The 16 Most Important Lessons I Learned In College

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Today it feels like students spend so much money to go to their dream college, but often times get a job in something totally unrelated. I know that with an English degree I could go into a number of fields, all that would have nothing to do with writing poems, close readings, and analyzing Shakespeare. So while my classes might not help me in the real world, I did learn things that will help me survive. These are the sixteen most important ones, in no specific order:

1. Buy enough pizza so you have leftovers.

This seems silly but having leftover pizza in your fridge is easily one of the best things in the world. You’ll thank me for this when you are drunk at 2AM and no one can bring you to fast food, and all pizza places are closed. You’ll also thank me when you are hungover in the morning and you heat up that slice. You’ll also thank me any time of day because leftover or not, no day is bad with pizza.

2. Appearances matter, but not all the time.

They matter for those self explanatory times: job interviews, first dates, going to work, important events, etc. But there is a huge period of time when your appearance doesn’t matter at all, especially in college. If you are still in college for the love of God embrace the fact that you can wear sweat pants to class, for those of us poor unfortunate souls who have graduated don’t have the opportunity anymore. People will argue that your appearance matters at the gym, if that’s what you’re worrying about at the gym you shouldn’t be there at all. Know when and where to care about your look and when to say yolo and break out the yoga pants.

3. Friendships don’t end after college; but they take some work when you aren’t less than a mile apart.

One of my biggest fears for a long time was falling out of touch with my friends. This happened throughout my life, the transition from middle school to high school was rough for me. And even leaving my hometown for college was hard to keep in touch with my friends. But college friends are different- they won’t be there on holidays after you graduate, and some will be in all corners of the world. It’s great to have friends from different states, it gives you a place to crash when you want to visit their city. But it takes work to stay in touch with people, and after two weeks of being an Alumna it is worth it.

4. Get Netflix.

Even if it isn’t your account, find someone who will let you use their password. And honestly it is so worth the $8 a month, it’s worth the hype. I know everyone today talks about how they love binge watching Netflix, but it is truly a beautiful thing after a long day. And there is no greater activity than laying in bed, watching some TV show for hours knowing you have nothing to do, or stuff to do but you’ll do it later.

5. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean everyone else isn’t.

You’re in your twenties, you’re probably working like a dog, or studying like a maniac. But just because you are doing a lot, and you’re constantly exhausted, doesn’t mean that all of your friends are just hanging out doing nothing. Don’t assume that everyone else has it easier, because I assure you they don’t. And don’t complain about how busy you are, it’s makes everyone hate your guts. If your busy and you hate it change something. If you’re busy and you love it, there should be nothing to complain about. 

6. Spell-check is a beautiful thing.

Don’t think you are smarter than spell-check and delete it, it will bite you in the ass. I don’t care if you’ve one every spelling bee in your whole life, you will mess up at some point. And today there is really no reason to have things spelled wrong. Double check your emails, texts, even tweets; if you mess up someone will call you out I promise and you will look like an asshole.

7. Be Flexible.

Yoga taught me a lot in college: how to relax and not think, how to be more flexible then I ever imagined, how to breathe, how to be grateful. But being flexible doesn’t just mean touching your toes without bending your knees; it means writing your schedule in pencil, being okay with plans breaking, having a change of clothes in your car just incase. Be flexible with work, with your friends, with your appetite, with everything. The more flexible you are professionally will help you stand out. You’re ability to be open to new things will literally open new doors for you. 

8. Think for yourself.

All your life there will be people telling you their view on everything under the sun. You will always have influences, there will always be someone telling you that their opinion is the right opinion. I have a secret- if it’s an opinion there is no right or wrong. That being said you have the liberty to form your own. Don’t just be Catholic because your parents are- find what fits you. Don’t be Liberal just because your friends are. Look into issues, you are old enough to form your own idea based on facts and the opinions of others. Use your noodle, regardless of your formal education or lack there of, there is always something else to know. But don’t just regurgitate facts, that’s lame and you can do better than that.

9. Winning isn’t everything, but it’s a lot of things.

I am a deeply competitive person. I would compete with just about anyone, it doesn’t even have to be a game- I’ll compete with anything I can. But you have to know what you are competing for, and who it is against. If I find myself in a math battle, I will graciously bow out because that is not my strong suit. In my writing classes I would try not to be the best in the classroom, but to be my best self. You can always be better, and if you are always competing with yourself maybe that isn’t a bad thing. There are a lot of things you can win in this life, but a lot of others you will find that you will fall short at. My advice is to know your strengths and weaknesses and decide what you really want to win at. You might win arguments, but if you will be losing friends at the same time, who is really winning?

10. It’s easy to regress into the person you were- but don’t.

When I was a sophomore in high school I was the worst. I don’t know what was were my spine was, but I had no backbone at all. I never stuck up for myself, and people took advantage of me. While in college I really got rid of my old self, I became strong and independent. But when I would come home from school for the summer- I would regress into my old self. I would bite my tongue instead of telling my true feelings, and I hated that. When I’m home I have to remind myself of who I am, how much I’ve changed. I believe in always moving forward, always changing, and not changing back into who you used to be.

11. Carpe Diem, Yolo, Hakuna Mutata, etc.

Call it what you want, it all means the same thing. You’re young, you have a long time until you need to be a real adult with a family and kids. And even though after college everyone says it’s time to be “a real adult”, I disagree. Your twenties are for fun, for travel, for bad relationships, for lessons, for moving out, for being dumb. You have time until your settled in a suburb taking kids to swim lessons and running to PTA meetings. You’d be a fool to waste your twenties on work with no fun at all.

12. Every opportunity has a shelf life.

One of my friends tweeted this a while ago, and dammit if it doesn’t apply. It doesn’t matter what opportunity it is, I promise if you wait to long you will miss out. So follow your gut. The worst thing you can do is not act. 

13. Life doesn’t stop for anyone.

Now I learned this lesson years before college thanks to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it applies really well when you think about how fast life moves post college. There will be a year when everyone you know will be getting married, and you will be thinking, “how am I old enough for this?” I have thought that so many times in the last few weeks. I can’t believe I am a college graduate, that two of my best friends have babies, and more are engaged and getting married. It blows my mind that I am at the age that marriage is acceptable. Life is going to change pretty quickly now, and it’s best to just let it change rather than swim against it’s current.

14. Be happy for people.

Don’t pretend to be happy for your friend’s new promotion. Don’t be bitter that your sister is getting married before you. Don’t be salty because you didn’t get an award. When it comes to the people you love, be genuinely happy for them; don’t think of the things that aren’t going well for you- it isn’t about you. I met a girl when I was traveling who told me that in 2012 she was invited to eight weddings, and she was so happy for all of her friends despite the fact that she was single. I found that to be unbelievable, yet so beautiful. In today’s day and age you can see nothing but the positives in everyones’ lives on social media, you aren’t seeing the negatives, don’t think that their lives are all rainbows and cotton candy, I’ll guarantee they aren’t. But be happy for them in their special moment, don’t be the friend who is sulking because they are single, it’ll only make the experience worse. 

15. Don’t let money stop you.

I come from a long line of frugal people, who pinch every penny- even when we don’t need to. I have been raised to think of money as something to save, something to cherish. But despite how cheap I am, I have found that you can always find the money somewhere, you can do some job to get it, ask for it if need be. So not experiencing something because of money is just silly. You can come up with the money, make it happen. Never let finances stop you from doing something you want.

16. Be grateful.

I’ve had a couple experiences that landed me in the middle of a poverty ridden area, that have really humbled me. And I know that most people won’t find themselves doing service in Haiti, but realize what you have and be thankful. Never look at what you have a little or worthless, because to someone else it could be everything. Know that you are lucky to be alive. Be grateful for every breath, it makes you a happier person. Be thankful, not just during Thanksgiving, but every damn day. Do it. You won’t regret it. TC mark

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