Happy belated move-in weekend, Elon! I can’t believe it’s been six (SIX) years since I stepped foot on my alma mater’s campus for my first day of school. If you would have told me on that day where I would be now, I never would have believed you. While I’m perfectly content being in the real world, I do think back from time-to-time on what it would be like to do school all over again. What would I do differently? The same? Everything happens for a reason, so I would never change anything about my experience, but I can impart some wisdom on the new kids on the block. Whether you’ve been in school for a couple of weeks, aren’t returning at all (hello adult life!), or just started back, this post is for you. All the lessons I learned that helped me be a better student also helped me a better person. Let’s get started.
1. Understand your priorities.
Rule number one: Everyone has different priorities. We are not put on this Earth to judge people for their priorities, but to figure out our own. In college, some people will care more about going to parties than going to class, and some people will care more about going to class than going to parties — the sooner you accept this, the better. Whichever version of this situation you are, that’s great! Truly — live your best life. But, when you’ve partied too much, don’t get upset when you fail a test. And if you stayed in to study, don’t get mad that you’re left out of one of the inside jokes. You picked where you wanted to spend your time, and you have to deal with whatever consequences those may be.
2. Strive for balance, not perfection.
We’ve all seen the meme about only picking two things and having a slew of options. You can’t always do everything perfectly, but you can do a lot of things really well. This comes back to prioritizing, too. Pick what’s important to you to do well, and then figure out where the rest can fit in. Maybe you do really well in your two upper-level classes, so your fun pottery class suffers a bit. Maybe you choose to stay in one night and get some sleep instead of going out for the third night in a row. Balance. Not perfection. Make it your mantra. I’m still learning this one, so I’ll keep it in the back of my mind as well.
3. Figure out what matters.
I knew early on in my senior year of college that I wouldn’t be going to grad school immediately after undergrad, so guess what didn’t matter to me as much? Getting straight A’s. Believe it or not, no one really cares about your GPA or test scores in the real world. If you’re continuing your education (law school, becoming a doctor, etc), grades can matter, but for me, they didn’t. I ended up prioritizing extra-curricular involvement and my part-time job over getting straight A’s, and I’m doing just fine. Don’t get me wrong, I still did really well in school and graduated with honors, but I didn’t cry over a B like I would have in high school. If you’re the opposite and you need to get a great GPA, figure out what you can “let slip” to achieve your ultimate goals.
4. Get involved.
Find a club, volunteer opportunity, or community activities to get involved in. The more plugged in to the community you’re a part of, the better you will feel. Despite being an introvert, feeling connected to people is one of my top priorities. Some would say I was overly involved while in college (it was the Elon way), but I’ve almost continued that into adulthood, and it’s been my saving grace. Being involved in something gives you something greater than just yourself to care about.
5. Have fun.
I like to remind myself of this one a lot — it’s only life. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you let loose every once in a while? Grab coffee with a friend and talk about life. Throw your own birthday party (the best thing I did for myself my senior year). Drive three hours to see your favorite band in concert. Figure out what’s fun for you, and do it as much as you can.