As a soon-to-be senior in college, there are a few lessons I’ve learned while having the grand opportunity of not only furthering my education, but also extending my social circle and becoming friends with people I will never forget. Of course, there are the days and nights spent studying, writing papers, and consuming more caffeine than recommended, but there are also those little pieces of wisdom we love to offer to those encountering their freshmen year in order to make their experiences in college enjoyable and worthwhile.
You will leave your comfort zone.
If I can share one tidbit of information with you about who I was in high school compared to who I am in college, and I’m sure many people can back me up with this, I was one of the quietest people in my graduating class when I was around people who weren’t in my general social circle. Now, on the other hand, it isn’t unusual for me to see someone in one of my classes and willingly introduce myself. You have no idea how many of these same people you will see around campus, in your other classes, and maybe in a few of your clubs or organizations.
You are paying to get an education.
Yes, college is about having fun, but the other 50% of it is about studying your ass off and impressing professors and mentors around you. These people will guide you throughout your college career, and many of these same professors and mentors help students get jobs. For example, I cannot tell you how many people I know who are now teachers in well-respected school districts simply because they were outstanding students in college, and they valued everything their professors taught them. Respect your professors and they will respect you.
You are paying for your last few years of complete freedom.
Think about it. When you graduate college, you will hopefully have a job lined up in your desired field. If you are one of the lucky graduates with a job already at your feet, your employer will probably expect you to start your job within a month after graduation. Once you begin your job, you will only have a week or two each year to set up vacation time and enjoy yourself. Welcome Week, holiday breaks, and summer breaks are no longer at your disposal after you graduate so remember to enjoy every free minute you have by doing exactly what you want to do.
Your college years are your selfish years.
You decide your major. You decide which classes you want to take. You decide who you see during your free time. You decide where you want to live. It’s all up to you. Nobody can tell where to go or how to go about directing your future. Sure, it’s recommended to soak up all the advice you can. It’s worthwhile, smart, and it presents you with a realistic mindset about where you want to be in four years and how to do so. On the other hand, if you fail, then it’s on you. If you succeed, you can thank those around you who supported you, but it was up to you to succeed.
You will change your mind about five hundred times.
One minute, you will feel completely confident in the direction you’re going, and then the next minute will have you feeling as though you should drop out of college and pursue a different path. Stay focused, and you’ll succeed. However, your interests constantly change. You will probably change your major three different times before you decide to stick with one. You might even transfer to a different school. With whichever decision you decide to make, be confident in it. There will be some trials along the way, but if you trust your gut and never take “no” for an answer, then you’ll be happy with where you go.
You will learn more about who you are when you aren’t in the classroom.
If you spend hours studying for your classes, then you’ll probably figure out how much of a planner you are or maybe you just stress out a lot. If you find yourself constantly going out and never studying, then you’ll probably find out how good you are at successfully (or unsuccessfully) procrastinating. If you find yourself enjoying your time in college because you have a decent GPA and you also get to see your friends on a regular basis, then you’re probably able to manage your time pretty well. You’ll also figure out how good or bad you are at cooking, cleaning, prioritizing, managing a sleep schedule, and completing other adult responsibilities.
You’ll probably find your fair share of romantic interests.
Many of these will simply be one-time conversations you have with people in classes or at parties, but you become familiar with what you don’t like in a partner and what you do like. You’ll soon figure out what strikes you about a person in all the right ways, such as which conversations you both find stimulating and which restaurants you both love you scour. Figure it out, but never settle. Always chase after who you think you want, but never chase after someone who is already off the market.
You’ll soon figure out about you strong love/hate relationship with yourself.
When you learn how to prioritize, you’ll love yourself for being able to go after what was most important, and then you’ll be able to treat yourself with Netflix and your favorite pizza. But then, this reward turns into a 12-hour binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy marathon, and you suddenly remember the six-page paper you have to finish revising for your class at 8 a.m. the next day.
You learn to adapt to everything.
Before college, you were probably someone who had to groom himself/herself before you left the house every morning. Now, on the other hand, you truly realize how valuable that extra hour of sleep is. Or, you could be the other person (such as myself), who prefers to lose a little extra sleep for the sake of breakfast or a shower. Either way, you’ll learn that sometimes alarm clocks fail us and we may not have time for more than a bag of chips on your way to class, sometimes professors add an extra assignment for the holiday weekend, and sometimes you have to learn to accept sacrifices in order to succeed and find happiness.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.