Four years – maybe five, if you’re taking a victory lap – that is how long seniors at Los Angeles-area colleges and universities have been soaking up in the SoCal sun, tackling difficult classes and frequent trips to the campus bar in stride.  

It seems like only yesterday we were unloading our parents’ cars and maneuvering the precarious stairways of our freshman dorms, luggage in hand. Not even the buildings’ lack of air-conditioning could stop us. We were young and invincible; it was perfect.

(That was, of course, until the fall weather reached a blistering heat of 113 degrees, and we cursed our universities for building such tall, dark housing complexes.)

Those days of dorm housing have long since passed, and as our time at college comes to a close, it’s important to look back on those aspects of college life that truly mattered and the lessons we learned.

So, we are offering a bit of advice for all of you juniors, sophomores and freshmen:

College is about much more than where you live or even what major you choose. What you will hold closest to your hearts at the end of this journey will be your happy memories and the friends you made them with. You will also emerge having learned important life skills, like how to avoid spontaneously combusting during midterm and finals season. 

In order to ensure that younger generations make the most of their own college experiences, seniors at University of Southern California have shared their advice. 

Henry Stroud, a public relations and narrative studies double major, offered a simple statement that rings incredibly true for all college students: “College is the perfect time to create who you are. Don't be afraid to be somebody new if who you've been isn't making you happy.”

A film production and business double major, Nicholas Ruff added his valuable insight: "In college, you have an unbelievable amount of freedom with very little responsibility. While at school, take advantage of every opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone socially, academically and emotionally. Never say ‘no’ to new experiences. Ask for forgiveness, not for permission."

Ellen Kaster, a public relations major, shared her honest advice for collegiate success: “Freshman year, get involved in anything that interests you—especially if it is something that you wouldn’t have done in high school. By the end of the year, you will find a niche, but be careful not to let any one group define you. Always challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. And don’t forget to wash your sheets.”

PJ Atchison, a political science major and recent December graduate, felt similarly to Kaster, adding that, "College is all about taking advantage of opportunities. In all aspects of college life—social, academic or professional—you must proactively seek your goals and boldly pursue them."

A communications and psychology double major, Malorie Galligan shared a few meaningful words: “Your studies are important, but don't forget that the memories you make outside of the classroom are just as invaluable. Many lessons learned at USC cannot be found in a textbook, and those people next to you along this crazy ride are the friends who will last a lifetime. Ten years from now, you will remember the spontaneous adventures with your best friend on a Wednesday night, not stressing out over a Writing 140 paper. Use this time to learn, but also use it to take risks, make everlasting memories, and don't be afraid to fail.”

Anna Johnson, an industrial and systems engineering major, accumulated a wealth of knowledge all her own: “Say ‘no’ to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, like rides from strangers in vans or a drink that's low-key fizzing. Say ‘yes’ to literally everything else. Don't knock it ‘til you try it; you never know how a class or a date will play out.

If you want to create real relationships before senior year, be friendly, be a good listener and make an effort to see people. A lack of effort is fatal, and not remembering a person’s name on the fourth night you've seen them out is an effective way to tell someone, ‘I care more about this jack and coke than what your parents named you.’”