15 College Lessons (A Cheat Sheet to Surviving College)

When we speak of college lessons, we generally hear our friends talking about “how shitfaced” they got that one night, or how many times they got away with skipping class. But, I think it’s time that we abandoned that narrative.

I know it’s cool in a societal sense, but it gives our high schoolers the wrong idea about what college is like and what it is truly there for. With student debt on the rise and a lack of second chances being doled out these days, it's more important now than ever to make sure these kids don't spend their parents' hard earned money (or loans/financial aid) on a superficial experience. For anyone who has student loans, know that there are options out there, like refinancing them, that won't drain your bank account.

My experience had elements of fun, for sure, but college was HARD WORK. It wasn’t a walk in the park! I attended the liberal arts college, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. You know, the place where the creator of “The Simpsons” and rapper Macklemore went. I loved my school.

At Evergreen, there are zero required classes. Yes, that means no calculus, no English and no social studies. Students craft their own education around their career path and there’s a strong emphasis on internships and study abroad, in order to prepare students for the real world. Did I also mention there’s no grades? ;)

Throughout my 4 years at Evergreen, I learned the most important college lessons that I hope to help new college kids by sharing today!

IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE COOL

Touching on the first point of this post, you don’t need to smoke weed or drink a lot to “be cool”, and if that is in fact what grants you cool status at your school, it’s okay to NOT be cool! Peer pressure is a real bitch and I wish college students didn’t have to endure it. You’ve got enough to worry about already!

IT’S FUN TO EXPERIMENT

On the flip side, if you are willing and open to experimenting with substances or new activities that you haven’t already tried out, it’s only human nature to experiment in college and it can be super fun if you’re in safe environments with people whom you trust / care for.

YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANNA DO

It’s just fact. Okay, so maybe a select few people *truly know what they want to do* with their life, but the majority don’t and won’t until after they finish school. I figured it out three years into my four year run. I went in with a psychology emphasis and came out with a love for digital marketing. At least the studies I embarked on within social psychology help out my marketing A LOT!

FALL IN LOVE + LET IT BREAK YOU

My romantic relationships were the biggest blessing in college, other than the important knowledge I gained in my classes. Relationships can teach you so much about yourself and are great to have during college. Some would argue differently, but I truly believe that journeying through life with a partner is just the right fit for myself personally! They help us learn what we want in life and our partner.

PROFESSORS ARE THE MOST DRAMATIC

I’m not kidding. Although most are overwhelmingly positive experiences, I’ve had the most awful experiences with professors! All I have to say is that the drama I endured in my friendships is so different from the drama I encountered with professors. Expect to have to stay on your toes to avoid messing up credits or losing them due to unrealistic expectations of “sick days”, even if you're a 4.0 GPA.

PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THE LIFE LESSONS

While of course the intellectual knowledge you will gain at college is paramount, trust me: it's potentially more important to pay attention to the life lessons you will learn along the way. I am very passionate about life lessons and have been since I was a youngin'.

Accepting that you won't know exactly what career you want right away, accepting that it takes a while for the right close friend to come along (and romantic partner) and accepting that life throws you curveballs when you're least expecting it are the more important lessons.

GO AHEAD + GAIN YOUR FRESHMAN 15

... And your senior 30. During school, it's nearly impossible to watch what you eat unless you have the money to go to salad bars every night (which you might if you're in Los Angeles - I highly recommend sweetgreen). Don't body-shame yourself or others. Being fat is just as gorgeous as being skinny! Trust me when I say, it's way more than a "freshman 15".

PUSH YOURSELF PAST YOUR BOUNDARIES

Go on adventures that you typically wouldn't try. Go rock climbing, take a road trip with friends to an unknown destination, go on a date with someone you met on Tinder (or Plenty of Fish/OKCupid - my personal preference!). Push yourself and you'll be pleased.

TAKE A CLASS THAT'S NOT YOUR 1ST PICK

At Evergreen, we registered for classes online and it was first come, first serve with extra spots saved for senior level students. On registration day during spring quarter of my freshman year, I tried my first pick class, then my second with no luck. I quickly rummaged through the catalog to find something that sounded remotely satisfying. It turned out to be one of my favorite classes of my entire college career. Don't fret - it may turn out great!

CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY

Keeping in mind the peer pressure issue, choosing your friends wisely is so, so important to avoid these awful situations. I'll admit: up until about my senior year, I chose friends that were convenient because we got along okay. With the exception of Jillian and Heather, my two girlfriends who I'm still good friends with to this day. Shoutout to you ladies!

Had I known that most all of my college friends wouldn't be friends after college, I would've avoided many situations that weren't so enjoyable. 

GIVE BACK!

Throughout college (and high school), I served on a nonprofit Board of Directors for an LGBTQ support, education and advocacy organization. Pick something that warms your heart and get involved to give back. Volunteering your time to a worthy cause looks great on a resume and feels all warm + fuzzy :)

IT'S OKAY TO TALK TO SOMEONE

"Talk to someone" in the sense of therapy. I mean it. Talking to somebody about your struggles and your past will only make you a better person in your future. I've always dealt with severe anxiety challenges, so therapy was a great outlet for me. However, I truly believe that therapy should be the one item that is mandatory for citizens' health, regardless of a disorder or diagnosis. It's just good to get that stuff out!

START A BLOG

Having an outlet or a means of expressing yourself aside from a therapist is also key. I loved starting a blog because it gave me initiative, taught me motivation and consistency and was a platform where I could document my life's journey somewhat like a diary. Starting a blog may be your expression of choice, or you can paint, journal, etc.

HAVE A COUPLE INTERNSHIPS

Trust me: you won't regret it. I was incredibly nervous when I started searching for internships, but by the second quarter of my first internship, I was so ready for the next! It's almost addicting. I'm a big believer in lifelong learning, in addition to real life learning. I took any chance I could get at applying my new found knowledge to the real world. This is how I dipped my toes in the world of marketing and never looked back!

Ask a mentor or professor of yours to help you get started. Usually, you can find information about internship opportunities through your school's career development center.

YOU GOTTA MOVE ON

This 15th lesson comes from my best friend Emily. Let go of things you can't control and have already happened. It's just the cycle of life! She says, "Moving on from different friendships or romantic relationships, people in general, a bad grade, incidents with classmates or a teacher," is necessary. "Remember these experiences for what they've taught you, but don't get stuck in the past. Look towards the future. Use these as a lesson to improve yourself."

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*I am thrilled to collaborate with Earnest to create this post at their topic request and am more than happy to share more of my college knowledge! Hey, that rhymes :)

 

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BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN

Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating from The Evergreen State College (Washington) in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to all of life's problems + that all women should strive to embrace a #girlboss mantra.