I was flying to Dallas to put on an event for my new job and I pulled out my Moleskine mid-flight. While I felt cliché writing the words, I forced myself to write the words “What I learned in 4 years of college:” on one of the pages. As I stared out the window as we soared above the clouds, I tried to look back over four years of college and boil down the most important lessons I learned so I could share with others who were about to enter college, are in my same shoes, or need to be reminded. I jotted down a list of 13 on the flight. In no way is the even close to an exhaustive list, but, as I look over them, they define some of the most important moments of my college experience. While it is all to easy to write endless posts about each statement, I do not want to get lost in the meticulous explanations of rationale that led me to think why I do. I want to offer just enough structure and guidance for you to find yourself in my experiences, in hopes that something I have learned may resonate with you and offer a new perspective to view this season of life. Enjoy.
- People will walk in and out of your life. [Read]
- Know who to hold onto and who to keep open-handed. [Read]
- Get involved in a local church. [Read]
- Live with people who will challenge you. [Read]
- You never know who will become a close friend. [Read]
- Take classes you enjoy, not just GPA boosters. [Read]
- Make new friends, but do not forget old ones. [Read]
- Keep family in the loop on a regular basis. [Read]
- Prioritize urgent, important, and fun. [Read]
- Serve somewhere [Read]
- Learn from someone older, inside and outside your field of study. [Read]
Have a general plan that is open to change.
I was an unique student in high school. I always felt like I was older than most people in my class even though I was on the younger side. I always thought about the future, what mine would look like and what it would take to get me there. I was always forward-thinking trying to understand the big picture. This lead me to develop plans to get me where I wanted to go. I knew the next step, what it would take to accomplish it, and where it would lead me. And, for the most part, I followed the plan I created. It led me to the college I wanted to go to in order to get the degree that I believed would set me up for success the best. At the end of my time in college, I look back at the longer period of time it took to get me where I am and I see how my plan served as a guiding principal. It shaped who I hung out with, what organizations I got involved in, and what classes I took. My plans were so closely tied to my dreams and passions that nothing I did was not filtered through my plan first. For most, this is not how they approach life, much less college. College is supposed to be place where you try everything once in order to find the path you are supposed to be on. I think this can be a mistake because you end up being mediocre at a lot of things and never excellent at anything. Having a plan in place does not restrict. Instead, it helps clarify. The problem comes when you start to micro-manage every little detail. You become manipulative of every situation in order to get it to turn out exactly like you want it to. Instead of your roadmap guiding you to your goals, it turns on autopilot without course-correction. Rather than plan out every little thing, have a general plan for your life–know what your dreams are, know what steps you have to take to get there, know the kinds of people who will help you get there, and know what to say “No” to when the opportunities arise. A general plan is like a map: you can see your destination and where you are, but there are 100 different paths to get there. Sometimes you might feel lost or see something as pointless, but, at the end of the journey, you will look back and see the importance of those moments to the bigger picture. You never know, the rabbit trails life takes us on often turn into new paths of adventure we never would have found otherwise. Always carry your map with you, but be open to change when it comes your way.