Five Lessons I’ve Learned in my Four Years as a College Student

In a few short months, I will don a cap and gown, walk across a stage to shake the hands of people I probably will have never met before, and receive a piece of paper that represents some of the craziest, happiest, and most challenging years of my life. As I soak in my final days as a college student and worry about losing my student-discounted Spotify subscription, I can’t help but reflect upon the many things I have lost, gained, and most importantly learned throughout this four year journey. 

  1. 1. Be Proactive–Don’t wait until you’re an upperclassman to figure out what you want to do with your life.

    two women having an interview

    I came into college undecided on my future plans, and I didn’t declare my Neuroscience major until the end of my freshman year. Many people will tell you that you don’t need to worry about choosing a major until the end of sophomore year, and that you can simply fill up your schedule with general-education courses until you magically figure out what degree or career you want to pursue. This advice may have some truth to it, but I think it gives incoming students and underclassmen a false sense of security, resulting in a lack of proactivity. 

    Of course, it’s absolutely okay to not know what you want to do yet–after all, it’s a big decision! However, make sure you are actively seeking out opportunities to figure it out by taking classes that pique your interest, talking to advisers and people who are already working in your career of interest, and even searching YouTube and Google for advice. Remember, plenty of people go on to work in totally different fields than their major, so don’t freak out if you are a senior and realize that computer science or philosophy is not what your heart desires. 

  2. 2. Don’t take 8 a.m.’s if you’re not a morning person!

    girl sleeping in black and white

    Trust me–even if you were able to wake up by 6am every day and started classes at 8am in high school, chances are that you won’t have the same habits in college. Whether you commute or live in a dorm freshman year, you’ll probably be up till 1-2am most weeknights either studying or hanging out with friends. You’ll thank yourself for giving yourself the extra time to sleep in by opting to take those 11:30’s instead.

  3. 3. Get Involved.

    Whether you’re still searching for your crowd or trying to learn about your career interests, it never hurts to get involved in extracurricular activities. Not only will you get a chance to meet new people and learn about the world around you, but you’ll also be networking and creating connections that will help you later on. This is especially helpful if you plan to attend graduate school or other post-secondary programs like medical school. Everyone wants a well-rounded applicant who actively gets involved in clubs, volunteers, and has leadership experience.

  4. 4. Work on improving yourself.

    College is not only a time to learn and prepare for your future career, but it is also a time to better yourself in other ways. The habits we form in our young adulthood shape the people we become in the future. Science has proven that it’s hard for an 18/19-year old or early twenty-something to picture the future, because our prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that helps us anticipate long-term consequences of our actions) don’t fully develop until we’re at least 25. But that doesn’t negate the fact that what we do now matters to our future selves! If you want to get healthier and start working out more, take advantage of your college’s fitness facilities (after all, you’re paying for it!). If you want to get more organized, research how successful people have done it, and start using physical or digital planners!

  5. 5. It’s okay to mess up!

    Journal

    The best way to learn something is to make mistakes. I messed up plenty of times throughout undergrad, be it in my personal and social life, academics, or other facets of my life. There are countless things I wish I had known before starting college, but I have come to the important realization that I’m truly better off having learned these lessons the hard way.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that these lessons are coming from my singular perspective as a senior in college. I am only 21 years old, meaning that, like everyone else, I have sooo much left to experience and learn. I am still making mistakes and learning new lessons as I continue to figure out my own path. I hope you take some of the lessons I have offered here with you on your journey through the rest of college. Good luck, you’re going to crush it!