On December 11, 2015, I graduated college. It was nerve-wracking & incredibly exciting, and my life has been in a whirlwind ever since. Now two months out I feel I can finally take a moment to breathe and reflect on my college experience ‐ so here’s what I learned along the way.
Always be nicer than you feel. And more gracious than you deserve.
First things first, college is hard for (pretty much) everyone. You’re not the only one struggling to juggle your work load, panicking over final exams, and breaking out into the occasional stress-cry. It’s easy to forget that everyone is dealing with their own stuff, and snap at your classmate for irritating you.
Always be nicer than you feel. A kind word goes a long way. Be gracious with your fellow humans when they annoy you, and they’ll be gracious in return when you’re acting less than stellar. Everybody needs a little grace sometimes.
Don’t sacrifice your sleep for no reason. But don’t sacrifice working on something you care about for sleep (that’s why there’s coffee).
As tempting as it can be to stay up all night binge-watching on Netflix, maybe don’t make it a habit. When you have the ability to get a full night’s sleep, do it. The world is a brighter and better place when you’re well rested.
And if you sleep when you can, then you won’t be as affected by the inevitable late night study/work sessions. And when you do have to stay up late to get things done, you always have coffee.
Don’t make important decisions when your up to your eyeballs in exhaustion & stress.
I can not tell you how many times I wanted to drop a class / blow off an important paper / make a generally poor decision when I was super stressed out. But these decisions would have been rash, and I would have regretted them as soon as life settled down. This harps back to the last point: sleep when you can.
If you’re stressed and feeling tempted to make a rash life decision: take a step back, take a nap, and reassess your situation once you’re well rested. Most likely once you are that class won’t seem like it’s unpassable and your professor won’t feel like the woooorst anymore.
Always do more than you think you can. Never believe yourself when you doubt your abilities.
It’s easy to just do the bare minimum. It’s also easy to doubt your ability to take on new tasks & responsibilities. If it’s better to have loved & lost than never to have loved at all, then it’s also better to have tried & failed than never to have tried at all. Cut the negative self-talk out and do the thing.
Do anything you want to do. Do more than you need to do. Do something you’ve never tried. Do something you’ve always thought about doing. Do all the things.
Always remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
When was the moment you fell in love with your Major / Career? When did you decide that’s what you wanted to pursue? What was the point that you wanted to commit to this path? Remember these things. Treasure these moments. Remind yourself of them when you’re ready to give up. Remember them when you haven’t slept in days and are working tirelessly to finish that project. Remember them when you’re counting down the days for the semester to end.
Do what you love, and don’t forget why you love it.
Never forget how you got there, and the people who helped you along the way.
Odds are you didn’t get where you are by accident. It took a lot of hard work, and help from some good people. Maybe it was your parents who drove you to school every morning of your young life. Maybe it was your school counselor who urged you to apply to the school your now in. Maybe it was your teacher who encouraged you to keep up the good work. Maybe it was your sibling who always had your back. Maybe it was your coach who wrote you a glowing letter of recommendation. Maybe it was your friends who proofread your essays. Maybe it was all of the above.
Just because you are where you want to be doesn’t mean you should forget the people who helped you get there in one piece.