1. It’s okay to have zero direction. 

Not everyone goes into college with a clear path or end goal. As a matter of fact, most freshman change their major at least once before graduation day arrives. Experiment, explore, and grow more as an artist by admitting you have no idea what you’re doing, sooner. Try (and mostly fail) new things!  It’s the best way to learn!

2. If you don’t know what someone is talking about, ask them to explain!

Yes, you were actually adding 5 more steps with the pen tool than necessary. Do yourself a favor, and stop worrying about looking stupid. You can’t (and don’t) know everything. Admit that there is much you don’t know and grow from it.  When you don’t understand something, make it known, ask questions, and blossom with the new information.

3. Being a “nice” guy in person, but a jerk online will come back to bite you in the ass. 

Don’t waste your time with trivial things. You will look back, 6 or 7 years from now, and delete a lot of childish posts from your Facebook wall. You will regret the things you said and wish you’d never engaged in that twitter war.  College is a time to connect with people, and discover who you are, together. Learning how to do this now will help you later in life when you need to get involved with a creative community. No one wants to be around a jerk. Knock it off, and play nice.

4. Stop talking about it, be about it. 

In short, stop telling people you were up all night working on your sketches to sound like you are more committed than they are. We both know the only thing you were committed to was finishing the most recent season of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I’m not saying you aren’t committed to being an excellent designer, but you certainly aren’t showing it. Talking a big game will work for now, but your work will reflect otherwise later. Spend less time watching TV and more time practicing your craft.

5. Write more. 

This one is easy. Spend 15 minutes a day, just fifteen minutes, writing. Choose any subject you like, but preferably write about your craft. It will help mold your unique creative voice. You’ll thank yourself for it later when you have to provide a client (in the middle of a bidding war) with “reasons why you’re qualified for the job.” Or when someone says “tell me about yourself” in the middle of an interview. It will help you not sound like a robot in human skin.

6. Start working on your website; now. 

One thing that will give you a leg up over the rest of your peers, is a well thought out website. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be a full website at first. Start with making an online portfolio for your work. Don’t worry about making it perfect, it won’t be. Instead, focus on providing valuable content for your viewers. Over time, you’ll discover what your brand actually looks like. ProTip: don’t start off trying to make work that “looks” like the brand you’ve envisioned. Instead, just worry about making quality work, and your brand’s “vision” will reveal itself. And hey, If you don’t like it you can always rebrand later!

7. Stop waiting for someone to save you. 

In other words, stop waiting for someone to tell you what to do. There are people around you who can offer great advice, even spectacular guidance, but they ultimately do not hold the answers you seek. Dive in! Follow your gut, explore that which you’re curious about, and figure out for yourself if they’re the right fit or not. No one knows what’s best for you like you do.

8. Have fun, but play smart!

It’s important to relieve stress and play, but remember that staying out until 4:00 a.m. when you have an 8:00 a.m. class is just plain stupid. Especially when that class is your first Art History, and it turns out to be the hardest class you’ve ever taken. You will slack off. You will watch as your grades drop from the already low C’s to borderline D’s, and ultimately fail. Ever optimistic, You’ll still attempt to show up for the final exam, and make it…just not to the one you were supposed to be there for.

Now don’t fret, you will get your GPA up! 3 semesters, and one lost LIFE scholarship later, that is.

9. Stop wasting your money, and start saving it. 

The massive wall of pens at Hobby Lobby is very pretty, yes, but you don’t need $100 worth of them. You just don’t. Walk away.

You don’t even have a job! Your change check is not free money! Sure, for the most part you’ve been using it to buy school supplies, but let’s be real: those daily / weekly trips to the mall, and Starbucks (shame on you; drink local!) are definitely not included on the list of acceptable expenses. If you don’t shape up now, you’ll end up working three jobs (none of which you actually wanted) after you graduate just to make ends meet, and pay your rent. Oh, and let’s not forget those crippling student loans accruing interest. (Seriously, just call them, get a lower payment, and set up auto bill pay.)

10. Find somebody to lean on. 

More specifically, find an accountability coach, and to be frank, make it someone who will call you on your bullshit excuses. You need to be serious about your commitment to your creative passions. After all, you’re getting a degree in this. If you don’t commit, you’ll be the butt of many, many, HORRIBLE starving artist jokes.

Your accountability coach should be someone you can bounce ideas off of, practice with, and learn from, but most importantly, they need to be able to keep you focused. They need to be able to tell you what your strengths are, areas you need to work on, and inspire you to keep creating. They should make you think of the ultimate goal. You’ll be a better designer, and person, because of it.