On College: The Things I Wish I’d Known
College is full of all-nighters, term papers and pizza, but it is also a time where we learn, grow and figure out who we are. Looking back, we all have things we wish we would have known from the start.
Photo illustration by Rebekah Rutledge
Photo courtesy of MBU University Communications
College is this awesome tornado of right and wrong moves, but mostly, it’s a chance to learn about yourself, the world and who you want to be in the world. This is a compilation of lessons that I have learned throughout my few years in college, but mostly it’s a list of things I wish I had known as a freshman (let’s be honest though, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway).
On thank you notes:
When someone does something for you, send them a thank you note, even if it’s a quick email, they will appreciate it (and probably will be more willing to help you in the future.) It could be for something as simple as them helping you with a homework assignment or allowing you to vent; still send them a thank you note so they know their time and effort did not go unnoticed.
On burning bridges:
Do not burn bridges unless you are absolutely sure you will not need them or want them in your future. Most people do not forgive easily.
Be kind, but honest with your professors. They have tons of connections and will most likely play a crucial role in your future employment. Be your best self with them and they will be more likely to put themselves on the line for you.
On the news:
Take some time to see what is going on in the world. People make small talk about this stuff and not knowing makes you look REALLY uninformed, uncaring and ultimately a little stupid.
On saying yes:
Do not tell someone “yes” unless you actually intend to do whatever it is you said you would do. Too many times people say “yes” because they feel obligated to, but saying “no” is better than failing to follow through. If you follow through every time you say “yes” to something, people will be more confident in your abilities and your reliability.
Sometimes you just have to do someone else’s dishes. This does not only apply to real pots and pans, but to everything in life. It means that sometimes you have to help someone else out or do something for someone just because it needs to get done. It’s not great or always fair, but I am sure there will be a time when someone will do your dishes for you too.
On clean hands:
There’s no metaphor here, I really just mean to have clean hands. Nobody wants to shake someone’s hand that is dirty or with chipped nails. Go get a manicure every once in awhile. I’m not just talking to the ladies either. It is important for men to have nice nails as well, just skip the polish guys.
On being quiet:
Sometimes silence is the best answer. We have all of these options for being obnoxiously loud with our relationships, opinions and problems through social media, but sometimes you just need to say nothing. In the end, nobody really cares that much (if at all) about your boyfriend’s dog, the froth on your Starbucks or how you had to sit in traffic for longer than usual. Save it for the big stuff. People will listen closer if you don’t talk as often.
Don’t let anyone else make a plan for you. Obviously there are exceptions here, like if a cute boy/girl wants to plan a cute date for you … plan on! But if a cute boy/girl (or even worse … an ugly one) wants to plan your future for you … jump ship. You are in charge of your future and if someone else thinks they are in charge of it, there’s a problem. Have confidence in your abilities and make what you want of your own life.
On healthy relationships:
If you are in a relationship with someone who gets upset with you for doing normal things, you should probably not be in that relationship. You are allowed to have dinner with your friends, text someone in your class for help with an assignment and hang out with people other than your significant other. You should never have to feel guilty for doing healthy, normal, everyday things.
On dressing well:
Just because it is brand name does not mean it is attractive. Wear what looks good on your body type, not what has a brand name logo or is “in style” currently. You will always look better in something that fits you well than you will in something that is “in” for the next five minutes.
You make your own happiness. It is a total cliché, but it is true. Before you start your day, you have to decide on your attitude. Happiness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, if you choose a good attitude and to have a good day, there’s a pretty solid chance that it will turn out to be a good day. But the same goes for a bad attitude. Bad attitudes and bad days go hand in hand too.
On broadcasting you:
You are the news anchor of your own life. This one is kind of weird, but what I mean is that no matter what happens, try to keep it together until you are in private. When a news anchor is interviewing someone and it doesn’t go as planned or they are reporting in the middle of a crisis scene, their job is to remain composed, as to not create panic. That is your job too. Yes, sometimes you are going to fall apart and that is OK, but for the most part, keep it together, especially in professional settings. By losing it, you are broadcasting your own sort of chaos.
Your parents raised you, yes, but it is OK to be your own person. I am not saying you should go off the deep end, but make sure your opinions are your own. If they turn out to be consistent with what your parents believe, awesome. Family holidays might not turn into a political debate, but if they are different, that is OK too. Just make sure you question things and research so that you know why you believe what you believe.
On your sex life:
Don’t talk about your sex life. Nobody needs to know, nor do they really care, other than to gossip about you later. There is really no good that comes out of it unless you are talking to your doctor or your mom. It’s one of those things that, whether you are abstaining or active, people will have something negative to say about it. Your sex life is yours, so keep it that way.
Nothing is “off the record” and your Miranda Rights apply to everything you say and do. Just know that whatever it is that you do “can and will be used against you” and the best way to spread a rumor is to say “don’t tell anyone.” Just be smart about what you say and who you say it to.
Beyond college there is a lot of life to be lived and plenty more lessons to be learned, but as I go out into the real world, my college-aged life lessons will allow me to begin my young professional life in full, confident stride.