What I Wish I’d Known in Undergrad

Every section of our lives is marred by the itching feeling of wondering what things would be like “if I’d known then what I know now.” Maybe we wish we did something differently. Maybe we wish we had skipped something altogether. While there’s no one right way to live our lives, it can sometimes help form our decisions to know what others wish they had done, or done more of, when they were in our shoes.

I’m currently in my second year of graduate school, and have long completed my bachelor’s. While I’m happy with how the experience went, there are certainly some areas where I wish I could have done a little bit differently.

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Take Advantage of All the Opportunities Available to You

Not doing something is easier than doing it. It’s really easy to fall into the lull of wanting to just sit at home and watch Netflix. Don’t get me wrong; a night in with a warm drink and a good movie is so perfect sometimes. But what we don’t always realize in school is how many opportunities disappear as soon as we graduate. From free basketball tickets, to cheap theatre tickets, or access to LinkedIn Learning (as DePaul students), there are a large number of opportunities allotted to us while we’re undergraduate students. If you’re on the fence about signing yourself up, purchasing tickets, accepting an opportunity, or trying out something new, just do it. You can always take a step back out if it’s not for you. But if it is, you may have found a new interest or passion that you never would have pursued before.

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Set Aside Some Time to Develop Your Hobbies

Once you’re working full time, your schedule will be significantly more set than it is in college. One of the most amazing things about college is that you get to set your own schedule. You choose when you want to take classes. You decide when to do your work. You could take a nap in the middle of the day or do your homework at 3 AM. You can set aside some time to work on the things you love. Your early twenties are a time of critical development, so this is the time you want to discover hobbies and develop skills. This way, once you’re in the working world and only have your evenings and weekends free, you’ll always have some hobbies to fall back on when you just want to do something you know and love.

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Explore

Take the time to explore. Explore your campus, explore the city, explore your environment. This is your first opportunity to truly learn independence, and to do it on your own terms. Once you start working full time, you won’t have as much time to see what is going on around you, discover things you may end up loving, and venture fearlessly and limitlessly. So now’s the time to explore until you memorize the world around you by heart.

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Do Something Fun with Your Vacation Time

Being a student is the only time you’ll have large amounts of time off for summer and winter breaks, so use it. Sure, rest and recovery from the quarter is important, but also try to hit the ground running with an adventure or two with your friends. Even if it’s just a stay-cation, you’ll be off when everyone else in the world is at work. Use that time to go places you may not have otherwise because of large lines or crowds (such as the Art Institute or the Field Museum). Once you and your friends start working full time, you’ll have a limited number of vacation days, so take advantage of having multiple weeks off at a time while you’re still an undergraduate student!

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Learn How to Work Efficiently

Your work ethic is always a work in progress. You’re constantly learning how to study more effectively, intake more information, get more homework done faster, etc. One thing to consider is when completing an assignment is how much time do you spend on the computer or your phone avoiding the work? Learning how to properly work and study is not unlike learning a new skill or hobby. You have to practice it to become good at it. And the more you do, the faster you’ll get. By learning how to work efficiently, you’ll increase productivity and have more time to do whatever you want. Making efficiency a focus while you’re studying or working and slowly, you’ll learn how to speed up your process.

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FYI - this is just a guide of what could potentially help you based on what I experienced. You’re going to do things differently than others. Your pace, experiences, and opportunities will be unique and will offer you an individualized experience during undergrad. So, explore at your own pace, develop or drop hobbies as you wish, and just have fun with it all. This is a time of immense growth, no matter what you do. If all you do is enjoy it, then you’ve already done enough.