For most people, college is 4 years of fun and a whole lot of stress. I’ll never forget the chaos of running from class to class, test after test, trying to make it through “finals season” twice a year. But when it’s all over, what do we really learn? Here’s what I learned during my 4 years of college!
Show up early for everything
There were a lot of people who attended the Univeristy I went to, so parking was a literal nightmare. On Tuesdays and Thursday’s my classes didn’t start until 11, so for a while I would just show up at 10:30 and make my way across campus. But I learned the hard way when I wasn’t able to find a parking spot and it made me miss an entire class.
When you’ve already driven 45 minutes to get there, it’s pretty frustrating to waste all that gas over a parking spot. I learned to show up early for everything, so that I would never have to worry about how long it took to get there, or what happened along the way. This habit trickled into my professional life after school was over, and it has definitely benefitted me in the long run.
The world is full of opinions
I started out as a psychology major, and although I still find it incredibly interesting, I eventually transitioned into communications instead. As a Comm. major, the first thing I noticed was the varying backgrounds that each of my peers came from. Some were staying in dorms, while other commuted like I did. Some were from the west coast, while others grew up 10 minutes away. And as ironic as it is, we all had to learn how to communicate with eachother, and how to relate.
I learned that everyone has an opinion, built upon the foundation of a million different factors: family, friends, hometown, beliefs, religion, etc. And sometimes those opinions are so hard to relate to, or even understand at all. But we learned to accept eachother and just move on with it. I gained perspective from my own struggle as a working student, as well as the varying circumstances that other students went through. I left those classes feeling fulfilled, and that’s all I could hope for.
The mentor/teacher makes all the difference
I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but I had some professors who somewhat forced us to learn the way they wanted us to. It wasn’t up for discussion or interpretation; you either follow the format or you fail. I took a literature class my senior year because I needed to fill some credits, and it only took me 1 class to realize I got myself in deep shit. The professor had so many rules for how to write, that we were extremely limited on what to write. But knowing that that’s typically how literature classes go, I stuck with it and passed, thank God.
What I learned from the experience was that there are many “types” of teachers and professors, and that these types trickle into our adult life as well. Since then, I’ve had many bosses, supervisors, and mentors that didn’t have room for creativity in their plan. They follow every step, regardless of whether or not there’s a better way. They don’t open themselves up to possibilities, and they assume that this will help them avoid failure. I learned that yes, it’s ok to be that way. But I can’t be that way.
Raise your hand
I’ve been an introvert my whole life, and I can’t say that college really changed that. But when you’re studying what you’re meant to study, and you truly feel inspired, sometimes you can’t help but speak up. I would find myself bursting with ideas sometimes, and since all of my classes were an open discussion, I was able to share those ideas. I allowed myself to reach a potential that I would’ve have otherwise known.
In my new job, we have group meetings almost weekly. And slowly, I’m starting to share my ideas there too. And whether or not everyone is receptive doesn’t worry me anymore, because I respect all of them and they respect me. And I owe a lot of that to those classes, because standing up in front of 80 people and bearing your true thoughts takes a lot more bravery than I knew.
Take every opportunity to better yourself
When I was a Sophomore, I landed an amazing interview for an internship in communications and marketing. I was thrilled, and I thought I had it in the bag. I showed up 20 minutes early, and when the time came, my interviewer was completely MIA. I checked my emails, my voicemails, my schedule, everything. After 30 minutes of waiting, she arrived like nothing happened and we sat down for the interview. I was a bit thrown off, but I figured it would be okay because I was beyond prepared.
She appeared attentive, mentioning her own personal life as it related to my education and activities. She skimmed through my resume and nodded briefly. I wasn’t satisfied with her body language and tone, but I made sure that my upbeat nature didn’t waver at all. However, I left feeling like not only did I waste her time, but she wasted mine. She didn’t want to interrupt her day to speak with me, so why did she? Two weeks later, I got an email saying that their intern budget wasn’t approved, and they couldn’t hire me.
Now, I sit at a desk overlooking that same company, but 2 years later. I have a very different perspective on how that whole situation unraveled, and I haven’t regretted taking the interview that day. Did that woman want to talk to me? No. Did she find me to be beneath her? Probably. Is that my fault? No. We encounter people like this everyday. They don’t want to give us anything, but what they fail to understand is that we aren’t looking for a hand-out. We are looking for an opportunity to earn something. So despite how that day ended, I earned the skills I needed to get here today.
It’s okay to have no idea what you’re going to do with your life
This was a hard one for me. I had a plan, with steps and goals and lengthy details. And when I graduated and expected to land my dream job immediately I was sadly mistaken. The months after college are like a thick fog of confusion. You’re so full of knowledge and you don’t even know what to do with it. It all feels pointless. But trust me, you’re not alone!
It took me a year of goofing off to figure out where I was headed, and I would highly recommend it. Now I have a career at 23 years old, and a retirement plan. I mean, seriously.. That’s still crazy to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud. But don’t get yourself all worked up over having no clue what to do with your life. It’ll all fall into place with hard work and good timing.
These are not the “best days of your life”
Spoiler! Whether you’re about to start college, in college, or just graduated, you will soon find this to be true. And if it turns out that it’s not true, you have a lot more to figure out. Because as fun as college is, there’s so much more right on the horizon.
The future holds a lot of possibilities for all of us. Maybe you’ll end up traveling the world, and taking a break from the typical 9-5. Maybe you’ll start your own business, and become the next rising entrepreneur. Maybe you’ll fall in love and start your life with someone. The point is, college was never meant to have our best years. We get through college so that we can appreciate the real “best years” when they arrive.
What did you learn from your college years?