Getting your teen to think about college with all the competing and immediate demands for their time and attention can be pretty difficult.

The future seems far away, and TikTok is distracting. Even the best advice will usually land better if it comes from a peer instead of a parent.

So, I rounded up a group of 12 students enrolled in California colleges and asked them a simple question. “Knowing what you know now about being successful in college, what advice would you give to your high school senior self?” Here’s what they had to say.

  • “I would say just trust the process. Even if you’re scared at first, you will find your people! College can be so intimidating at first, but just meet as many people as you can and have fun! People will help you find your path.”  Cam, Education major, freshman
  • “In terms of thriving in classes, I think it’s so important to figure out the best way to study for you. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work early on so you don’t have to struggle in that aspect when you’re finally taking college-level courses!  In the more social areas, I’d tell myself to say yes to as much as you can when you first get to college while still being responsible. I think I’ve learned that the things that made me the most uncomfortable in the beginning (like sorority recruitment, orientation in general, or hanging out with random people) led to the best memories and some of my best experiences! Sticking with these things and saying yes even when I was nervous or anxious was really to my benefit.”  Lauren, Marketing major, Sophomore
  • “Take advantage of the APs [Advanced Placement classes] your school has to offer. I didn’t in high school and wish I had. I know several people who are a semester ahead in college just from taking APs. Not only is this a way to be ahead and have room to explore other classes–it can save students a ton of money. Second, I’d say get comfortable with talking in class and communicating with your professors regularly. Professors love students who are engaged in class and it really makes a big difference to be in good standing with your professor.” Clementine, Political Science and Psychology major, Sophomore
  • “I have gained a greater appreciation for moments spent with intention. This includes intentionality with rest (skincare, movement, sleep, etc.), the people in my life, and with my time. I’m a type-A personality, trying to plan and organize my life as much as possible. However, this is not always possible in college! So some big advice for my high school senior self would be to start being mindful and intentional with how I spend my time and who I spend it with.  Stop putting pressure on yourself or compare the ’success’ of others and focus on what you can do for yourself at that moment, the next day, and so forth.” Kyle, Communications major, Junior
  • “I would probably spend less time cramming work and keeping myself ‘busy’ with resumé activities and actually lean into the things that I love that I would be leaving in high school. That could be anything from going back to dance classes, spending more time with friends, and getting more involved with the larger community when opportunities were presented. I would also have leaned more into creating relationships and trying new things outside of school and other related organized activities. I felt like I was always hesitant of the discomfort and I think I would have enjoyed just trying even if it wasn’t something I fell in love with.” Megan, Public Relations major, Junior
  • “My piece of advice that I would give to my high school me is to be present and not to worry so much about my future, because I feel like everything happens for a reason and that you truly end up where you’re supposed to be. Essentially, everything works out! Keep working hard and only control what you can instead of stressing about what the future will look like.” Abby, English major, Junior
  • “Take the time to build relationships with your professors. They can get you jobs, internships, etc. Don’t be afraid to talk to them–they love it when you reach out.” Jonathan, Pre-Med and Natural Science major, Senior
  • “Trust your gut and know that everything is going to work out. Some doors have to close in order for new ones to open!” Caroline, Theatre and Television Production major, Senior
  • “I’d say that inspiration comes from very random and sometimes new or uncomfortable moments, so I would lean into that. If you have any interest in something, let yourself be curious and ask to know more so maybe you can take tangible action.” Sam, Economics major, Senior
  • “Stay curious and allow yourself to feel a bit lost. Because it only gets you more and more close to where you are meant to be!” Grace, Integrated Marketing Communications major, Senior
  • “Live in the moment and say yes to as many things as you can! Maximize your time and get to know as many people as possible! Learn from people and ask questions–it is so helpful to ask for advice from older people. I have learned as much from being open to other people and new experiences as anything in the classroom.” Lydia, Accounting and Finance major, Senior
  • “Don’t stress too much about school. Appreciate the experience and friends you have at the time. You always have the opportunity to learn more, do better, and meet new people, so focus on the present.” Justin, Art and Communications major, Senior

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About Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, Ph.D.

Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz is a higher education professional with over a decade of experience. She oversaw undergraduate admissions at Pepperdine University and completed doctoral coursework at Azusa Pacific University. Her career has focused on counseling students, parents, colleges, and enterprise companies on admissions, financial aid, technology, talent, and workforce development. Visit Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz's profile.