I will be leaving for college in two days and will be living on campus for my first year at least. I'm going in freshman year undecided for my major but at this point I'm leaning towards a Bachelor's in History and trying to do a five year Master's in Education Administration, with hopes of eventually becoming a principal of a high school or an administrator at a university after teaching for 5-10 years. My financial situation isn't too bad; I've received the second highest level of scholarship my school hands out and my parents have set aside a decent chunk of money to help me out and of course I have student loans and plan on working part time. I'm also going there with my best friend from high school and we will be sharing a dorm together along with three other freshman who we've gotten to talk to.
Just wanted to know if any of you older more experienced fellows had any advice or words of wisdom for me.
It seems that most of the advice thus far concentrates on academic and/or financial success. Well and good; you'll need both. But that isn't everything, and so let me give you a little advice from my perspective (which is middle-aged with wife and child, for your reference):
* Understand that you cannot do everything.
You'll need to understand this, primarily, because your professors will not. They will each assign you copious reading, in apparent ignorance that you have anything to do in life other than attend their own class -- especially if you pursue history (which is also my undergrad degree). They will assign you so much that you could not read it all if you chose. Not and eat, and sleep, and (lord help you) work at your part-time job. Not and have a social life.
So one of the essential skills you must learn, if high school has not already taught you, is how to not do all of the crucial things that everyone requires you to do, yet somehow succeed anyways. It is something like "prioritization" and something like lying.
* Do not neglect your social life.
As important as it is to make certain you put in the time working on your theses, and etc., it is equally important to make the time to hang with friends, explore town, go on wild trips (I mean literally, but you do you), date, and generally goof off. This will come at the expense of your already stressed-beyond-the-breaking-point academic schedule. There is no other way. And yet it is absolutely vital for your development as a person and your collegiate experience.
* Be flexible.
It sounds like you have a rough roadmap worked out for yourself, and that's cool. It potentially puts you ahead of the game. But one of the things that college affords more than anything else is the opportunity to explore diverse paths. It's a wise idea to take core requirements for the path you suspect you'll pursue early, in case that's what you wind up doing, but -- especially in the first two years -- do whatever you can to give yourself as much breadth of experience as possible, in terms of electives, clubs, etc. You may well discover some passion that you had not ever expected. And if you do find that you yearn to go down some path different from the one you'd started, do not be afraid to make changes, even large and uncomfortable ones. It is easier now for you to change course than it ever will be again.
* Try to enjoy yourself.
This won't always be easy. There may be times when it is nigh-impossible. But college truly is a unique period of time... and I won't say that you'll never be so happy again (because hopefully you will, and even more so throughout your life), but you'll never be happy in this way again. It will always stand out to you in your memory as a singular experience. Or it will if you're like me. I would give nearly any amount of money to be able to experience college life again, but I know that even if I registered and so forth, it would not be the same at all. Once the magic is gone, it's gone.
So if you find yourself stressing badly about a class or a test or a paper, or some romantic situation, or your job, or housing, or whatever -- and you will stress about all of those things in due time -- just try to keep it a little bit in perspective, because you're about to dedicate yourself full-time to your own personal development, and the pursuit of knowledge, which is an amazing and incredible thing to be able to do. Have fun with it.