I’ll never forget my first day of college. I moved in feeling like I ruled the world. That lasted for about two hours. I missed my mom and got lost five times looking for my classes. After a couple of years, I started to get the hang of things (I still miss my mom sometimes) and learned a lot about myself along the way. During my four years of school, I met a lot of great people, spent lots of time studying, ate a lot of ramen–but made five very important discoveries.
To my young (and sometimes confused) freshman self, here are five discoveries you’ll make at college:
1. College is not all about “fun”
Don’t get me wrong–college will be an exciting, fun, and memorable time in your life. You will be constantly surrounded by your friends, exploring what it means to be an adult (we call it “adulting” now), and trying out new things. But this “fun” needs some limits. While college should be an enjoyable season of life, it is also one of the most important times for you to prepare for a career.
College is the perfect atmosphere for you to find connections and discover career opportunities. Try to engage in career building; find an internship and start looking into the job market. Your future internship will be one of the most valuable pieces of your college career. You will develop new skills and learn more about yourself in the process. While college will be fun and exciting, those four years will fly by quickly and you’ll want to feel (somewhat) prepared for the “real-world” when you’re handed a diploma.
2. By graduation, you don’t need to have a significant other
Females hear a lot about the “Mrs. degree”–don’t buy into it. The longer you’re single in college, the more the question will pop up: “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” If your family doesn’t pressure you to find a significant other by graduation, society might. Let’s face it: you’re going to have a hard enough time keeping a goldfish alive during the semester, let alone supporting a husband. College will be a time of learning about you. What do you like? What are your strengths? What are you goals? The next time Grandma calls and sounds disappointed that you’re still single, don’t sweat it. Figure out you first, then worry about figuring out someone else.
3. You have time
You’re going to be stressed. At one point, you will juggle multiple jobs plus 18 credits, extracurricular activities, family, friends, and homework. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. But even with all of those time-consuming responsibilities, try to avoid the phrase “I don’t have time.” You won’t have time for everything. You will miss out on an occasional night with friends or lose a few hours of sleep. One of the most vital lessons you will learn is balance.
Soon, you will learn about the “college triangle.” It looks something like this:
For college students, the joke is you can only pick two. The remaining one will end in failure. In actuality, it doesn’t need to be this way. You will often lack the ability to balance. You’ll put all your effort into one thing or another, and everything else will be forgotten. Learning to balance will allow you to find time for more things (exercising, going to church, exploring local jobs), even if it meant a little less time for things you usually do (Netflix). In the end, it’s not really about time management as much as it is about “life” management.
4. You’re cooler than how your Instagram looks
This one sounds a little strange, but unfortunately, many other college students–and young adults in general–will try and convince you to focus on your social media accounts. As a Millennial, it will be frustrating to be negatively associated with that age group. People won’t understand you. Maybe you won’t understand yourself. Sometimes, you will live up to the stereotypes. You will feel inclined to post about what you do, where you go, and even what you eat for our friends or strangers to see. Sometimes you’ll want them to be impressed, envious, or surprised. After a couple years of constantly worrying how others perceive your life, you’ll realize it doesn’t matter. You’ll realize that however your life looks on Instagram in pictures doesn’t make your real life any better or worse.
Post because it’s fun. Post to be creative. Post to be professional. But don’t miss out on the worthwhile moments while you’re in school because you were stuck behind a screen.
5. A 4.0 won’t get you a job
To clear up any misconceptions here, I’m not discouraging hard work or straight A’s in school. Achieving good grades while in college displays a strong work ethic and dedication. Strive for the best GPA you can, but college is more than A’s and B’s. The most valuable take-away from your time in college will be the experience.
The thing is, when you walk into your first “real” interview, sweating and shaking, the interviewer isn’t going to look you in the eye and ask, “Why did you get a C in Biology?” They will ask you about your previous work, your strengths and weaknesses, and your experience. If you can’t answer these questions, you probably won’t get the job. You and I will be stuck in Mom’s basement forever. So while in you’re in college, work hard–but more importantly, experience as much as you can. Good grades help, but they can’t get you as far as an internship, job-shadow, networking, or great professional reference.
Above all, be you and don’t be afraid. These next four years will be your best yet. Good luck!