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7 Things I’ve Learned from the Wackiest College Career on the Planet

So I just graduated. How did that happen?

I’m honestly surprised I made it all the way through. Not a single year of my college career was normal: there was the freshman year depression, the horrible shooting and fire my sophomore year, the unexpected pandemic my junior year, and the dreaded Zoom senior year. In the midst of all this were financial insecurities, family drama, weird friendship dynamics and even boy troubles. Oh, and I moved like 10 times in 4 years, including twice during the pandemic. I can’t wait to tell my future children what college was like!

Here’s the deal, though: sure, there were a lot of crazy things happening all the time. But there were so, SO many good things… enough to outnumber the bad! I’ve learned a lot from my time at Pepperdine, so I thought that as a parting reflection, I’d share some of the things I’m learning with you all. Here, then, are the 7 most important things I am learning from perhaps the wackiest college career on the planet:


Life probably will not go according to your plan.

Sometimes there are fires, deaths, mental health battles, or pandemics. There are good curveballs, too, like unexpected jobs, relationships, and even growth. Life is not about how well you can plan it out, but rather about how well you adapt to change.

As they say, “this too shall pass.”

In the spirit of the first point, constant change means that nothing lasts forever. I used to think that this was a bad thing - I loved my life at Pepperdine, and I was devastated when we were sent home. But now I know that the fact that things end gives those things value. (If we always had flowers, we wouldn’t appreciate how pretty they are.) Plus, it means that bad seasons, like global pandemics, also don’t last forever. This too shall pass.

You are not entitled to anything.

This one is a little controversial. From my (limited) perception and experience, our culture is slightly obsessed with the idea of deserving things. (Exhibit A: “It’s what she deserves.” “You deserve better.” “You worked hard… you deserve it!”) What if… crazy idea… we didn’t… deserve… anything?

Hear me out: we are taught from day one that if you put something in (work, time, money, brainpower, etc.), you should get something out (a good experience, a promotion, etc.). But life is arbitrarily unfair, and sometimes that output doesn’t match up with input. 

For example:  we were vibing at Pepperdine. Living life. Pandemic happens, we all get sent home. Crap. We pay for school, so we are entitled to it, right? Maybe we are… but life happened, and now my gazillion-dollar Pepperdine classes are on Zoom and I hate it and I miss my friends. Gone are the class of 2021’s college days, 1.5 years early. We deserved them, but we aren’t getting them.

So… what are we going to do about it? I, for one, was incapacitated by my anger in early 2020. I felt entitled to my lost time at Pepperdine! But we weren’t getting it back, so I had the option of either holding onto my anger and fighting others, or accepting my circumstances and moving on to other, better things.

What’s that quote that people like? Accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can… and have the wisdom to know the difference. That’s the one. I’m still trying to learn it.

Work hard and do good, even if no one is watching.

I’m still learning this one, too. I like to communicate  — I speak what’s on my mind, and I like to feel seen. But sometimes doing good involves working behind the scenes. You don’t need to prove that you’re a good person to everyone all the time. Just be a good person, and the right people will see and know you by the content of your character.

Insecurity is dumb.

That’s it. Here’s the real tea: no one has time for your self-deprecating bullcrap. No one made time for mine. I have wasted so many opportunities because I was afraid of how other people would see me. Don’t make the same mistakes as me. You are who you are for a reason, and you are placed where you are placed for a purpose. Don’t let doubt own you.

Not everyone’s life moves at the same pace.

This one is so, so hard. There’s a big push at Pepperdine to go to grad school or get a job right out of college, and it’s hard to see those social media posts of people “starting their lives” when you don’t have a post-grad plan. Let me let you in on a secret: no one knows what they’re doing. No one. You are not “behind” or “inferior” if you don’t know what you want to do yet. And there is NO SHAME in living at home for a while, especially when the cost of living is so expensive for young people. Work hard, do good, and do what you can, when you can.

Always be thankful.

You could have a crappy relationship, a broken-down car and $11 in your bank account… but you are alive. You are here. And while you are here, you have purpose. Always be thankful.

I’m sure that most of you reading this know me personally, and those of you that don’t can probably figure out what I’m like from my articles (hint: I talk exactly the way that I write). In the spirit of what I’ve written here, I’d just like to say thank you to all of my readers, friends, and family. Thank you for supporting my journey at Pepperdine, and I look forward to what’s next.

Senior Integrated Marketing Communications major and Vocal Performance minor. Dreamer of dreams, memer of memes. Follow me on Instagram @jillynoelle!
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