You had to know there would be a follow-up post to ‘Things I wish I knew before going to college‘ 🙂 As I was writing that one I knew the obvious worth-while follow-up post would be to touch on a few important lessons I learned in college, aside from the actual material in class of course! Everyone takes a lot of different things out of college. Some people cruise control their way through it, get their degree and go on to more schooling or get to work. Some go on a 5, 6 or more year plan and really “take it all in”. In any case, its important to have taken something out of it other then just a degree and time spent.
Get Involved – This is something I cannot preach enough. I cruised through high school mostly under the radar. I didn’t participate in much of anything, I went to class, did some homework and moved on with my life. I knew in college I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try a different approach. First semester freshman year I pledged my fraternity, joined the campus activity board and participated in various other programs and activities on campus. I followed that up with becoming a tour guide for the university. By the time I was graduating I had been president of my fraternity for two years and knew many administrators on a first-name basis. These connections are priceless and a major reason why today I am also a director for the alumni board of directors at the university. The experiences and lessons I learned through getting involved cannot be conveyed in one post here. From finance to leadership to recruiting to contract negotiations, these were just a few of the things getting involved exposed me to and forced me to learn outside the classroom.
Learn to work and deal with people – Another important life lesson. People. No matter where you go or what you do during or after college you will have interaction with people. Obviously, right? Well, there is a lot more to it. Although a lot of this stems from the above point about being involved, its important to learn how to interact correctly and professional with people. Universities are filled with diverse people from many different cultures, countries, religions and backgrounds. This is a breeding ground for learning about social interaction and how to work with people to get things done. Getting involved paved the way to meeting people, but working with them is what taught me many of the skills I use in real life today, both personal and at work.
How to be independent – Growing up is what college life is all about. You figure out who you are and in turn you figure out how you want to live, hopefully. For me college was all about learning to be on my own. This can be applied to family and friends. What I mean is, growing up I always had my family around me as a support system like many others did. Going to college was the first time moving away from home. It was important for me to learn to function on my own, from grocery shopping to just-for-fun shopping, from getting bills paid to making decisions about health insurance or doctors appointments. It is different for everyone but its important to learn to be on your own from your parents, knowing they will always be there if you need them, but you can do it on your own. In regards to friends, its common to make friends the first few months at college and stick with that group for the next 3+ years while you are there. Always try to meet new people. If there is an activity you want to do and none of your friends want to make the walk across campus to do it, then go by yourself and meet some new friends! I used to always tell that to my tour groups of parents and high school seniors. I would follow up with, “even if it ends up being a waste, you hate it and think it sucks, 9 times out of 10 there’s free pizza :)”.