10 Life Lessons Learned In College

Aug 11, 2014

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The fall semester is about to begin in many colleges, and the fall quarter isn’t too far behind. When I imagine all of the students I have taught beginning college, many as freshman, I can’t help but reflect on my first experience away from home and doing my best to harness my freedom as well as balance everything that life was offering.

So many lessons were learned, so many new experiences introduced and without question, wonderful memories were created that will be with me for a lifetime. In the spirit of the season, I’ve made a list of the lessons that my undergraduate and graduate years offered me outside of the classroom, because for anyone who has walked on the campuses of higher education, while the professors, textbooks and lectures are overflowing with necessary and eye-opening knowledge, so too is the time we spent outside our academic schedules. The irony is that these lessons, while learned as a college student, are applicable in everyday life beyond the college dormitory.

1. Curiosity Opens Doors

An opportunity to broaden our perspectives is endless it seems when students first step onto their college campus of choice. The people, the classes, the lessons, the events and experiences – some beyond our expectations, others exceeding what we know – all offer opportunities we had no way of planning for. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, the student must be willing to seek out ideas, clubs, subjects, majors, etc that pique their interests. And in so doing, they begin to unearth what their true interests are, where their boundaries can be pushed and where they shall remain rigid.

2. Choose Your Destination Wisely

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Choose a college that aligns with your goals and aspirations, not because it will look superb on a resume. The key is to grow as an individual, as well as to gain the necessary skills and knowledge that will aid in the successful acquisition of a job in the career field of choice. Often this path is clearly understood and sometimes it is not, but the key in life, as it is in college, is to choose a path that aligns with your talents, passions and purpose, not your mother’s, your boyfriend/girlfriend’s or your community’s.

3. Adhere to Mindful Eating. 

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No longer are your parents stocking the refrigerator or cupboards with healthy options. No longer do you have dinner available without preparation or grocery shopping. Perhaps you began to feed or prepare meals for yourself prior to leaving home, which is an applaudable first step, but when you arrive at college, you will be making the food choices. Choose wisely.

I can remember, after I gained the dreaded 15-20 pounds in the first half of my freshman year, appreciating the fact that my mother was very mindful about what we ate when I was growing up. Processed food was basically non-existent, and we very rarely ate out, but I, as many teenagers do, took this for granted. After eating far too much rice and refined carbohydrates initially at college, and far too few vegetables and proteins, I was embarrassed that I hadn’t recognized the power of what I ate. After all, I was an athlete – I should have known better. Thankfully, I was a quick learner. Click here to discover a simple list and tips on how to keep you healthy and looking your best.

4. Alcohol ≠ True Confidence.

While our introduction to observing such use of alcohol may begin in college, it sadly doesn’t stop there. Too often people drink to find the confidence they lack when they are sober. And there is a lot of insecure, confidence seeking and exploring going on in college, as we either can attest to or could imagine. Needless to say, whatever confidence, self-assuredness or security you are looking for, alcohol or any other substance doesn’t have it. Invest your time and money elsewhere, and you’ll thank yourself later. No doubt, it will take a strong person to make this decision, but the next morning you’ll be running laps toward your dreams while others are barely able to get out of bed.

(*Please note, I don’t advocate drinking if you are under the drinking age limit, so please respect the law. Evanescent pleasure is not worth the permanent damage to your reputation, record or worse.)

5. Create a Simple Planning System & Stick To It.

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Any life dream we desire requires of the dreamer to be focused, and with that focus comes the requirement to be organized. Homework doesn’t magically complete itself, knowledge isn’t instantly acquired and quality projects don’t happen during one late-night cram session. Anything throughout our lives worth having or creating takes time, purposeful planning and a system that works for each individual. Everyone will have a different system – mine is my Franklin planner.

When I was in college, with each syllabus I received at the beginning of the term, I would sit down and write my homework schedule in my planner. The habit has followed me into my professional and personal life as well – any schedule or long-term goal is broken down and placed in my calendar to ensure not a single step is missed. After all, if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.

6. Search Until You Hear the Click.

8.11.147~Soloist Ballerina for American Ballet Theater, Misty Copeland~

So you need a part-time job to bring in a little extra income. Have no fear, there is a job that will feel like it was made for you. Colleges have all sorts of part-time jobs, and depending upon your personality, you will find it. For me, one of the handful of part-time jobs I had was, surprise, surprise, note taking. I would literally be paid to sit in on a class and simply take notes. Since I didn’t have to do the homework as well, it was a treat to be exposed to all sorts of different classes my major didn’t require.

While it may take time to find your preferred part-time job(s), keep looking. Just as in life, you may land your dream job right out of college, but if you keep searching, eventually you will find your way.

7. The Opportunity of Traveling Abroad

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The gift of travel is something I talk about often on the blog, and in college there is an even better opportunity that should be pounced upon – studying abroad. Not only do students have the opportunity to see a country that piques their interest or strengthens their major, but they also receive a laundry load of price reductions on accommodations, flights and tuition that would be a luxury to the everyday traveler. Whether wanting to visit for an entire school year or just get a taste with a summer session (usually lasting 1-2 months), regardless of your major – go, travel and come back with more awareness, knowledge and fantastic stories than you could ever imagine. Who knows, maybe you’ll come back a Francophile like myself. 😉

8. Following the Crowd Leaves You Progressing No Further Than the Crowd

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Depending upon the population that attends the college, all types of cultures, expectations and lifestyles will be colliding. And if your routine or success and comfort is different, it will seem that following may be the easier path.  Now, by all means, be open, explore, but also remain resolute that following simply to be accepted is not a path to anywhere you wish to go. Eventually you’ll find your tribe, but don’t be bullied into believing that you aren’t social enough, beautiful enough or “anything” enough because you are more than enough already.

9. Don’t Waste A Moment.

Depending upon the higher education path you choose, you may be attending classes from two to eight years, but during what in the moment seems like an extremely long time, don’t waste your time. The classes you are enrolled in are an investment in your future – soak up every drop of knowledge, listen to visiting speakers at venture to your college, sign up for that dance class that you’ve always wanted to try to earn your elective credits. Just like life, college is an adventure, and with each decision we make, we decide how amazing and rich it will be.

10. Trust Your Instincts

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So much of life and knowing which way to go is about paying attention to what speaks to us throughout our everyday. I can remember at the young age of 20 finding the strength to call off the wedding that my fiancé was giddy to partake in purely because of the path his own parents had traveled and found for themselves to be blissfully happy. This was not my path. Each day I thank myself for having the courage to call it off even after the Save-The-Date invites were mailed.

While sometimes we end such significant life commitments out of fear of the unknown, only you will know when it is fear due to it not being right for your life path or fear because certain things will now be out of your control. Life will always contain fear, but it is how we master it that will determine our success. And part of knowing the difference, is getting to know ourselves.

In conclusion, whether we learn lessons about how to successfully navigate through life in college or beyond, the key is to take these lessons and apply them. It is my hope that no matter what stage you are at in life, that I can help you to avoid unnecessary frustration, loneliness or fear.  I am confident each one of us finds our way so long as we keep striving and arduously looking, while along the way being kind to ourselves. After all, we are our closest companion; and as such, we should be good company.

Take care, and thank you for stopping by.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Get To Know Yourself? (3 part series)

~Why Not . . . Treat Your Body Like a Temple?

~How to Become a Woman Comfortable in Her Own Skin

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4 thoughts on “10 Life Lessons Learned In College

  1. Great post Shannon!

    I am in my final two years of college and I can’t wait for my study abroad program next semester!

    It is so interesting to hear this! You are so inspiring!

    -Karli

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