There’s always a lot of debate on whether college is beneficial or not. With so many life paths nowadays, people can be successful in practically any way they want. Growing up in an eastern european household, I was raised knowing that the one thing the world can’t take from you is your education, and that knowledge is power. I left college NOT knowing a lot of things, like: how to do my taxes, how to cook, how to properly manage savings + finances, and a lot more. Despite all that, I have gained a lot of personal takeaways that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t go through the experiences that shaped me. Below, I compiled a list of things I did learn in college, (NOT relevant to course work):
- Find what makes you different. Chances are, you’ll hear this more than once. On my first day of undergrad, I had no idea as to what made me different from the person sitting next to me. I wasn’t able to identify my strengths off the bat, but ultimately, I learned that the things I thought were my weaknesses were actually my strengths. Being an immigrant and the first in my family to go through college, I had to do everything on my own- from my financial aid, to orientations to class registrations and more. And as frustrating as this was at the time, I realized my ability to quickly adapt and learn to do things on my own was what made me different from everyone else. In the end, I was able to use this as a point to leverage myself as a person and brand when I spoke to professors, job recruiters, and others!
- DON’T RUSH YOURSELF.People are going to tell you that “it’s okay to not have it figured out” but are still going to look at you sideways when it’s halfway through sophomore year and you’ve changed your major three times and have considered dropping out 76. When I began undergrad, I had no idea what I wanted to do— but knew what I didn’t. And to be honest, I’m glad everything went the way it did. I went through my first two years of college taking only core classes and gen eds, and took extra art classes to see what I liked best. Getting all my requirements done first gave me time to think about what I enjoyed doing without having to claim or change my major, and kept me on track for graduation.
- Some people don’t want to see you win. And that’s ok.I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t accept the above truth. ^ Growing up, whether it was grade school or high school, I always had perfect grades and was a so-called “teachers pet.” When I got to college, I expected that wouldn’t change. Reality set in quick to say the least. I had a professor that gave me grades slightly above passing, that was unhelpful, rude, and disliked by many of my peers. (Also made me consider dropping out after a series of 3 all-nighters.) I also worked unpleasant jobs, had not-so-great bosses, and encountered people I just. Couldn’t. Deal. With. (Sometimes, all at once.) The one thing I did gain was that you can’t please everybody. Your best work sometimes won’t be good enough no matter what, and that’s not your fault. People will dislike you for irrelevant reasons, and at the end of the day, you can’t make EVERYONE happy. The only thing you can control is your work ethic, and if you put your best foot forward and give it your all, you’ll always be a winner.
- You CAN have it all.People told me then, and people STILL tell me now- “you can’t have it all.” And honestly, that’s so far from true. For a majority of my time in school, I worked two jobs, was on a dance team, traveled for modeling, and paid my own bills all at the same time. (Had a social life every now and then.) I’m a strong believer in that you don’t have to compromise, not for anything, or anyone. If your heart is happiest pursuing things you love with a packed schedule, so be it. You don’t have to put all of your energy into one thing to be successful, and you should never rely on just one thing to bring you success and happiness.
- You don’t have to settle.When I say college was the craziest time of my life, I wholeheartedly mean it. I lost friends, left relationships, and couldn’t find purpose at one point. It genuinely felt like I started my entire life over. Despite going through so much, I learned that life is 1% what happens to you and 99% how you react to it. I closed major chapters of my life during my time in undergrad, and haven’t looked back since. Everyday, I focused on striving to be better, working harder, and learned how to say no. I found what ultimately mattered to me, and I surrounded myself with positivity and people that supported me unconditionally. I applied to internships, jobs, and everything in between until I found something that aligned with my long term goals and that motivated ME. I decided that I was going to build the dream life that I wanted to live, and anything that attempts to divert me from it won’t be getting any attention.
- Communication is KEY.Whether it’s personal or professional relationships you’re dealing with, you need to speak up. As much as we like to assume people understand us or know what we’re going through, no one can relay that information but you. I’ve found that letting professors know ahead of time that you can’t turn in an assignment on deadline or just setting up office hours to talk will almost ALWAYS yield a solution that can help accommodate you. Honesty is the best policy, and people will always prefer those who are genuine and transparent over those who are not.
- Networking ISN’T overrated.I’ll be honest, I used to get tired of hearing the networking spiel. (You can only hear it so many times in school before you start to feel braindead.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that networking is not overrated. I made it a point to develop meaningful connections with my peers, professors, and even friends because you honestly never know who will be where and how they can help you at a future point in time. My best friend from undergrad (@Yasmine if you’re reading this, ily) has connected me with so many brand, job, and partnership opportunities that I would not have been able to experience had I not known her. Some of my favorite professors have even looked over my resume countless times to ensure it’s absolutely as close to perfect as it can be for my job search.
- Take your notes by hand. Yes, by hand.As much as I loved my major, I didn’t like studying. When I couldn’t escape lecture heavy classes, I kept my computer closed. Despite the fact that taking notes by hand takes longer, I found that it helped me so much more in the long run rather than typing away on my computer. When I used my laptop, I tended to a) not take notes at all, or b) get distracted. Studies show that taking notes by hand increases your ability to focus, helps information stick better, and improves creativity. It also helps you write more concisely by forcing you to include only relevant information. This really helped me when tests rolled around because I found that I only had to briefly review my notes instead of learning everything all over again. I also always used a classic notebook planner because I found that I was better able to recall important dates and deadlines when I wrote them down myself. (Taking hand-written notes also shows your professors that you are listening and being respectful of their time.)
- You shouldn’t compare yourself to others.Comparison is truly the thief of joy. College becomes so much harder when you start questioning yourself and your and abilities using someone else as a standard of measurement. Success isn’t objective and you shouldn’t discount your talents just because someone else has achieved something. Everyone’s journey is vastly different, and you as a person have your own strengths.
- Setting smaller goals will help you achieve larger ones.We all want to be rich and famous, but that’s not something that’s exactly attainable by next Wednesday. Planning out your week with a day-by-day schedule can help you map out what you need to get done by when. This applies for anything from school projects to smaller life goals. Personally, I plan out weekly goals, quarterly goals, and yearly goals. The idea is that all the smaller “goals” help you reach the bigger picture. If I wasn’t able to get something done, I’ll look back and try to figure out what didn’t work for me and how I can get it done next time. This also helps me stay organized and gives me a sense of accountability.
- ***Bonus tip: Coffee can get you through anything. And I mean, ANYTHING.No explanation needed.
College was hard but coming up with this list was preeeety easy. Hopefully some of the things on here either inspire you or motivate you to implement something new in your life.