Thought Catalog

Things I Regret About College

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Hindsight is 20/20, and while I can’t completely regret anything I’ve done because I’m relatively satisfied with who and where I am – if I’m realistic about it – I might choose do some things over in my life knowing what I know now, if I could. For example, some decisions I made in college. Here are five.

1. Going to a large state school, in my state of residence. Going to college in the same city I went to high school was not the best decision, I think. Of course, I can’t know, I am who I am. But instead of any Seminal College Experience, my first two years were barely punctuated by the entrance of college into my daily routine. There was no significant change in my worldview or sense of closeness or community with other human beings that were undergoing the same transition as I. My state school was bad: there was no community whatsoever. I drove to school, went to class, and left. Visiting my friends at small liberal arts colleges where everyone lived together and interacted intimately on a daily basis was confounding to me; I’m pretty sure I didn’t even grasp the depth of community because I had never really learned the concept before (I did, however, have that chance when I studied abroad my third year). So instead of feeling at all involved in any sort of student community, I felt mostly a vague sense of alienation from the people I went to school with, and half of them were 40-year-old moms going back to school for a nursing degree, or something. I had friends, but they were outside of college, and if I knew anyone in my classes, it was because I had signed up for the class with them because we were friends outside of university. Who knows, really, but I have a feeling that belonging to a close-knit community during my four years of higher education would have had significant, positive impact on my then-levels of self-esteem, social awareness, and self-image.

2. Spending a lot of money on weed. I can’t deny that I had some nice stoned times, but what a waste of money all that was, really. On 4/20 of this year I wrote a piece about why I think weed sucks; my reasons still stand. I could have, well… I could have bought more video games! I could have saved money. Actually, my college self would have most definitely found equally stupid ways to blow my money, so, um… nevermind.

3. Not taking courses that introduced me to entrepreneurialism, business and/or Reality. I’m not a huge capitalist or whatever but if one doesn’t want to work the rest of his life in an office – which, post-college, I very quickly found out – a grasp of the reality of business, freelancing, networking culture, unspoken rules and a birds-eye scope on the dynamic entrepreneurial landscape is an invaluable set of knowledge to be armed with when one actually does face the Real World. I know that sounds jargony/ corny, but it is definitely true. I would venture that not even having the slightest inkling of any of this shit probably set me back a few years in simply learning how shit worked as well as made me look like a total embarrassing dumbass in my first two office jobs.

4. Placing so much value in ‘cool.’ I swear I was on some Personal Cool Quest when I was in college, and the funny thing is is that if there can ever be any objective representation of cool, I definitely was way, way far off. Thinking about it now, I bet at least half the moves I made and interests I took to were simply to create the impression that I was mysterious, possessing a unique intelligence whose depths were literally unfathomable (I know right), and above all, elite. That seems so stupid, thinking of it, because at this point I perceive those obviously on a Personal Quest For Cool as seriously, tragically misguided – doomed, even, to a vacuous and shallow set of interpersonal interactions. I hope the best for them. Maybe it was good I got it out of my system.

5. My major. I chose to major in Psychology for four basic reasons, I think: 1) I was genuinely interested in social psychology, 2) I felt that being a psychology major would help me come closer to the Ideal Self that I’d imagined at that time (i.e. possessing/ outwardly displaying a sage-like understanding of humans such that I could accurately and consistently ‘one-up’ people via conversational tactics, social strategy and foresight (what an asshole, I know) and thus feel/ appear superior) 3) I had a fantasy of being a part of the club that produced and published groundbreaking experimental research, and 4) I liked writing academic papers.

None of this really turned out the way I expected it to, though. My delusions of superiority based on intellectual prowess were basically narcissistic low self-esteem issues that were definitely not resolved by learning more about the way humans interact, think and emote, and I realized some time during my third or fourth year that being a researcher – if you didn’t have an extreme passion for your subject – was incredibly tedious and boring. On top of that, a degree in psych doesn’t really get you far at all. Here are the basic options that I know of for a psych major just out of college: work in a psych ward with victims of trauma, the developmentally disabled, the disturbed (violent offenders), or troubled teenagers for something like $9/hr; become a therapist (whose career trajectory often starts out in either research or working in a ward) and counsel depressed people, irrational people and couples who have issues; become a social worker; or stay in academia, eventually becoming a professor. None of these options were at all attractive to me, and I have had not one job that I’ve used any of the knowledge I learned in my psych program. My own mistake, but I wish I would have been the type of individual with the foresight to simply sit down and think for just a minute how realistic my major was going to turn out.

_____

I am aware that the experiences here listed have formed who I am, and of the inherent, complex paradox that arises when we talk about what we’d do over if we could do it over again. As told in the introduction to this article, I like Me – for the most part – but this fact is not mutually exclusive with the fact that, within a system of goals, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ decisions can be made, and if I apply my own system of goals to my time in college, well, I might have made some different decisions. TC mark

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More From Thought Catalog

  • Carrie Jones

    Yeah, I never should have been an English major, no matter how much I like to recite Shakespearean passages in my head from time to time. No one finds that skill remotely valuable. They should tell you that in high school actually.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      Who recites Shakespeare quotes? I’m an English major too. Shit, if anything, I recite ‘GI Joe Parodies’ more often than ‘Measure for Measure’.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

        yr nt evn a stdnt nemre dck

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        SO WHAT I GRADUATED ALEX YOU JELLY?

      • ThatGirl

        What about having to memorize the first bit of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English. TORTURE…

  • Mercii Thomas

    Yeah #5 is ALL me…I was a Psych Major. And it has served me well in manipulating people and social situation but not so much in the “let’s make lots of money and good decisions” front

    • authenthich

      how has it helped you manipulate people

    • Cherryxweet

      I met a person who sounds kinda like you. Only he took one psych class and tried to use what he learned on me. Unfortunately for him I took the same class and can see right through him lol 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HYTLXH3LX6NTP2SJDQKOZDH6HA AZJay1007

    Slam dunk. I could’ve written this (thought not nearly as well). I too majored in Psych and turned away when I researched what a career would look like. I’m a graphic designer now, who knew. Nice read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    i did the same thing (go to a state school in my home city) and everything worked out fine.  i made a ton of friends and basically lived in the dorms my freshman year, then got my heart broken or whatever and was “forced” to make a whole new group of friends at my university.  after successfully conquering heartbreak and stuff, i am now fully focused on just getting paid.

    GET MONEY SON

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1198922828 Marianna Elvira

    Glad I’ll be doing #1 and #3.
    #5 is precisely why I’m not majoring in it though I love it. I just need to find something useful that I enjoy…

  • http://www.facebook.com/earthtonichole EarthToNichole

    The thing I regret about going to college is…going to college. My journalism degree is useless.

  • Greg

    I agree with all of this and as poli sci/history, I would do a lot of things different in college, but my reasoning stemmed from the simple fact that I sucked most other disciplines

  • Frida

    I need all the tips I can get before I go to college in a year.

    At least your mistakes can help others out.

  • Jess

    I have useless Psych degree as well. Psych is safe degree in college, it is respected and makes you feel like you’re going places. The best job I got out of it was teaching preschool for $15/hour. I no longer “teach” preschool but you’re right, its not the best major in the world. Unless you want to stay in academia forever.

    The best part of my college experience was going to a State School in my home state. Granted, it was over an hour from my hometown and thus, I never went home and had a wonderful sense of community with my dorm-mates and later my roommates and friends.

    I had friends that went to the schools 15 minutes from their parents homes and lived with their parents the entire time. I felt so bad for those guys, they never moved out of the high school mindset. One girl from my town went to my school for a week before moving back in with her parents to be near her boyfriend. True story. Moving away and living at college is a surefire way to “grow up” without having to actually work full time or pay any real bills. 

    College away from home and college near home are two universally different experience and I’m so glad I got the former of the two.

    • Greg

      not sure about the growing up part, but the rest is pretty accurate

  • Anonymous

    Wuteva! I start college in 2 months and it’s gonna be the shiiiiit

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255470116 Sean Duffie

    I tell my high school students to double major in a major they’re passionate about and a major for a career they can do. The power of wielding both means you’ll have great job security, and, you just might create a job for yourself.  If anything, they get to their sophomore years and can have a more prepared, wise perspective on what their college academic life should entail.

    • Guest

      no

  • Anonymous

    “But instead of any Seminal College Experience…”
    Seminal is such a weird word. It actually means “of, relating to, or denoting, semen.” Yet people use it in polite/causal conversation all the time.

    • Brandon

      seminalThe Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English | 2009 | 365 words | Copyrightsem·i·nal / ˈsemənl/• adj. 1. (of a work, event, moment, or figure) strongly influencing later developments: his seminal work on chaos theory.2. of, relating to, or denoting semen.∎  Bot. of, relating to, or derived from the seed of a plant.

      • Anonymous

        Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to get all English teacher or anything. I’m not making any accusations of misuse. I just honestly think it is a strange word. 

        Wonder why there isn’t a word denoting “birth” that derives from ovaries or something like that. “It was the ovarian moment in my career as a writer.”:

  • Anonymous

    “But instead of any Seminal College Experience…”
    Seminal is such a weird word. It actually means “of, relating to, or denoting, semen.” Yet people use it in polite/causal conversation all the time.

  • Cali

    i get pumped whenever i see there is a new BSG article.

    love you BSG

  • Kathy

    I’m kind of irked by the implication that a psych major is always a kind of “default choice” that doesn’t get you very far. I realize a lot of people do psych because they sort of don’t know what else to do and it seems cool, but that’s not the only reason to do it. I have very specific non-academia-related plans for my psych degree: I’m going to get a master’s in counseling and work in a community setting, probably in family therapy. I understand that becoming a therapist or working in a psych ward may not be what *you* want to do, but that doesn’t mean you get to say that a psych degree “doesn’t get you very far.” That depends entirely on where you want to go.

  • Darren

    Man, after reading just about any other article on this site, BSG’s stuff is an oasis in the desert.  He’s refreshing in that he shares his thoughts and insights without coming of as a worldy, condescending hipster.

    It’s a gift, really.

  • Peter Lu

    well, as a psych major i did learn that physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth — so I’m constantly carrying around coffee / tea. but really, instead of working in a psych ward after grad I started a blog and got tipsy instead.

    http://www.peterjlu.com/2011/06/at-bar-eg-what-happens-when-i-drink.html

  • ariel

    I went to my home town large state school and majored in psychology too! I majored in psychology because a) I started as a music major and hated the music school and realized it wasn’t going to work out for me and b) by the time I changed my major I was two years into school and had two years to finish without my scholarship running out so I switched to psychology because I could still get a bachelor’s of science (meaning I took your intro biology/intro mircobiology, chemistry, calculus, etc.) in case I wanted to pursue science later. I eventually volunteered in a psych lab, switched over to a biology lab where I got paid and ended up with a job in a nutrition lab after I graduated. While I worked there I started taking organic chemistry. So, yeah, psychology had a few interesting classes but the degree itself really isn’t all that useful and I’m now pursuing the hard sciences and will have to go back to school to take the rest of those core sciences (luckily I can take most of them at a community college though). But at least I got a few out of the way, and at least I have that bachelor’s degree behind my name, I guess, which is good when I go for a Master’s or high degree, at least you don’t have to start all the way over.

    Yeah, but, psych still kinda sucks. They should tell you that before you get stuck with it.

  • ariel

    I went to my home town large state school and majored in psychology too! I majored in psychology because a) I started as a music major and hated the music school and realized it wasn’t going to work out for me and b) by the time I changed my major I was two years into school and had two years to finish without my scholarship running out so I switched to psychology because I could still get a bachelor’s of science (meaning I took your intro biology/intro mircobiology, chemistry, calculus, etc.) in case I wanted to pursue science later. I eventually volunteered in a psych lab, switched over to a biology lab where I got paid and ended up with a job in a nutrition lab after I graduated. While I worked there I started taking organic chemistry. So, yeah, psychology had a few interesting classes but the degree itself really isn’t all that useful and I’m now pursuing the hard sciences and will have to go back to school to take the rest of those core sciences (luckily I can take most of them at a community college though). But at least I got a few out of the way, and at least I have that bachelor’s degree behind my name, I guess, which is good when I go for a Master’s or high degree, at least you don’t have to start all the way over.

    Yeah, but, psych still kinda sucks. They should tell you that before you get stuck with it.

  • your cousin

    It bums me out that it’s getting very fashionable for people to just skip college altogether, dismissing it as one expensive 4-year-long party. While that has truth to it, the college experience – at least at one of those small liberal arts schools – is so much more than that. I wish everyone could have the friendship and community experiences I had at mine.

  • Qsauvage

    You and I are the exact same person brother, espeically on the psych part god damn truth, such an asshole way to think haha

  • http://www.facebook.com/tommydelgreco Thomas Del Greco

    From a fellow Psych major, 3-5 are soooooooo true :)

  • Anonymous

    Oh man.

  • Anonymous

    Oh man.

  • Anonymous

    1,4, and 5 are points that I regret from my own experience. Luckily I was able to share my experiences with my younger brother who is almost a decade younger than me and he learned well from my mistakes. 

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