The end of August invokes quite a bit of “back-to-school” nostalgia for me. From my elementary school days to my last year of college, I have loved this time of year. It meant new notebooks, a clean slate and reunions with friends who were long lost over the summer.
Now that I’ve been out of school for a few years, I’ve had time to reflect on what I loved and what I would have done differently. And while I may be a bit “removed” from my college years, there’s still a thing or two you can learn from me.
Invest in a reliable alarm clock.
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This is no joke. Don’t settle for your phone alarm clock or the cheapest thing you can find at the store. I made that mistake and it nearly cost me my freshman year French final.
On a sunny May afternoon, I awoke from my mid-day nap to the sound of my little Nokia phone chirping. I stumbled down from my lofted bed and groggily answered the phone. It was my French professor. And I was 20 minutes late for my French final.
Thankful for the fact that I went to a very, very small school and that giving my French professor my cell phone number actually paid off for me, I vowed to invest in a better alarm clock over the summer. (Although, my sophomore year roommates would tell you that I eventually slept through that one as well.)
Show up to class.
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Whether you go to a tiny school or a huge school, attendance matters. At a small school
, it might be part of your final grade, and at a large school, it might be the difference between you getting a C on the final and a B+. For instance, my junior year, I received a note from my Creative Non-Fiction Writing professor that read:
Really enjoyed your final portfolio. Had you showed up to class more, your grade would have been an A-. But because of attendance, I had to give you a B+.
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Plus, I don’t have to tell you that college is insanely expensive. So don’t complain about how expensive it is and then miss classes.
Force yourself to be an extrovert.
Unlike my friends in high school, I didn’t buddy up with anyone and attend the same college. I was alone and friendless the first day of college. So I had to force myself to say “yes” to every dinner invitation, to walk down the dorm hall and ask if anyone wanted to walk to the library and to sign up for every student activity that seemed mildly appealing.
Masquerading as an extrovert really paid off. It didn’t take long for me to find some of the best friends that I still have today. And, those social skills that I had to develop have really paid off in the working world, too.
Keep an open mind.
My famous last words when making my college choice were, “Ok, I’ll go to school here but I am NOT joining a sorority.”
Second semester of my freshman year rolled around, and I found myself sitting in a large dining room with 90 other girls who were wearing the same shirt as me.
It turns out, sorority life wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was awesome. I took on leadership roles, which was something I had shied away from in high school. On the weekends, I was typically volunteering through my sorority. And their academic standards were actually higher than the school’s, requiring me to do much more studying. It also didn’t hurt that I made my best friends for life through that experience, too.
The point is? Keep an open mind in college and try new things.
Take advantage of extra learning opportunities.
Every college provides learning opportunities outside of the classroom. They pay quite a bit of money for speakers, seminars and workshops. While they may not be professors, there is so much you can learn through campus guest speakers and the workshops they provide.
During my time at school, I heard Paul Rusesabagina’s
personal account of the Rwandan Genocide, Peyton Manning’s take on being a team player and Tony Blair’s reflections on serving as Great Britain’s Prime Minister. And through those encounters, I learned more about tolerance and action, humbling myself as a piece to a whole and going with your gut.
Even now, I’m an expert napper. The weekend isn’t complete unless I get a nap in. You see, in the real world, you don’t get naps in the middle of a weekday. Unless you work at one of those companies that is rumored to have nap cots (where are those companies anyway?!).
So indulge in naps during your college years because they are few and far between after you graduate. In addition to naps, take advantage of campus golf or Frisbee, Homecoming
football games and all-nighters completely not devoted to academics.
The point is: live up the college life while you can. Just never let it get in the way of showing up to your French final on time.