This article originally appeared on the What’s Cooking With Ruthie blog. It has been revised and republished with permission here.

My oldest daughter is headed off to college, and I’m freaking out. I can’t believe she’s that old. I can’t believe I’m that old either! I honestly do not know where the time went; it seems like yesterday she was learning to ride a bike.

She and I had a little chat over some cucumber salad a couple of days ago, and as we were talking she took notes. Then she said she’d hang them on the living room wall of her apartment. This got me thinking about when I was 18 and all the things I know now that I wish I knew then.

Here are 18 items that landed on that list, and subsequently will land on my daughter’s wall.

Ruthie Armstrong resides in Pleasant Grove, UT. She is the mother of five and runs the What’s Cooking with Ruthie blog. Contact Ruthie at

Go to class every day

It’s so easy to skip one class and then two, but pretty soon you’re so far behind that it’s almost impossible to catch up.

Stay in school

No matter what, finish. Get a degree in something. It’s very difficult to survive in today’s world without a college degree. Be committed, and get it done during the period of life when accomplishing it is the easiest. Set goals and re-set goals until you finally achieve. This is such an important skill to develop; it’s one you’ll use all throughout life.

Before moving on, let me reiterate tip No. 2. Get your degree! You never know what the future holds. You very well could end up a widow, divorced, or with a spouse who somehow winds up disabled. Get yourself in the best position possible to handle whatever life brings.

Don’t lose your scholarships

It’s free money! Make sure you know what the minimum grade point average is to keep each scholarship and keep your grades up. I knew lots of people who let their grades slide during their freshman year of college and lost their scholarships.

Make a friend in every class

Find someone to text and ask for the day’s assignments if you’re sick, to help answer a question or to be a study partner.

Take advantage of this time in life to really develop who you are

Figure out what you want to be and what your dreams and goals are in life. Travel or study abroad. Develop your talents, learn, discover and improve yourself. You’ll be a whole and healthy person who can make lifelong decisions of marriage, career and rearing a family when you’re ready.

Get some sleep

It’s hard to make your brain function on too little sleep. Figure out a good routine and stick to it. Our bodies function best if we have a consistent sleep schedule.

Feed your brain and body by eating balanced and exercising, even if your budget is tight

Try to eat fresh produce, whole grains and lean proteins. Also, exercise is a stress reducer, and keeping your body fit improves quality of life. Exercise is a lifelong habit that is super important.

Remember to buy toilet paper

Enough said.

Don’t drink other people’s milk

Just make it easy on everyone and eat your own food. If you don’t, you’ll cause a lot of drama. It all boils down to being respectful of each other’s belongings, you know, just like your folks taught you. The only difference is that now it’s real life.

Don’t be a pig

Living with other people can be hard because everyone in an apartment or dorm has been raised to have a different definition of the word “clean.” Try to make life easy on your roommates by picking up after yourself and taking turns with bathroom, kitchen and garbage duties. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”

Live on a budget

Closely monitor your monthly expenses, such as rent, food, utilities, entertainment, gas, etc. Get a bike — and a helmet — and ride it as much as you can. Not only is it good exercise, but biking saves money. Also, save your extra money for the bigger expenses like tuition, school fees, books, etc. If you happen to have a car, you’ll also need money for repairs and maintenance.

Avoid debt, particularly credit card debt

College kids are a prime target for credit card companies. It’s better to do without than to rack up a huge credit card bill. My husband had a credit card in college and messed up his credit for eight years because of missed payments and other problems. Credit card companies don’t mess around.

Date all kinds of people

Look for someone who is well-rounded, NOT the best looking. Looks change over time.

While dating, be cautious

To be safe, make sure a friend or roommate knows where you are and when you should be home so she can watch your back. This is especially important as you're getting to know someone new.

I may be a bit paranoid, but I carried mace in my purse because I got out of work late and lived at the end of a dark hallway. I just felt safer knowing I could use it if I needed it.

Don’t settle

Every one of us wants to be adored, to be the most important thing in the world to a special someone! Be picky. Get to know what you’re looking for in a lifelong companion by dating a lot of different people.

There’s no such thing as a soul mate

Sorry to burst any bubbles! There are thousands of people out there that you could be with and with whom you can live a long, happy and fulfilling life. It’s important to find someone who fits your life, who complements you. So, pick wisely!

Once you find him or her, get to really know the family and friends

If a person isn’t capable of having healthy and good relationships with his or her family and friends, then that person isn’t capable of a healthy relationship with you.

Stay positive

Going off to college is a fresh start! You can become whatever kind of person you want to be. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

The college years are such an important time. You are laying the foundation for the rest of your life! Make smart decisions, stay focused on your goals, improve your mind, take care of your body, and stay in tune with your spirit. Embrace this part of life and reach for the stars.