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Important Lessons From My Unconventional College Experience

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SJSU chapter.

In the age of social media, college looks like it’ll be the best four years of our lives, but the truth about college is that it’s not always perfect. It’s filled with so many changes and emotions, which  in turn can lead to comparison, jealousy, and a lot of FOMO. 

Everyone’s life looks perfect on the internet, but we all experience the ups and downs of college life.  There are times when college is exactly what you expected, but there are also times when you wish it could be forgotten altogether (like the day your significant other dumped you or the time you got a 26% on your lab exam). We’ve all been there, regardless of how our lives may look on social media. 

Speaking from my own experience, the reality of the college experience is that it’s different for everyone. After I graduated high school, I enrolled at my local community college to give myself more time to figure out where I wanted to go. I still think this was the best choice for me at the time, but it also meant sacrificing any chance at a freshman year experience. I was still living at home and it was difficult to make friends, leaving me feeling like nothing had really changed since high school. Not to mention that everyone I knew looked like they were having so much fun living in the dorms, going out with their new friends, and truly experiencing college. All the while, I was still at home doing the same things I always had done.

I felt like I was missing out on everything, and on top of that, we were in a pandemic due to COVID-19. This pushed me to make a pretty drastic change in my college career. One and a half years into community college, I applied as a transfer student to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and they accepted me. I packed up my things and moved nearly 2,000 miles away from home in the matter of three months. 

It wasn’t long before I realized my decision may have been a little irrational. Being from California, I quickly began to feel out of place and had a really hard time adjusting. 

At this time, I was also making a lot of decisions for the sake of my high school boyfriend, rather than focusing on myself and what I wanted my future to look like. In hindsight, a relationship is not healthy if it forces you to sacrifice your personal goals and needs, but I digress. That was in the past and I am better now because of it. I have since learned it’s not as much about the mistakes we make; it’s about what we learn from them and how we move forward.

This brings me to today, where I can finally say I’m happy and content with where I am. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean college has magically become the place I originally thought it would be. It took me three years and two colleges to get here. If I’m being completely honest, college has been nothing like I imagined, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Now, as a senior in college, I can look back on my past and appreciate where it brought me today. 

So, if my story resonates with you at all, remind yourself that making mistakes and persevering through life’s unexpected challenges is an important part of your time in college. College isn’t just about having fun and making memories; it’s also about discovering yourself and determining who you want to be. With that being said, here are 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned throughout my unconventional college experience:

  • If you aren’t in love with your major – change it. You will be so glad you did.
  • You may feel like you missed out on living in the dorms – trust me, you didn’t miss that much.
  •  You may not meet your best friend in college, and that’s okay. 
  • You also may not meet the person you’re going to marry in college, but I promise they’re out there somewhere.
  • If you don’t enjoy doing something, don’t force yourself to do it just to fit in. Time is better spent doing the things you love.
  • Your college experience still counts if you don’t document the entire thing on social media. Every once in a while, put your phone down and live in the moment.
  • You are not a failure if it takes more than 4 years to graduate – take as long as you need.
  • Don’t let one bad grade tear you down. Your grades don’t define you.
  • Try new things! You may be surprised at what new hobbies or skills you develop by the time you graduate.
  • You may not know exactly what you want to do after college and that is totally okay! No matter where life takes you, remember that you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be.

You are certainly not alone if you feel like college isn’t what you expected it to be. Give yourself more credit for how far you’ve come – one day you will be grateful for this stage of your life, no matter how unconventional it may seem right now. You got this!

Share what you’ve learned throughout your college experience @HerCampusSJSU.

Hannah is a fourth-year student at San Jose State majoring in Public Relations with an emphasis in Journalism. Outside of class, she can be found reading cheesy romance novels, studying at local coffee shops, shopping at Target, or rewatching her favorite TV shows.