At the end of every semester, I always find myself reflecting on the things I’ve learned, where my time went, the goals I did and didn’t accomplish, and what I want to change in the future. Finally after a year and a half, I’m starting to feel settled in at school, and I’ve realized that these are the six most important things I’ve learned about college so far:
1. You will be constantly baffled and intimidated by people who seem to have their life together: they’re the president of four organizations, they’ve already snagged an internship with McKinsey for the summer, they always find time to go to gym, you’re constantly hearing them complain brag about how many social obligations they have and how they don’t know how to squeeze it all in. Here’s the truth: when people seem like they have it all together, they probably don’t. Everyone exaggerates about how great they’re doing and the ones who appear to be most secure are often the most insecure. Don’t sink to their level and recognize that you need to do what’s right for you.
2. Along that note, it’s physically impossible for a person to be happy every second of every day. College is a huge adjustment and a strange world to exist in, and often a stigma exists that if you’re not exuberantly happy 100% of the time, you’re a failure. This is entirely false. You will break down when you have an eighteen-page paper due and your boyfriend dumps you and you’re running on two hours of sleep and your mom’s upset because you haven’t called her in three weeks, and THIS IS OKAY. We all have moments of weakness, so take these moments and learn from them. Let yourself wallow for a little bit because sometimes wallowing is healthy, but when it’s time, pick yourself up and move on.
3. College friendships are different than high school friendships. It’s harder to get to know people in college because you aren’t spending all of your time with the same small classmates all day and then continuing to a limited number of activities with those same people. There is so much to do and so little time to do it so you have to learn to value friendships in a new way–for intellectual stimulation, for commiseration found in the library at 2:00 AM, for shared passion for a club or organization, for an equal hate for that obnoxious kid in section, for an understanding and exploration of the experiences that have shaped you into who you are today. If you want to meet more people, get involved. Try to join a new club or meet people in your classes every semester. It will keep your relationships fresh and exciting, and working with people is one of the best ways to get close to people.
4. Don’t feel pressured to live up to anyone else’s ideas of what college should be. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing not to partake in the campus hookup culture or with dropping with pre-med. Ultimately, the people who matter most will support your decisions and won’t pressure you to pave a path that isn’t right for you (unless they’re you’re parents, who you should listen to sometimes). Remember that when you graduate, you’re all you have, so make decisions and live for yourself and no one else because at the end of the day, you alone have to live with the choices you make. College gives you an infinite amount of choices on a daily basis, so be wise and aware but also don’t over think each one. Don’t worry about the haters and you do you.
5. It’s important to find healthy ways to be busy. Sketch, paint, write, make music, run, read. Get off Buzzfeed, log off Facebook and go do something. Find an outlet you love and suddenly you’ll find your FOMO disappearing. If you’re enjoying your time, even if that time is spent alone, then you have nothing to miss out on.
6. Until you learn to love yourself, it will be hard for people to love you. Confidence is an attractive quality (but not so much that it becomes arrogance) and people are drawn to confident individuals. When you recognize and embrace your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be happier, funnier and you’ll have more to say. You need to rely on yourself for your own happiness, because the nature of college fosters selfishness and you will be let down when you realize how much time you have to spend alone.
You get four years to begin finding yourself, change the way you think, and live on your own before you’re thrown out into the real world and hit in the face with responsibility. We change and adjust and grow each and every single day. Every person you meet, every lecture you attend, every essay you write shapes you. Your time is so precious and will fly by. Use it wisely.