What I Learned In College


With my sister on the home stretch of her senior year in high school, the family is already starting to switch attire from sweatshirts with our hometown and the local high school mascot to that of her University of choice (she chose the rival to my college – I think that’s what every sister-combo I know does).  As she finishes off the last high school exams and sporting events and dances and parties in someone’s basement, I’ve been reflecting on all the things she’s about to learn in her college days.  Her best days.  The best years of her life.  When I think back to my college days, here’s a few big hitters of things that I learned before I was sent out into the world with a resume and an empty checking account.

How to parallel park – I don’t know if it was just my school or the fact that the campus had the largest hills in Ohio or that the roads were narrow and filled with historic bricks or that the nearest parking lot was a billion miles away, but buckle up girlfriend, you’re about to master the art of parallel parking on a hill in public smack dab in the middle of the version of your college’s main street.  You have no other choice.  Hit the curb.  Drive away.  Come back.  Try again.

Love and break ups – College is where you love hard and break up harder.  There’s lots of dates and lots of tears and all of it prepares you for the real world.

How to make a dollar stretch – I made $90 every two weeks in college and I was pretty sure I was rich.  You learn to stretch that dollar like it’s never been stretched before.  I don’t even really know how.  You just become more knowledgeable on which nights the coffee shop serves free pizza, you become very aware of how much a coffee actually costs at a coffee shop, and you look for the days when your Grandma sends you a $20 bill just because she thought you might need it.  You’re always broke but somehow you never really feel like it.

Other majors – I declared my major (psychology) before I stepped foot on campus, and I am probably one of few that graduated as that same major.  But every single winter break was filled with me trying to sell my parents on another major I was thinking about.  I had no clue so many majors even existed until I was there living in the dorms with people who majored in things that I didn’t even know were an option.  I thought you went to college and you became a doctor, nurse, teacher…you know, the normal stuff.  For those heading to college, just know that you’ll have a quarter (I guess the ol’ campuses are on semesters now) where you think you’re going to be a photojournalist, or you’re going to major in outdoor recreation, or you’re going to become a sociology professor.  Don’t marry yourself to one thing, it’ll change constantly.

Spanish – If you major in the social sciences, you’ll unexpectedly find out that you have to put two years in learning a language.  Or relearning a language you were supposed to learn in high school.  I could make my way through a trip to Mexico (well, not really, but there was a day I could) because I didn’t realize Spanish was going to be so much a part of my education.

Underground music – College is where you learn about “underground music.”  You’ll only like it during the college years, but it’s there, waiting for your campus arrival.  You’ll probably buy a couple posters for your dorm or shirts that you’ll later burn.  Most of that music will represent ex-boyfriends and staying up too late when you get into your real adult years.

Morning person or night owl – College is where you’ll learn if you’re a morning person or a night owl.  Are you an 8 a.m. class person or a wait until 11 p.m. to start a final paper that is due tomorrow person?  I have a theory that if you went to A.M. kindergarten you are a morning person, and if you went to P.M. kindergarten you are a night owl.  This isn’t fact-based, but I stand behind it.

Family first – I remember towards the end of college when I was home for a weekend my mom was giving me the “your family is the only one there for you in the end” speech.  She was right.  You move away to college and you become family with your new friends, you live together, you visit each other’s hometowns, you end up in each other’s weddings someday, and you do keep a few around as life friends….but, at the end of the day, your family are the main ones there for you.  They were there before you went to college, and even though you’re older and think you’re smarter than everyone now and have seen a world you think they’ve never seen and you’ve become too good for your hometown, they’re the ones there for you when you get back.  Treat ’em right!

For those headed down college lane next year, your list may look different than mine, but know that the next four years will be the best four years.