6 Life Lessons I Took Away From College

On May 19, my worst nightmare came true when I crossed the stage at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, shook hands with Fr. Brian Shanley, O.P., and was given a degree from Providence College. Looking back on the past four years, here are six lessons that I’ve learned — both in and out of the classroom. 

1. Do Not Be Afraid Of the Unknown

My freshman year, I lived in a triple in a really cool dorm. One of my roommates was amazing. The other … not so much. I was miserable, and tried my hardest to move. There were no other rooms available in my original dorm, and I was afraid of moving to a different dorm where I didn’t really know anyone. Eventually, I decided enough was enough, and another girl in a different dorm agreed to let me move in to her room. Long story short: while we weren’t best friends, I was far happier than I ever was in my original dorm and I met a great group of girls that I quickly bonded with. I only wish I had moved sooner.

2. Cold Water Removes (Most) Stains

I only had a rudimentary knowledge of laundry when I entered college, and my general technique involved throwing my clothes all together and pressing the “woolens” button — gentle cycle with cold water. One night, a rogue glass of fruit punch landed on my white dress, and I was in a panic. After a frantic Google search, I submerged the dress in cold water before the stain dried, applied spray n’ wash liberally, and stuck it in the washing machine with a quick prayer. It worked! As lame as it sounds, this was the first time I felt like a “grown up” in college. 

3. It's Probably Not Too Late to Join Something

I was intrigued by my school’s newspaper since the first time I picked up an issue, but I was too shy to actually apply until the middle of my sophomore year, when my roommate (who was on the editorial board) told me there was a desperate need for writers. I applied, nervously, and to my utter delight I was invited to join the news staff. I quickly made a name for myself on the paper, I was promoted to assistant editor of the section within two months, and I spent my senior year as news editor. I made some of my closest friends through the school paper — and I never would have met them if I were too timid to apply. 

4. Failure Can Be Embraced

My freshman year, I was a member of the cheerleading team, but I didn’t make the team for sophomore year. I was destroyed. I couldn’t imagine life without my teammates and pompons. I went home that summer more motivated than ever, got into shape, and worked out like nobody’s business. While I eventually decided against re-trying out, I was happier, healthier, and free to embrace my real passions (like the school newspaper!). 

5. Ph.Ds Are Not (Always) Scary

For the first few years of college, I was terribly intimidated by my professors. Eventually, I realized that they are, for the most part, friendly normal people who just happened to be hyper-focused in an obscure research area. I was silly to let myself be intimidated by a few letters after a person’s name. 

6. Your Happiness is Paramount

College is an expensive investment, and there’s no reason why a person should tolerate being miserable for four years. Do what makes you happy (provided it’s not illegal or dangerous). It’s your education, not anyone else’s. I had many friends who sloughed through a semester (or even a year) as a biology major because they felt as though they had to. Newsflash: you don’t. Granted, the pros and cons of this kind of decision must be weighed, but there’s no point in being stressed out constantly.  The same goes for any other kind of club or association — if you do not like it, you do not have to stick around. You’re only 22 once — don’t let it go to waste being unhappy.