College is the time for knowledge (rhyme unintended) (or was it?). It’s a time to immerse yourself in your studies, find your passions, uncover your skill set and blaze your personal trail. At least that’s what your high school guidance teacher tells you when you’re a senior and about to graduate.
But for a lot of kids, when you get there it takes a different path. It’s more about independence, no rules or curfews, freedom, making friends, trying new things, and probably spending too much money. Often times, that means that studies fall to the wayside. And don’t get me wrong, that’s okay to a point, but like Joni Mitchell warned, “you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.” (definitely had to Google who sang the original – millennial problems…)
As a graduate now and someone fortunate enough to have happened upon my desired career path fairly early in life, I find myself looking back at what I wish I’d done differently in my college experience. And while, like many college kids, I wish I’d taken less student loans and studied more, this list gets into it a bit more than that. So, here you go…
10 Things I Wish I’d Known in COLLEGE
1. College professors are actually really awesome. They’re not your high school teachers. They aren’t there to make sure you behave, hold your hand, keep an eye on you etc. They’re there because they are passionate about what they’re teaching, and they want to share that knowledge with their students. Don’t waste the chance to develop relationships with these folks. They can write you recommendations, give you career guidance, and maybe even become your mentor one day.
2. You will regret a bad grade more than missing out on a night of partying. AKA: get your priorities in order. If you have a sociology exam Friday morning, then maybe (just maybe) your time would be better spent in a cramming session vs drinking from a flat keg at a frat house until 3AM. I get it, FOMO is real, but so is having to retake a class after you fail it, or missing graduation honors by decimal points of your GPA. Be smart.
3. Get real-world experience within your major. Some majors, like nursing and education, already have requirements in place that you actually experience the jobs before you can graduate. However others (ahem, marketing) don’t. But it is so important to have some kind of relevant experience within your major when you graduate, because it will give you a definite leg-up on the competition. For example, finance major? Get a teller job. Management major? Work your way up in retail. Communications major? Good luck. Just kidding, you could check out administrative positions. You get the picture. Or maybe if you can’t find anything or nothing seems to fit, do your own thing! Which leads to my next point…
4. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. What are you passionate about? Animals? Social media? Children? The environment? Now think about this: how can you use that passion to differentiate yourself? Maybe it’s volunteering at a shelter, becoming a big brother/sister to someone, offering to do a company’s social media for free, or getting involved with environmental legislation. Whatever it is, getting involved and following your passion will not only differentiate you, but will help you get a career that you want, rather than a job you have to have.
5. Really f***ing try in class. I made the mistake of saying “I’m so over this” about 498 times during my college career. I got good grades still, blessed with good guessing skills & my natural ability to BS my way through anything , but what benefit was it to me? After all I was PAYING TO LEARN. The point of college is not simply to just make it to graduation. And while there are things I learned that I still carry with me today, there is so much more I wish I could go back and really absorb. Read textbook. Ask professors hard questions. Stay after class if I didn’t understand. Really…. try.
6. You don’t need those $78 jeans. You will never in your life need $78 jeans. You will learn this about 6 months after graduation, when your first student loan payment is due. You will never pay more than $25 for a pair of jeans again. And a $30 t-shirt. Fahgettaboutet. Thrift stores, clearance racks, using what you have… stop buying expensive clothes. Save. Your. Money.
7. Spaghetti-o’s and Dr. Pepper do not a meal make. You know, the dining hall does have a salad bar with low-fat dressing. Also, you can buy frozen vegetables for about the same price as those canned monstrosities with the “noodles” and the “meatballs.” Oh, and wheat bread tastes the same as white bread. I know, right? Take care of your body. Just because mom’s not around to cook for you, doesn’t mean you can go gain 20 pounds. Also: stay active. Your school’s gym is cheaper and nicer than anything in the real world, so don’t waste the chance to use it.
8. Show your school spirit, damnit. At St. Cloud State University, we had a saying we’d use sarcastically: “St. Cloud Proud…”. We’d say it whenever something bad/embarrassing would happen at our school. Not exactly bubbling over with school spirit. But I have friends who went to other schools who are the opposite. They go to alumni events, they cheer on their sports teams, they are involved and they’re really passionate fans. I find myself jealous of them. I wish I’d been a better fan, because then I could be part of the Husky community with more pride.
9. Use social media wisely. I’m not going to preach the whole “no beer bongs on Facebook” thing because you’ve heard that 15 times over. However, I do feel that college students can use social media wisely and strategically. Connect with your professors. Reach out to businesses you’re interested in. Stay active on LinkedIn. Use Twitter less for retweeting @CommonFemale or @GuyCodes and more for retweeting at @Forbes or @Kiplinger. Use your social presence wisely. (For more tips, check out my slideshow here.)
10. Cherish. Every. Second. You’ve heard this before, but take it from a once-jaded college grad who couldn’t wait to throw up deuces to my university and start pounding pavement: you will miss it. I miss the simple things. Learning. Flexible schedules. Meeting new people. Writing essays (for real). I wish I could go back sometimes. So cherish every second of it. Because it’s going to go fast, it’s going to be crazy, and you are going to miss it.