There are a lot of articles and blog posts out there with people sharing the top things they wish they would have known (or done differently) in college. I’ve written a little bit about that myself. However, I was reflecting the other day on all of the things I’m glad I did in college, and I think they are just as important to share with you.
College can be some of the best years of your life. It can also pass you by in the blink of an eye. I’m all about you bringing intention to everything you do. In college, that ranges from ensuring you have a good time, to setting yourself up well for the future. I brainstormed a bit and I’m breaking down my college experience into 11 things that I’m glad I did in college. Sure there are more than that, but these are the big hitters and 11 is my favorite number.
Some of the things I share in this post can be taken as practical advice, and others are more of a behind the scenes glimpse into what made my college experience unique. Maybe all of it will speak to you, maybe not. My goal is to leave you with at least one new insight that will help you to be more intentional throughout your college experience.
Here are 11 things that I’m glad I did in college…
I didn’t go home every chance I got.
Leaving my home state of Illinois was important to me when I was applying to schools. I’ve always had a little miss independent spirit, and I desired the opportunity to explore a new city and state. I also knew that I’d likely be a little homesick my freshman year. I didn’t want my hometown to be so close that I was tempted to drive home every weekend. Do yourself a favor and stick it out. Sure you may have to do more of your own laundry, but you’ll also be creating more space for lasting college memories and friendships.
I took my summers off from school.
To each their own, but I wanted a clean break from coursework over the summer. I also strategically planned my classes so that I could earn the necessary credits to graduate in four years or less without summer school. Yes, this meant I had some pretty packed quarters (Ohio State was on the quarter system when I was a student), but it was worth it in order to have my summers free for pursuing other things. Plan ahead as you schedule your classes so that you can keep your options open come summertime.
I got internship experience early and often.
Speaking of having my summers free to pursue other things, you had to know I was going to work internships into this list somehow. Internships were a summer staple for me, starting the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. All of my internships were unpaid, so I squeezed in a part-time job when I could as well. I didn’t care how busy I was, because I was learning in a hands-on way. I gained invaluable experience, and built important relationships, through each of my summer internships. Want to get a head start on internships, but not sure where to start? Watch this and this.
I got rejected (and learned how to deal with it).
In college, I was rejected from five internships after I had already accumulated some pretty outstanding internship experience. Those rejections were hard pills for me to swallow. I thought I was a top candidate with all of the previous experience I had on my resume. But not only did I learn how to handle that rejection, I learned the important lesson that sometimes when the doors to what you think you want are closed, an even better door opens down the road. I’ve said it before, but it is worth reminding you again — If you are putting yourself out there and applying for internship opportunities, you are going to experience rejection. It’s just part of the game. The earlier you learn how to let yourself feel it for a moment, learn from it, and move on, the better off you’ll be.
I didn’t drink until I was 21.
Yep, you read that right. Not one sip of alcohol until my 21st birthday. In fact, the photo I included with this blog post is me taking one of my very first shots on my 21st birthday. The “shots, shots, shots!” fad fades, by the way – believe me! So why didn’t I drink until 21? It was a personal choice. I wanted to be in control of my actions, and I also didn’t want to jeopardize my involvement with Ohio State Athletics (yep, cheerleaders get woken up at 5am for random drug tests too). I don’t for one second regret being sober for the majority of my college years. I remember all the crazy nights with that much more hilarious detail, and I was the best designated driver around for all of my friends. My pickup truck (that I affectionately refer to as Blue Steel) was a fan favorite. You don’t need to booze your way through college. It’s usually all bad booze at that stage of your life anyways. Take it from me and hold out for the good stuff!
I danced on my fair share of bars.
Hey, just because I didn’t drink until I was 21, doesn’t mean I wasn’t having a good time. I’m dating myself here, but Apple Bottom Jeans is one of the songs I recall being a repeat offender. It was a good exercise in self-confidence and getting over what other people think of you. All I remember is having a blast with a handful of my girlfriends, just about every weekend. No shame in my dance game. There aren’t many opportunities to dance on bars after college, so dance it up my friends! PSA: iPhones didn’t exist when I was in college — They do now. Have fun, but make smart choices.
I signed up for morning classes.
I know, quite the life choice after late night dancing on the bar, but remember I didn’t have hangovers to worry about. I was not (and am still not) a morning person. It does feel a bit unusual listing morning classes as something I’m glad I did in college, but hear me out. Waking up and getting your day started (and in some cases completed) before most people is super gratifying. You approach the rest of your day with a sense of accomplishment that pushes you forward. The morning hours are hours that you won’t get back if you sleep your way through them. Just think about what you could be using that extra time in your day to accomplish…internship applications, perhaps?
I got involved on campus.
I was a cheerleader all four of my years at Ohio State, so there was no lack of involvement with both university and community activities. Not only did I have an automatic family in my teammates, but I was a part of the athletic department and the larger Ohio State Athletics family as well. I experienced other cities and campuses when we traveled for games and tournaments, I represented Ohio State at community functions all over the state of Ohio, and I met all sorts of interesting people along the way. I was forced into mastering my time management, and I was pushed outside of my comfort zone on multiple occasions. My only regret is that I didn’t expand my involvement into a wider variety of clubs and organizations. If you’re looking to really maximize your college experience, I encourage you to get involved!
I built up my costume collection.
Raise your hand if you like a good theme party! I’m always on board, and my college years did not disappoint. The wrestling team had their annual 80’s party, the hockey team had their annual costume party, and I rocked the different life stages of Britney Spears with a couple girlfriends for Halloween my junior year. Little did I know how much these costumes would come in handy in the years post-college. San Francisco is a theme party loving city if I’ve ever seen one, and I spent my first 10 years out of college recycling and adding to my beloved costume collection. Just remember, life is more fun in a costume every now and then!
I worked as a property manager.
After the dorms my freshman year, I spent three years managing the off-campus house I lived in. While the day-to-day job is nothing to write home about, I gained so many important life skills in my time as a property manager. You know, the things they don’t teach you in school. Like the financial responsibility of collecting rent and utilities and ensuring it all gets paid on time, the logistical maneuvers and negotiations required to work with contractors when your heat goes out in the middle of winter (and finals week), and how to manage roommate drama and lifestyle choices. I want to own an investment property of my own someday, and this experience was a great training ground.
I worked out, consistently.
Now I can’t take all the credit here, because I didn’t really have a choice. As an athlete at Ohio State, I was required to workout with the strength and conditioning coaches a few days each week. Sure, I grew up a gymnast and had a solid athletic foundation, but it’s not like I was going to be flipping around for the rest of my life in order to stay in shape. Learning proper weightlifting technique, and the discipline required to show up for workouts on a consistent basis, was a big win for me coming out of college. Did I like running the timed mile once a quarter? Heck no! But the training I did in college gave me the tools to take care of myself and maintain my physical health. You only get one body, and showing up for yourself consistently can make all the difference in how you experience this life.
I’m proud to call all of these college experiences my own. However, please don’t feel like you are behind, or doing anything wrong, if they don’t happen to match your college experiences or timeline. My hope in sharing this glimpse into my college years is that you gain a new insight or two, and then use those insights to enhance your own path. I’d love to hear from you — What is something that you’re glad you’ve done so far in college and why? Let me know in the comments below!