Top 10 Lessons I Learned in College

Happy Elon Day!

10 lessons from college

I graduated in May 2017 from Elon University in Elon, North Carolina. It’s a small(ish), liberal arts school that educates the northeast on southern charm (it’s got a lot of kids from Connecticut and New Jersey who like frats and country music).

Every March we celebrate Elon Day — a day dedicated to fundraising and donating, but also focused on appreciating a fantastic university and the opportunities it affords its students. Even though I’m officially a real world freshman, I still wanted to celebrate, and of course, that involves a blog post highlighting the top ten lessons I took with me from university. Let’s get started!

1. Everything  has a way of working out.
We’ve all heard the cheesy phrase, “It will all be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” While I don’t fully agree with that phrase (because life is a journey with ups and down and not a destination with a happy ending), I do believe everything has a way of working out for the best. One of the most important lessons I learned in college was to not stress out about things. I semi don’t understand how I accomplished this feat, but I haven’t seriously stressed out about anything since my sophomore year (and that’s not because I didn’t have things to be stressed out about). In college, you always have a million things to do and a hundred places to be, so it’s incredibly easy to stress over assignments or club commitments, but you don’t need to. It will all get done — seriously, it will. And it will all be okay — seriously, it will. You’ve gotten this far, you’ll make it to graduation (and to everything beyond that point). I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I am saying it will all work out. A prime example of this mantra at play during my senior year were my many 5 a.m. wake up calls to finish papers due in a Friday morning class after hanging out with friends and leading organization meetings were a bigger priority. I may not have gotten the optimum eight hours of sleep a night, but I made amazing memories and still managed to graduate with honors.

10 lessons from college

2. You never know what could come from taking a chance.
If you’d told me in high school that I would be a sorority girl in college, I would have laughed in your face. I never had any dreams to join an organization where you had to pay for your friends, and I’ll admit to you all now that it was the best decision I made in college. Elon delays rush until the winter of your freshman year, and instead of rushing during my first year, I went on a trip with some friends to Myrtle Beach. Then, sophomore year rolled around and despite being involved in a handful of clubs and having a good group of friends, I still felt like I hadn’t found my “place” in school. So, I took a chance. I went through recruitment, and like I said, it was the best decision I made during my four years in college. During my two and half years with Alpha Chi Omega, I held a leadership position, I influenced the future of the chapter, I became a part of a family that I’ve never felt closer to, and I cultivated friendships with people I would have never met otherwise. I never would have thought I could have found my place in a sorority (I’m an introverted bibliophile), but being a member of Alpha Chi changed my life and college experience in all the right ways.

10 lessons from college

3. Fight for what you believe in.
During my college career, I had the amazing opportunity to lead a team of designers, writers, and photographers in creating a yearbook two years in a row. As Editor-in-Chief of Phi Psi Cli, there were a lot of ups, but there were also a lot of downs. Believe it or not, yearbooks aren’t as popular as they used to be, especially in college, because everything is going digital. I’ll always be an advocate for print, and during my first year as editor, I had to do just that. The school was considering switching the yearbook to a digital platform or cutting the organization completely, and I had prove why that would be a terrible mistake. The yearbook was something I really believed in. It’s the only thing you take with you from college besides your Facebook profile that you can look back on. It’s a time capsule for the year that can be used for research. And yes, it’s a big, old book. Essentially, I had to prove that the yearbook was worth keeping around. And with the help of my team and our advisor, I did just that. We increased sales and senior photo participation by 33 percent each. We sold over $800 in senior ad revenue. And we reorganized the yearbook and included information in a chronological manner to make it a true time capsule. It wasn’t fun having to prove the immense worth of something I felt so passionately about, but it paid off massively in the long run and made me feel prouder than ever of my team and the book we produced.

4. Make time for the things that matter.
Having fun at parties is important. Studying for a test that is 30 percent of your grade is important. Getting Cook Out with a friend going through a lot is important. It’s all important, and it’s all going to impact your college experience. I urge you to make time for the things that are important. I also urge you to make a variety of memories. It’s great to go to the bar (legally) every once in a while, but you don’t need to go every Thursday night. Go roller-skating with your sorority instead. Or cuddle in bed with your best friend and watch High School Musical 2. You’re not going to remember every bar crawl or frat party, but by making a variety of memories, you’ll have a ton of different experiences to look back on that contribute to your college experience.

10 lessons from college

5. Let people in. Even if it scares you.
I am the queen of building walls around my heart, but sometimes you have to tear them down to let people in. It’s true that you’ll never experience heartbreak or loneliness or sadness when those walls are blocking those feelings out, but you’ll also never experience love or support or friendship to the amazing levels you could either. I was very scared to let people into my life (a combination of past experiences and who I am as a person) — I’m always the strong one, the brave one, so it’s hard for me to let people see a vulnerable side of me (it’s still hard, but I’m learning to open up). I took a chance my freshman year of college with a boy that lived across the hall, and I haven’t looked back since. He’s been my best friend since I mistook him as my Elon 101 TA, and to this day, he’s still one of the only people I let see me at my lowest (and highest) points. From that incredibly supportive friendship, I was also able to then find myself trusting others and investing in building other deep relationships with sorority sisters, roommates, and teammates. If I hadn’t taken that first step to letting someone into my inner circle, I’m not sure how my other friendships would have developed while in college.

6. Always wear shoes to a party.
I don’t need to explain this one, right?

7. There’s a lesson in every experience.
Things are going to go very, very well for you during college, but they are also going to go very, very poorly. And that’s okay. Just because a job sucked or a club experience wasn’t what you were hoping for, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. I learned some of my most important lessons from experiences that really, really sucked. I learned about trust from a broken heart. I learned about fate from rejection. I learned about positivity from an unbearable situation. No matter how awful or terrible (or wonderful or fantastic) a situation is, let it make you a better you. Take something from that experience, and grow.

10 lessons from college

8. Get to know the area you’re in for four years.
I stayed at my university for two summers working on campus and interning in Greensboro (a nearby town), and it made me feel like I knew Elon just a little bit more than the average student. I got to know it in the off season. When you could get dollar slices without a wait and hop in the fountains without getting caught. You could hike Hanging Rock without running into seven people from class and actually participate in trivia night at Fat Frogg. I knew a lot about Elon from the normal experiences like writing for the paper and being involved in a variety of clubs, but I really got to know it during my summers. Besides getting to know my school a little more intimately, I also got to know the surrounding area way more than a lot of my peers. Some of my favorite college memories are from the summer before my senior year when my friend Emily and I made it our mission to hike new trails, try new food, and see new things. Get out there. There’s more than just your campus to experience.

9. Appreciate what you’ve got.
It can be easy to get frustrated with college, especially at a smaller college where it feels like everyone is on top of each other and you’re completely over all of your responsibilities. But I challenge you to try and appreciate it. Appreciate that you live five feet away from your best friends. Appreciate that you have a gym down the street included in your tuition. Appreciate the brick and the trees and the adorably quaint gazebos. Appreciate the truffle fries and the quiet Sunday mornings. Appreciate it all because one day it will all change.

10. Don’t dwell on the past.
You’ve got four years. If you’re lucky, you’re going to make them years you want to look back on. So make memories. Laugh. Have movie nights. Host parties. Do everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t let fear hold you back. And most importantly, don’t let the past hold you back. It can’t be changed, but you can always make future memories. You’ve got four years. Make them count.

I’m hitting month number 10 of being in the real world, and just like college it’s got its ups and downs. I’ve already learned a ton from my post college experiences, but I’ll always remember these ten lessons I learned while I was at Elon.

What did you learn from your time in college? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Elon Day!

P.S. Check out the Second a Day video I created during the spring of my senior year. It’s one of my favorite things I did to capture my final days in college.


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