When thinking about college, the first thing most people typically think of is earning a degree along with the academics that come with it. As a senior graduating in less than two weeks, I wanted to acknowledge that not all lessons are taught in the classroom. Over the past four years that I have attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I have learned quite a bit during lectures and while studying for exams, but the lessons that impacted myself the most were outside of the walls of the academic buildings. Below are five lessons that I have learned in my time as a college student:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things

Great things rarely come from staying in your comfort zone. When you are placed in a new environment with new people all around you. You can technically argue that in that way you are already out of your comfort zone, but taking it one step beyond that and taking the initiative to get involved can allow you to meet new people and ultimately find your passion.

In my experience I have tried numerous ways to get involved. Not all of them worked out, but that’s okay since it has led me to where I am now. For instance, I was in a sorority for approximately 3 days. Although I ended up not committing to it long-term, it allowed me to experience something new, meet new people and get out of my comfort zone. Ultimately you need to find what works best for you and what you are passionate about.

During my final semester of college, I started taking cycling classes at my local gym. I was extremely excited, but also super nervous since it’s something I have never done before, and I have to admit that I am not the most athletic person so I was scared of making a fool out of myself. After the first class, I was officially hooked and have since started going multiple times a week because not only do I enjoy the physical benefits, I like that every class continues to challenge me and push me to work harder each and every workout.

While cycling may not be for everyone, there is something out there that is waiting for you to discover if you haven’t already found it that can help you grow and that you are passionate about.

  1. Always Ask Questions

One of my favorite pieces of advice is the quote “no question is a dumb question” because if you are genuinelly unsure about something, asking about it is the only way to get it resolved, no matter how simple or complex the question is. 

As someone who asks lots of questions, I can reassure you that it’s okay to ask for help and what you learn from the answer can help you in the moment, or your future self at a later time and can allow you to really accomplish whatever it is you need to do with the information you receive.

  1. If You Have Time, Get An Job

I have had four on-campus jobs during my four years at UW-Whitewater and two off-campus internships and I don’t regret a single one of them. Having a job, regardless of whether it’s on-campus or off, can help you keep your schedule structured and you can meet new people. It is true that working a job means less time to do other things, but making money by working puts you in a better position financially which in the long run lets you have more freedom with your money.

As a senior when I am interviewing for post-graduate jobs, the bulk of my interview answers stem from what I have learned from these positions rather than what I have learned in the classroom. Having experience, even if it’s not even close to what you’re majoring in, can still teach you valuable lessons that can make you stand out from the competition in the job market.

  1. Keep In Touch With Your Loved Ones Back Home

Whether you are 30 miles away from home or 3000, you can’t forget about your support system back home. Our days as college students are busy and there may not always be time to give your parents, siblings, grandparents, best friends, or anyone in between a long phone call. However, it is important to make time to reach out in one way or another whether it’s a short phone call on your commute back from school/work or as simply as answering their text messages when they do reach out. They understand that you’re busy, but they would love to hear from you.

A unique way I keep in touch with my mom is that I shared my location with her so even when I can’t reply to her message, she can at least see if I’m driving, at work, or even at Taco Bell. My mom is the type of parent that worries about my safety pretty frequently when I am out and about. Regardless of where I am, she can see that I am safe and can give her peace of mind in times where I truly can’t text her back.

  1. Things Won’t Always Go To Plan

If I can guarantee anything that would happen during your time at university, is that you will become more adaptable because things won’t always go the way you expect it to happen. You will be put in so many different situations that will challenge you in ways you never thought, but in the best way possible.

Even as a senior I am still learning this lesson. Upon graduation I expected to get a job and that the transition would be simple and seamless. With the job market altered due to the pandemic, it has been so much harder for me to accept a job. One major thing I learned throughout this process is that it is okay to get a job post-graduation and that you are on your own timeline. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that the right opportunities will come at the right time. During this process I also recently have decided to pursue my Masters degree, which is something that I never considered 6 months ago. It just goes to show that life is complicated, but that the outcomes that result from this are more to life than you ever imagined in the best ways possible.

Regardless of what happens throughout your time at university, the four years you spend here really flies by fast. Remember to stay in the moment. You are capable of amazing things and can really make your dreams into reality when you have the right tools to do so. Enjoy your 4 years, it’s sure to be a fun ride.