My little brother graduated from college yesterday at the same school I graduated from eight years earlier. Feeling rather old and sentimental, as I walked on campus yesterday, for the first time in years, I reflected on who I was then, how I’ve changed, and this list of all the things I wish I knew when I was still an undergrad.
1. It’s not that hard. College is challenging, yes, but really when you put the experience into perspective and lose your ego, you realize that it’s not impossible to do amazing things while in college. You can travel easily in college. You can eat without fear of a slow metabolism. You can get A’s in all your classes if you put in the work and decide to do it. It is that simple, though, you can’t get this until you’re my age and faced with many more hard things in life and get nostalgic about the “good ol’ days.”
2. Have fun. I went to a big state school with a reputable athletic department. But did I ever attend a game of any sport while there? Nope. Why? I didn’t really want to. I studied every day at the library and lived off-campus, two things that made doing normal college things seem undesirable. I’ve since learned that when you are in college, you should do everything you can not because you want to. You should do them because you may never ever get a chance to do them, again. So travel, run for an office, do something that you’ll be able to look back and tell your kids you did a long time ago when you were young.
3. Get over yourself. Going to a big state school for me meant often feeling like a small fish in a big, terrifying sea. To get over that and my anxiety, I would often do weird things to feel, well, bigger. The treks to my classes were far, so how did an insecure young woman like me get through it? Talking on my cell phone, usually, to my mom about nonsense that would sound to any over-hearer to be something substantial. “Mom, just stay on the phone, ok? I have 10 more minutes to get to class okay?” Sound silly? It was, but I did it nonetheless.
4. No one is a smart, creative…perfect as you think they are. Getting good grades was never a problem for me in college because, well, I had nothing else to do. Though, I can still talk about this or feeling like you’re not as smart as the one kid in your class who seems to have it all plus great hair. I think it’s easy in college to get an inferiority complex about yourself. I mean, sure, you were the smartest, most creative, most fashion-adept kid at your high school, but now in the big leagues you feel so average, so subpar. The truth of college and the rest of your life is that no one is as smart/creative/fill in the blank as you think they are. No one is as perfect as you think they are. You are smart, creative, amazing and you’ll do smart, creative, amazing things when you stop looking at what you think the smartest, most creative, amazing kid is doing and just do your best. Just be your best.
5. After this, your life will never be the same. You can’t recreate college once you’re done with college. You can’t recreate that moment in life when you’re with your peers doing nothing but learning and exploring all these cool things that the world has to offer, often, for free. You can’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. So rather than counting down until you’re done with college and able to enter the real world (which might I add you only graduate from when you die), enjoy it. Live in the moment and relax that while better days are to come, the ones you are in are pretty darn good.
6. You’re not as old, wise, or clever as you may think you are. For some reason, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the world at 22 when I graduated. The truth is I knew mostly nothing. There was a quote read by someone at my brother’s two hour long graduation yesterday. I went something like, “Education is the progressive discovery of your own ignorance.” I was sitting in the nosebleed section of this ginormous stadium, so when I heard that reverberate back in the speakers, I was like “yes!” That’s it.
The beauty of life after college that you should remember when you’re in college is that it will go on. The stakes of your life will change, but the gist of it will always be: You will do something. You will fail. You will learn. You will fail. You will learn.You will succeed. You will learn. You will do something else. You never stop learning until you’re dead, so take your learning in college in stride and carry on.
7. Pursue your passions but stretch yourself, too. I like writing, right? So naturally, after taking English 101 and everyone told me I was a good writer, I did the most natural thing and major in English. Of course. Oh, and I also like to talk, so what’s the major for that? Oh, yeah, communication. Boom. I did well with my majors because they fit me. Though, I wish I would have minored or added another major in… something that didn’t fit so well, something that would have taught me something about myself I didn’t intuitively already know. Like Physics. I could have done that. Or maybe something with computers.
8. It’s okay to not have everything figured out. There’s a premium placed on the idea that the best of students have it all figured out. They know their majors early and don’t willy nilly in their time in school doing things that are a waste of time. I don’t agree with this line of thinking. I think college should be a time for purposeful willy nilly-ing. It is a time to explore and make mistakes because the stakes of those mistakes and time spent of exploration will never be measured the same post-graduation.
9. It’s okay to not think you’re cool. Cool is kind of overrated and exhausting. Cool in college is like local fashion, hot where you’re at and meaningless everywhere else. Be yourself instead.
10. Take lots of pictures. And print them.
What are some thing you wish you knew in college?