Lessons From 7 Years of College

Library with statues

Most folks assume college will take 4 years. It is what we all hear and plan for and just the way the world works, after all. Even if you take a little extra time then you only spend 5 years in college. So obviously since I spent 7 years I must have found the path to knowledge, right? Learned everything I could ever need. Let me share with you some of my most valuable lessons from 7 years in college.

Table of Contents

College is not a 4-year deadline.

Do not assume that college will end in 4 years. Do not operate off the delusion that you will finish in that time or that you must finish in that time. It is not unusual anymore for students to take 5 or 6 years to finish an undergraduate degree. Do not overwork yourself to stick to a deadline imposed on you by no one. 

 

Save money in high school. 

If you manage to get a job in high school, save that cash. It will end up saving you once you get to college. Knowing that you have a little socked away in case you need something will help ease the tension in case you absolutely have to skip work to study or you aced that test and deserve a night out.

 

Classes matter less than office hours

This is especially true if you are at a big state-run university. Classes are often 300-500 people. The teacher doesn’t know who is there and doesn’t have time to help kids individually. But they are all required to have office hours. Please for all that is good, go to office hours. Meet the professor face to face, get individual help, and be friendly. This alone will save you hundreds of hours of headaches trying to figure things out on your own when you essentially have the teacher willing to tutor you privately. Almost no one goes to office hours. Stand out. Go. All the time. Seriously.

You don’t have to have THE Plan before you go but have A Plan

No one is going to have everything figured out. Heck, I still have almost nothing figured out and I took the long way through college and have been out a bit now. Still, college is an expensive place to figure stuff out. So try your best to at least go in with a compass direction even if you don’t have a map yet. What I mean by that is, actually consider if you know what you want to study. Have you tried it, do you enjoy it? If not, it might be a better idea to learn the answers to those questions somewhere cheaper than college. 

Do not switch colleges

Do not switch colleges. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule but for the most part, I think this rule stands. Do not switch colleges. It simply puts you further behind and further in debt. Be conscious of your decisions going in and try and stay at the same place until you graduate. It will greatly streamline your journey to getting that diploma. 

Do your own research

Most college advisors are overworked, underpaid, and undertrained. They handle sometimes hundreds of students a day and often are not trained on how to help you get your courses and do things inside of the college system. While they are a great resource and you absolutely should consult with them regularly do not skimp out on doing your own research. Look for ways to make previous courses count twice or ways to make a class you want to take fit into the curriculum for your major. You would be surprised by how often you can get things subbed in just by doing the research and asking the right people the right questions. 

Use the perks

Almost all colleges have perks for their students. Use them. You can get student discounts, free software, access to early bird pricing for local events, and lots of other stuff. Colleges will also have places to help you write your resume, learn how to handle interview questions, or even give you free professional headshots for your LinkedIn profile. Be constantly on the lookout for the freebies and take advantage of them. 

The freshman 15 is real

Sorry guys. The legend of the Freshman 15 is real. If you played sports in high school but aren’t a college athlete be very aware of how you are eating once you hit campus. You won’t be burning near the calories you are used to so don’t go crazy with your first taste of freedom. Eating a whole tub of raw cookie dough for dinner while fun isn’t good. The good news is being conscious of your choices is about all it takes to limit this to the smallest of issues. Make sure you walk everywhere when possible. Don’t eat pizza every night. Understand that alcohol has calories. Eat a salad once in a while. 

C’s absolutely can get degrees

I am not saying this as an excuse to slack off. You should always do your best. But do it smartly. Sometimes getting an A in Geology is not the best use of your time, and that is ok. Decide where your priorities should be and focus on them. Letting your grades slip in one class so you can pass another to ultimately graduate is not a bad trade-off. Just be conscious of your decisions and know what you are giving up.

The degree will let them hire, it won’t make them hire you. 

You better start job hunting a year or two before that degree is in your hand. You need to have a network and job experience you can lean on and if you don’t then you did college wrong. That degree is just a foot in the door. Everything else comes back to the relationships you made, the skills you learned, and what you actually built while you were in college. You want something to show when you get out of college more than just a piece of paper. 



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