This is the follow-up piece to the one I wrote last week, 6 Things I Wish I had Done in College. After sharing a few regrets, I wanted to give some more uplifting advice in the form of some of the things I’m glad I did.
1. Made good friends, even if it was a little late
I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer and some weird life circumstances got in the way of making a ton of friends my first year of school, but the friends I did make have made my life wonderful. Even the littlest things like lunch dates, making crafts to decorate our dorm for the holidays, playing video games, laughing about crazy things we learned in class, or talking into the wee hours of the morning- my college friends were definitely the best part of that time of my life.
2. Committed myself to a particular extracurricular
During my second year of school I took a required journalism class for my major which involved doing a few assignments for the campus newspaper. I ended up coming on staff as an editor for the two years after that and it was one of my favorite college experiences. I ended up putting a lot of my time towards it instead of other groups, but I enjoyed having something to be fully invested it – I had time to prioritize my work on it and formed some great friendships with my fellow staff members. Having a group to particularly identify myself with in college helped me stay rooted as things changed a lot during the second half of my college career and gave me a sense of belonging that I found very important.
3. Didn’t stress too much
It was very popular to be overcommitted at my school, which, combined with a decent amount of busy work in our classes, led to a very stressed out student population. I was dedicated to my work but wanted to avoid the burnout I often saw around me. The steps you can take really depend on your major and the ways you work and study best, but by starting big projects well in advance, limiting my cramming for tests, and not working past 11pm, I was able to keep myself as physically and emotionally healthy as possible. (Regular evening walks with my boyfriend-now-husband also helped with that!)
4. Was responsible with my money
While I said in my last piece that it’s good to have some adventures and spend money on important fun things in school, I’m also really glad that I was careful with the money I had. I always ate in the cafeteria, didn’t go on every Sheetz run I wanted to, and either entertained myself or went to campus shows instead of driving long distances for movies or concerts. Delayed gratification never killed anyone, and as young adults, it’s wise to understand that you will probably have lots of opportunities later in life. And in my case, working as a temp for two years after college, it was a huge relief to know I had some cushion of savings to pay my bills if I had gaps in employment. Once again, not to say that you should never have fun, but college is really where you set the tone for your financial future, so you should take it seriously.
5. Got to know my professors
If you’re at a big school with huge classes, this may be difficult. But in going to a smaller college gave me the chance to get to know my professors, professionally and personally. It was rewarding forming those relationships at the time (I mean, when else are you going to be around so many people with expertise in their passions?) but it has also been valuable throughout my job search as I have had professors give me advice, encouragement, and even act as references for me.
6. Dabbled in things I wasn’t good at
With more free time than if you’re working full time and more chances to try things for credit or for small fees, college is your last great chance to dabble. Whether it was playing on an IM flag football team with friends, participating in a group singing competition in front of a huge audience, or learning how to oil paint and draw with charcoal my last semester, I never regretted any of the new things I tried. Even if I wasn’t great at first, I still was able to learn and have fun, which has turned out to be very valuable in my work life.
7. Learned how to cook
Everyone should know how to cook – end of story. Oh, I guess I should say more than this? As a creative person, I find cooking rewarding, but even if you don’t, it’s still a major life skill that I recommend learning. Being able to cook healthy, inexpensive meals is an undervalued life skill in this day of carryout convenience and microwave dinners. When you cook for yourself – you make the rules! You don’t have to make your mom’s spinach casserole you always hated and you never have to make anything fancy. But reading a recipe, learning basic kitchen skills, and having a few favorite recipes in your repertoire are great ways to be self-sufficient. (Plus, friends and current/potential romantic partners always appreciate someone who brings a great snack to their party or can cook them a nice dinner.) I didn’t really start cooking much at all until my last year of school and wasn’t very confident at first, so be assured that you’re probably not too late to the game or too bad to improve.
Everyone’s life is different, every college is different, and once again, everyone starts out from a difference place. Not having a kitchen, not having the money or room in your schedule for electives, all of these are things you have to consider for yourself. But if you can, I think you definitely won’t regret it.
Have any fun college stories or good advice? Share them in the comments!