10 Lessons I Learned in College (The Hard Way)

Recently my post 5 Things I Regret NOT Doing in College has gotten a lot of traffic which has been given me some serious flashbacks to my college days. I remember how scared I was on the first day of college, just a little freshman who didn't have a clue what the next 4 years were going to have in store. Boy, do I wish I could time travel back in time or write her a letter. If you're a college gal, this post is definitely for you. Here are 10 Lessons I Learned in College (The Hard Way).

Your BF of 6 Months Isn’t the One

My dating life in college was flawed, to say the least. My freshman year consisted mostly of an emotionally abusive relationship carried over from high school and until my junior year, it wasn’t a priority. My junior year, I reconnected with a friend from high school and, much to everyone’s surprise, we began dating. We got along well but didn’t have much in common and, in all honesty, I think we were just dating because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You’re supposed to find your future wife/husband/whatever in college, at least according to society. I was headed into my final year of undergrad and he was the best option. But after 6 months of dating, the abrupt death of my grandmother, and a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, I quickly realized the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. But I was in denial. Yes, my denial about our relationship was as big as the actual river, The Nile. Why end something that was going so well? We didn’t have any real problems and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.

The funniest part about this whole thing is that he broke up with me. He was able to see what I was afraid to admit. That we weren’t it for each other. (And good thing, too!). I remember how shocked my friends were post-break-up at how well I was handling it. I knew he wasn’t the one, probably from the beginning of the relationship. We never once talked about the future, getting married, etc. Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and energy into a relationship that was a closed door even before it started. (Not that I would have met JP any sooner).  What I’m saying is, if you don’t see it going anywhere, end it. Don’t stay in the river of denial (I can’t help it with the puns today) like I did. You can use that energy for so much more! Like building lasting friendships with your girl squad, focusing on classes, or joining clubs (that’s another thing I wish I had done).

You Aren’t Impervious to Alcohol

I think that if I could tell past me anything it would be to not drink or party so much. I mean, I wouldn’t say that I was a party girl but I did love a good party. And there was that blur that was sophomore year when depression and self-doubt had me looking for any excuse to drink. Without going into too much detail, getting wasted will make you do and say things that you will regret in the morning. More than that, throwing up in your best friend’s Vera Bradley bag will not be your best moment in life. (Whether or not the drinks at that party were drugged is still TBD but anyways)... Alcohol was probably the root of my problem in college or rather, my lack of self-control. You aren’t going to regret not getting drunk. My point is, don’t let society turn you into something you’re not, or worse, something you think you should be.

Not Everyone You Meet at a Party is Your Friend

When you go to parties, you meet a lot of people. Drunk people, especially girls when you’re in the bathroom, can be some of the nicest people. But they aren’t all your friends. You should probably avoid telling them your entire life story and you should definitely avoid telling them things you haven’t or wouldn’t even tell your closest friends. I’m not saying you can’t trust the people you meet at parties, because you can make some really great friends that way. You just don’t need to be best friends with them in less than an hour. We all want to be popular and to have people like us but in my experience, opening up to everyone isn’t the way to go.

I’m not saying you should only stick with your group or that you should ignore everyone and be on your phone all night (no one likes that person anyway). What I’m saying is to choose who you open up to carefully. I mean, maybe the person you’re spilling your guts to won’t remember who you are or what you said in the morning, but I that’s not a chance I would take willingly (now, anyway). Also, you don’t have to add everyone you meet on Facebook. My advice: Don’t.

You May Have Picked the Wrong Major… Twice

I am one of those people who had no idea what they wanted to do when they graduated high school. Confession time: I still really don’t, but still. Anyways, I started out as a pre-psychology major. My math scores weren’t high enough to actually get me into the major. After one semester, I quickly realized that while I enjoyed my psychology classes, I was never going to be able to keep up with the course load of being a psychology major. I decided a better fit for me would be journalism but after a year and a half, I realized I wasn’t learning anything. You don’t need a degree to be a journalist and I had already been published in high school and college. The second semester of junior year and knowing full well it might delay graduating, I changed my major… again. I had the most amazing Shakespeare professor that semester who really showed me how much I loved literature and how good I was at it. I switched to an English degree and miraculously graduated on time.

You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do the minute you become a college freshman. The reason you take a bunch of random classes during your first year of college is to broaden your horizons and open yourself to new interests and ideas. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t know what you want to major in or if you end up changing it once, twice, even three times! The most important thing is that you love what you’re doing while you’re in college.

You Don’t Have to Keep Toxic People Around

In high school, we’re constantly under pressure to make people like us, to please them, and to basically do whatever we can to get through without people talking or judging us. This pressure may force us to keep toxic people in our lives for longer than we really need to. When I went to college, even though I was only 30 minutes away from my high school, I got the first wake up call that it was really okay to end my emotionally abusive relationship (the one I ran back to because everyone said we were meant to be). College is a time to open yourself up to new relationships. Branch out from that high school group if you went to a local college (if you went away then you’re already starting over). Take time to reflect on the sort of people you want to surround yourself with. If they’re only going to bring you down in the long run, it’s probably time to cut the ties. Essentially breaking toxic relationships isn’t easy, there may be a lot of memories attached, but you have to remember to do what’s best for you and your mental health. Self-love, Y'all.

Your Refund Check Really Isn’t a Refund

Ugh. How many of us have heard our parents say this at least once? Raise your hand if you’re now kicking yourself for not listening. While there were times I did need some or all of my refund check (the amount you get back from student loans after tuition) the times that I needed the full amount that I actually received are few and far between. One day, (after grad school) I’ll be paying for that decision. I nearly doubled the amount of student loan debt I have by simply taking out too much money. My advice? If you don’t need it, only take what you need for tuition and books. You may not have the money to spend on a brand new wardrobe like all of your other girlfriends, but you won’t be up to your eyeballs in debt when you graduate either. Be smart about it.

Your Roommates Can Be Your Best Friend or Worst Nightmare

I have heard horror stories about roommates, so I have to admit that I got off pretty easy. Out of all of my six roommates over the course of my undergraduate career, only two of them were god awful. I lived with both completely random roommates and a mixture so I can tell you that just because the stories you hear about one or the other are true for them, doesn’t mean they’ll be true for you. Some of the best memories I have from college I share with my random roommates my sophomore year. And then there’s, of course, Brittany (she’s the one who’s purse I threw up in) who saved me countless times from myself (and from our terror of a random roommate). Just be realistic about the situation you are in. You share a house/apartment with these people, so always always always be courteous.

You Should Probably Actually Pay Attention in Class

The vast majority of you, unless you’re lucky enough, are probably paying for college. Remember that the next time you go to a lecture hall and spend the next hour and a half on Pinterest instead of taking notes. My grades probably would have been a heck of a lot more stellar had I just taken the time to unplug myself and pay attention in class. You get what you pay for so you might as well put 100% of your effort into classes. You’ll probably be paying for them for at least ten years so you might as well get something out of it in return (anyone want to talk about regional dialect?).

You Don’t Need to Give Your Number to Every Guy that Asks

Oh. My. God. There needs to be an app that stops you from giving out your number to people in a bar on a Saturday night. Why is it that when you give a drunk guy your phone number he calls you one hundred times but the one person you want to call you never does? (Except JP, because he’s the best). Seriously, ladies (and fellas) if you’re considering giving a guy your phone number for a shot, save yourself the trouble and don’t. Chances are that shot isn’t worth it (and that guy won’t look as good sober). When in doubt, always check with your girlfriends before dishing out your digits. I mean, we already have the club dancing circle pact (Y'all know what I’m talking about) can we please make an effort to do the same for phone numbers?

It’s Over Before You Know It

It may not seem like it now, but in the blink of an eye you will be walking across that stage and entering the adult world (for real this time). I would be lying to you if I told you that it didn’t all change after you graduate college. It really does (but don’t worry, that’s why you have me)! The reason this is listed as a lesson I learned the hard way is because there is so much more I wish I would have done in college. Sure, I made a lot of memories and some really great friends. But I didn’t join any clubs, didn’t work a summer internship, all of the rad things I see people doing now and wish I would have done. Remember that you’re paying for this experience (most likely) to get the most you can out of it! Literally, squeeze it for all that it’s worth and cherish every moment. If you get nothing else out of this post please take that last line to heart.


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10 Lessons I Learned in College (The Hard Way)
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