20 Things I’ve Learned As A 20-Year-Old College Student

Flickr / Sarah Giboni
Flickr / Sarah Giboni

1. University is not like it is in the movies. You may have received the best grades in high school and then arrive at University and be struggling to even pass. This does not mean you are a failure and this does not mean that you shouldn’t be in University. Most importantly, as I had to learn, this does not mean that you have reached your peak and can go no further. This means you are finally being given a real challenge. Not a revision challenge like they give you in school, but something to exercise your brain. Your brain needs pushing and expanding to grow.

2. Get a job, and get one as soon as you can. I’ve been working for 4 years now and though it has taught me how to priorities, and helped me mature, it importantly has given me a diverse range of friends who have taught me all sorts of life lessons.

3. The best thing you can possibly do, is be strong and stand up for what you believe in. I have learned, from being thrown into a flat with 6 strangers in a building of 400 students, that the girl who is not afraid to say no, or walk away from something that she does not like from the very beginning, gains respect. Power should not be your goal in life but it is surprising how much this respect can cause people who need help and seek a caring soul to gravitate towards you. Also, it’ll stop people from being total tools and doing anything to you that you don’t like.

4. Learn to cook. It’s something I learned this year and am still learning and there is a huge sense of gratification in cooking something yourself and even more in telling your parents or gran that you can now cook.

5. Learn to listen! It’s the best way to make friends.

6. Learn how to manage your time. You will have to work to make it work. I’m two thirds into my first year at University, and if I had learnt time management earlier, I’d be getting better grades. This is why your first year doesn’t count in University. Not to party for an entire year, but to learn the ‘art’ of managing University, socializing, extra curricular activities/job.

7. Quantity of friends is not important, quality of friends is. Good people may take a while to find good friends, but when they do, they are friends for life. Throughout time you will see people who are outright obnoxious, vain and just plain mean. Sometimes, and surprisingly often, these people will have a large group of friends or ‘followers’. I say followers because that is what these people are. Like said before, power often causes people to gravitate towards you. Trust though, that the followers of this person will tire eventually, and leave in search of new friends. Don’t feel bad because someone who is hurtful has more friends than you, keep being nice and doing what you’re doing.

8. Contrary to what school appears to teach you, you do not get a boyfriend by being pretty, or skinny, or “less frigid.” You get a boyfriend when you care less about getting a boyfriend, and you care more about being kind and considering. Showing them that you can be caring towards them too (this was when I realized that my lifetime of being a tomboy wasn’t what was preventing me from any guy ever liking me, but me pretending I was tough and wasn’t like those other girls who got upset and had emotions about stuff was). I pretty much pretended to be a rock because I though guys hated girls that cried and got ‘over-emotional’, but turns out it’s only human and kind of proves you actually have a heart. (Who’d have known!)

9. Trust your gut instinct. If it is about a person, you do not need to voice your instinct, but do not lay it to rest until you are sure that it was wrong. Even if this means not letting your guard completely down. However, do give them the chance to prove themselves. And if you find out your instinct was right after you let your guard down, brush it off and call it a learning experience, this has happened to me many times.

10. If you have never had a boyfriend, and you are upset, and feel unfulfilled and you think it will make you happy, it will not. I didn’t have a boyfriend for 19 years, I got my first boyfriend this year. He is incredible, and kind and funny and makes me very happy. However it has not fulfilled the aspects of my life that I thought I needed a boyfriend to fill. I have done that by myself. He is supportive, but he is not there to fill any “gaps” I have. I have learned that I have to do that myself.

11. Own up to mistakes you make and apologize for them. They will not go away with time and people will admire your honesty more often than not.

12. Learn how to tell your friends, or family or a loved one if something they do has upset you that will stay on your mind. Learn how to do this in a way that reassures them you still love them. Learn how to accept the same from them.

13. Wear what you like and care less whether people stare. Really, I can’t wait to buy dungaree shorts this year.

14. Learn to appreciate that opinions are exactly that. Although other people may state theirs as facts, they are not, and neither are yours. If you decide to contest somebody else’s opinion, do it with an appreciation for the fact that their mind works in a different way to yours.

15. Feel free to educate people, but do not condescend or patronize while doing it.

16. If, like me, you have never had an older sister to teach you things you never got to learn, and help you with the things your brother or parents couldn’t, you will find one along the way. Mine was born 8,600 miles away from where I was born, and took me 19 years to find, but I found her nonetheless.

17. If you have suffered or feel robbed of something in your lifetime, whether it be your childhood, or a person or a feeling, do not feel like your life is wasted, or that you shouldn’t have spent X amount of years/your whole life/the whole year…upset about it. Understand that experiences are what makes us who we are, and that without these problems or events in our life, we would not appreciate when everything is going well. Surprisingly, it is often the people who have been through the worst that can wake up to a pretty average day and feel the happiest because their life is simply – average, instead of feeling like their world is crumbling.

18. Understand and appreciate that everybody suffers in their life, and how bad it feels to them will depend on what they have been lucky, or unlucky enough to have to “endure” in their lifetime. You may feel like depression, or an eating disorder may make you worse off than your friend who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend, but remember this could be one of the first times she has ever been dumped, or quite possibly, one of the first times something has felt ‘disastrous’ to her. Help them, especially since you know what it’s like to be so upset.

19. You are entitled to be upset, or angry. But learn to accept things that you cannot change. Accept your decisions, and accept what has happened to you, and find some way to use it to better your life, whether it be a lesson learned or a chance to start again, an opportunity to become stronger or a chance to help other people who have had the same.

20. Honestly, there is no such thing as normal. Don’t worry if you don’t feel “normal” because you like or dislike different things to the people around you. I can guarantee, if you don’t want to go out and listen to Pitbull while getting wasted with all your other friends, half of them probably don’t want to either. Often people underestimate the power of peer pressure, and most people feel like they have no other option. Like I said earlier, if you say no to doing things you don’t want to do, other people who feel the same way will gravitate towards you. And if you don’t feel “normal” because of how your brain works; 1 in 10 young adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder, 80,000 of young people are depressed, and 1.6 million people in the UK have had an eating disorder. And if you can’t relate to statistics, in my flat of 7 people, 2 have depression, 1 is diagnosed with a bipolar personality and 3 have/had eating disorders. There really is no such thing as a “normal” person. TC mark

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