in Your Home or Dorm Room


This week’s post is going to be ideas for how you can reuse and upcycle items in your home. All these ideas are things that I’ve done whilst living in college dorm rooms.

Reuse is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint, especially if that reuse allows you to divert waste from landfill. Personally, I’ve found that figuring out how to re-use items is as much about your crafting abilities as it is about your creativity and mindset. So I wanted to share my own most useful and most interesting examples of re-use because seeing what others have done online has been the most helpful thing for me when it comes to figuring out how to re-use.

These ideas are a good mix of easy and common zero waste swaps as well as some more creative ideas.

Mini Bookshelf

You can stack milk crates on top of each other or side by side to create a miniature bookshelf for yourself. Milk crates are the perfect size to fit a vast majority of books and can often be found in thrift stores or are given away when a local factory or plant shuts down. If you want to spice up the look a little bit you can also spray paint your crates like I did for an extra pop of color.

Mini Crate Seats

This second one is another milk crate hack. I created two of these miniature stool seats by cutting some bath mats to size to use on top for padding and then adding some ribbon so you don’t have to see the rough cut edge. This craft was fun, easy, and cheap to make and they’ve been awesome to have in the residence hall. The great thing about them is that they’re little so they can be easily stowed away when not in use and are great to have a around for moving as well.

Bedside Table

Need a bedside table? Stack two milk crates on top of each other, hit them with the spray paint, and you’re all set! You can also put a cute plate on top to prevent smaller items from falling through the holes.

Plant Stand

Alright, this is the last milk crate hack I promise. (It’s not my fault they’re incredibly versatile.) This one is great if you have a short desk or dresser but a taller window so your plants need some more height to get maximal lighting. In general, especially for a college kid I 100% recommend finding some crates before you go off to school. They’re perfect because they can serve so many purposes which is great when you’re moving around a lot like most students.

Soap Dishes

When I started using solid beauty products I didn’t really want to spend money on a nice sustainably made soap try so I just cut some holes in the bottom of this deli meat container (this is back before I went vegetarian). The lid is convenient because it makes it easy to carry my things to the communal bathroom down the hall and I can also rest the container on top of the lid to catch water so my dresser doesn’t get wet.

Conditioner Bottle

I was having trouble using my conditioner bar in its solid form so I decided to melt it down and add water to make it more like a conventional conditioner. I’d initially thought of buying or thrifting a pump top glass bottle like I have for my dish soap but realized I could reuse the old Dr. Bronner’s bottle from the soap I’d just finished.

Yoga Mat Bag

This is one of my favorite DIYs, its been so convenient and nice to have a proper bag for my yoga mat especially when I need to carry it in the rain. There are a ton of tutorials online about how to make jeans into a yoga mat bag and I also wrote a post about my personal experience doing so. This is a great way for you to save money and keep textiles out of the landfill.

Bulk Shopping Bags

The only thing better than buying bulk goods sustainably and package free is doing it upcycled bags you made yourself. There are a ton of bulk bags available for cheap on amazon but most have not been sustainably produced. Making some bags yourself is a great way to go the extra mile by diverting textile waste from landfill in addition to reducing your plastic waste.


This tip is such a quick and easy way to reduce waste. Instead of using paper towels and napkins you can cut up old t-shirts, towel, or any textile and simply wash them when you’re done using them.

Bulk Foods Storage

This is a classic and indispensable low waste tip. As you transition from packaged goods to buying bulk save jars from products like applesauce, salsa, or peanut butter. You’ll be able to store all types of food in them and even use them as cups.

Mouth Guard Case

Need a mouth guard for sports or late night teeth grinding? Save yourself a little plastic and store it in a re-used food container. Be sure to cut out a few holes in the bottom to make sure your mouth guard dries out properly.

Compost Storage

I’ve seen a lot of folks online who buy special containers to store their compost in, but because I don’t do my own compost and I bring it to a community compost location, I have no need for a special container. Instead of buying something I use empty yogurt containers or a disposable plastic bag.

Flower Pots

Are you like many Americans who have somehow acquired more mugs than a person could ever use in a lifetime? Well, if you answered yes and you’re looking to start potting plants, mugs are a cute substitute for flower pots. The one caveat is they don’t have drainage holes so you’ll need to be very careful about over watering.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Organizational Trays

This is an idea that Marie Kondo has recently popularized that I’ve been doing nearly my whole life. Often, items come in absolutely adorable packaging that is reusable. Shown below, I have old teavana containers and cookie tins that I use to store office supplies and teas. I always keep a small collection of these boxes and often share them with friends and family who need organizational help.


This is an idea I stole from a video on the Shelbizlee youtube channel. (I’d highly recommend her videos in you’re interested in zero-waste content.) You can cut the bottom off a plastic soda bottle and then you’ll have a funnel you can use for all kinds of purposes, I use mine the most when I’m making oat milk.

Toe Spacers

If you’ve got bunions or other foot problems like me you know that toe spacers are life savers. But personally I’ve found that the silicone ones never last more than a few months and there just aren’t any sustainable options. Solution, roll up some pieces of old t-shirt, throw a few stitches in to keep the spacer together, and you have upcycled and machine washable toe spacers. The other benefit to trying this is that you can customize your toe spacers to exactly what is most comfortable and beneficial for you.

That brings me to the end of my list!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What are the most creative or helpful ways to reuse or upcycle items that you’ve done or have heard of?