As a recent graduate, I’ve been critically thinking about the last four years of my life. There’s no doubt about the fact that college changed me —for better or for worse. I’m not the same girl. Not to sound too preachy or cliché, but there were certainly a good many lessons that I have taken away, and maybe you can relate, or perhaps an incoming Freshman may find this helpful. Either way, I hope despite being lengthy it will be an enjoyable read.
- Time Management
Despite popular belief, it IS possible to have it all. The magic key is time management. There are 24 hours in a day, which is plenty enough to get shit done.It is possible to get good grades. Show up to class on time, every time, and half your work is done. Got it? Good. Now, actually pay attention. That’s 3/4th of your work done. Now make sure you do the homework for the class. Magic, presto! You have an A.It is possible to play a Division 1 sport. Show up to practice, try and give it at least 30% (I know better than anyone else, it’s really hard to give 100% at 6AM, but give as much as you can). Take your homework on the road. If you know you have to take a test when you get back from the tournament/match/game, study on the way there or before if you can. Read in the van. Every bit counts.It is possible to work part-time. Do a few hours. Doesn’t matter how much it pays. Work on campus to save commute time, and work when you have those awkward gaps between classes. It’s just a little extra money for drinks or whatever! Do it. If you do what I did, and work at the library, you can even do homework and get paid for it 😉
It is possible to have a social life. Yes, you read that right. Classes for most people are Monday to Friday, and if you plan your class schedule right, maybe even Monday to Thursday some semesters! Which leaves you with… a whole two days to party, catch up with friends, catch up with sleep, go see a movie, take a walk in the park, go for a run, whatever your heart desires!
Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But it is possible. I’m proof. I graduated with a 3.7 (would have done better if I knew better Freshman year), with two majors and a minor, I played Div 1 Golf, I worked at the Library for 2 years, and I interned at 2 different companies – that required a 2-hour commute each way – my senior year. So trust me on this. Just manage your time well. Plan ahead. Procrastination is great and all, but I promise you the hard work will pay off.
Not everyone will agree with you, and that’s okay. Something I figured out pretty early on in college was that – surprise – everyone has different opinions. They may not be right, and you may not agree with them. But they’re still entitled to them. Countless late-night discussions with friends taught me to be diplomatic. I learned how to process other people’s thoughts and counter them. Now, they didn’t always agree with my counter arguments, but hey, at least I tried. The most obvious things can seem so incomprehensible to others, but sometimes you just have to realize that they – Just. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. Logic or reason. And that’s okay too. Because no amount of google-ing and research can persuade them otherwise.
- Good Judge of Character
Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay too. People are different. And not everyone will get along. Young Freshman are always afflicted with what I like to call Friend Fever. It’s September, and everyone is staring wide-eyed at the new kids on campus. No one knows anyone, so they try befriending everyone. Sure, everyone seems nice at first. Everyone presents the version of themselves they want you to see, not their real selves —flaws and all. You think they’re all great —look mom I made friends!— until you realize that one of them is bat-shit crazy and the other is racist. But I digress. Point is, it may take you a while to figure it out, but soon enough you become a pretty good judge of character and learn to see through the facade.
- People Leave
As painful as it may seem at the time, you will get over it. People leave, whether it’s friends or boy/girlfriends. The first year of college can be rough on people. There are those who transfer, those who graduate, and sometimes those who… leave this world. But the important thing to remember is that there are still others who stay, who can help. I understand that not everyone is comfortable going to counsellors or therapists, whether we’re talking about those provided by the university or private practitioners, but there are many other support systems that are in place for you. Find a friend you can talk to, just talk. Call your parents for a small chat. An aunt or uncle you feel close to, a sibling, a random stranger, it doesn’t matter. Talk. It will lift this huge weight off of you that you didn’t even know was there.
- You Meet New People
I’m a firm believer that life maintains a balance at all times. If people leave, they also come into your life. The student population at my university was only about 10,000–11,000 people —which is pretty small— so you’d think that it would be hard to come across new people. But I was amazed at how each year, heck, each semester, I would make friends with and sometimes even become closer to new people I met. You drift apart from some, go closer to others and then sometimes you even reconnect. There are billions of people in this world, statistically, it’s impossible not to have new people coming into your life frequently.
- Discover Yourself
Yes, yes I know this one is a cliché but it’s true. One of my big takeaways from the last four years has been finding myself. Being able to express myself. It was the biggest gift my parents could have ever given me (mom and dad, if you’re reading this, the education was great too). Of course no one knows who they are completely, whether it’s at the age of 19, 23 or 103, because we’re constantly changing – change is inevitable. I am not the same person I was four years ago, and I will probably not be the same person I am four years from now either. Same goes for you. But I certainly have a better understanding of who I am as a person now. I have clarity about myself, my ideals, my dreams and plans. I had the freedom to try on different things and decide whether or not it was going to be a part of who I was. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I grew into myself. I discovered endless worlds of art, literature, culture, music, idiosyncrasies, and that all shaped me.
This is an important one. At least once, during those 4 years, you will come across a situation that will test your worth. It will bend you and toy with you till you want to scream at the top of your lungs. But it will not break you, I promise. You will emerge on the other side, stronger and more resilient than ever. There’s a famous quote, “We are the sum total of our experiences,” and this is just another experience that will add a layer to your core. You will prove to be unbreakable. You will be better because of the situations you are faced with and how you deal with them.
- Fend For Myself
I’m not ashamed to admit that growing up I was pretty spoiled. My only chores were setting the dining table and occasionally doing the laundry. Mom always tried to get me to learn how to cook, but I was pretty much always more interested in texting friends or watching TV. So when I moved out of the dorms after Sophomore year, I was pretty much well, for lack of a better word… fucked. I now had to make my own damn bed (which —full disclosure— I still only do occasionally), I had to take out the trash, remember to pay rent on time, pay other shit on time, cook for myself so I wouldn’t waste money ordering in or eating out, do the dishes, and actually clean the damn house. And I still had it easier than most, at least my parents were financing everything. It was overwhelming at first certainly, but it’s only a matter of getting used to it, incorporating things into routines.
- I Know Nothing (Jon Snow?)
Formal education. Yes, there’s a never-ending process of studying that will eventually get you a nice fancy piece of paper and maybe even a title like Doctor. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. While the education system is flawed in many ways (and this is a topic reserved for another article), there is so much more other than bookish knowledge, that needs to studied. I realized that the more I learned about things, the less I felt like I knew. College is just scratching the surface on so many different things. But I am grateful for the wide array of classes that I took. At least that helped me figure out what I was really interested in.
- College Is What You Make Of It
I cannot emphasize this enough. So far, you’ve read about my experience of college. But it really comes down to what you make of it. Everyone has a different experience, but it’s upto you to make the most of it. Whether its life-long friendships, a sound base for a great career, an exploration of yourself, reinvention, it’s all on you. Tailor your college life to how you think you can get the most out of it.