Life Lessons From a College Student

Michele L. Clerici

I begin to wonder, as this four-year slumber party we call college comes to an end, how my time in this place has really carved the way for my future. I am reminded that in a few short weeks, I will experience "last-call" on this unforgettable party, and an invitation to… queue the dramatic doom music… the REAL WORLD. And while in the pit of my stomach, I feel like a guppy thrown to the sharks, ready for a rude awakening in the face of unemployment, a lifetime of debt, and the realization that the luxury of naptime will soon cease to exist, I can not help but feel a certain comfort in knowing that my time as a college student has not only prepared me scholastically, but mentally and socially.

What I intend to say is that, in my experience, college life is invaluable. The friends you make, the successes you achieve, the failures you learn from, and the lessons you acquire through the passage of time will stay with you always as you move on and grow up. With that said, it is my ambition to impart some of the fortunate wisdom I have adopted over the years as a product of college life. These are my life lessons from a college student…

Make Lists.. I've learned that the most efficient way to manage your daily stresses, is to make a list. Not just a list. Lots of lists. In fact, lists of lists. I've made "to do" lists that include lists I must remember to make. Neurotic? Maybe. But I have learned, and I am sure that many of my college colleagues would agree, that you will never get anything done unless you make a list. If you need to procrastinate, and God knows we spend more time procrastinating than actually being productive, then make a list. Because nothing feels better than crossing off something on a list. I truly believe that if more people worried less and listed more, the world would be a less stressful and more productive place.

Take Naps. Perhaps this seems elementary and even hilariously impractical in today's working world. When business calls, family issues loom ever-present, and you still haven't made time for that new years' resolution in which you swore to work out at least 3 times weekly, time for a nap just wouldn't make the cut. I understand this. However, college life has a way of taking its toll on even the most ambitious and responsible of us. Naps are sweet little energy-boosters that can, ironically, save time rather than waste it. While the world sees a stereotype of lazy college kids sleeping until all hours of the day and in between classes, I see a generation of wise geniuses, ahead of their time, in knowing that every day must be taken in stride, and that a nap is just the cure to the oblivious rush through life.

Take pictures. You may not always remember that you got an awful test grade in American Literature your spring semester of junior year, but you certainly will remember how funny it was when you went to the bar the night before and sang karaoke to the music of "Glory Days" with a random girl from your Bio class. These are the times you'll want to remember, because this is the stuff of life. Pictures remind us of the people we are and the great friends we have. Without them, we forget all too easily that life is more than work and money; it's about good times with good people, and remembering the fun we've had. So take pictures - lots of pictures - and make the memories that mean something last forever.

Clean your mess. Dorm life is what humbles every college individual into valuing the preciousness of space and time. Every dorm-goer must experience his/her share of frustrating roommate hassles and inconsiderations. By sharing what might be considered exceptionally small living spaces with strangers and friends from year to year, I have learned that cooperation and consideration is absolutely, unequivocally, undoubtedly the key to sanity. It doesn't matter if you don't want to wash your dishes until the morning… do it anyway. It doesn't matter if you want to leave your personal items all over the bathroom sink, don't do it anyway. People expect respect - respect for their space, respect for their time, respect for their sanity. You'll never keep sane in this world if you don't realize early on that all you have to do to get along is clean your mess.

Call your Mom. You may have never liked to admit it when you were a teenager, but Mom's got the answers to most of the things in life you can't handle on your own. It doesn't matter how old you are, sometimes you need to feel like someone else can sort things out for you, and believe me, if anyone can, it's your Mom. Let her do the things she wants to do… let her sanitize your new apartment cabinets before you unpack the dishes, even if you think its already clean; let her send you off with extra food to take home, even if you think u won't eat it; let her talk about her experience and her opinions and give you advice on relationships, even if you think you don't need it… because you do. Listen to the things she says and don't take them for granted. Above all, when things seem too hard, too scary, too much,… be sure to call your Mom.

Eat healthy. While I cannot deny that I am a tremendous advocate and great lover of food, I have found that there is nothing as self-torturous as the Freshman Fifteen. This pertains more so to females than to males, but I have indeed, seen both sexes fall to the depths of beer belly-ism, and survival merely on diets of pizza and Doritos. While your new found freedom has trained you to eat whatever you want whenever you want, any college student will tell you that kicking the habit before springtime rolls around is essential to fitting back into what you will now refer to as your "skinny jeans" (aka the jeans you wore when you were in high school). And even after college graduation, you will pine for the days when you could slide those jeans over your thighs without having to use your yoga moves and a set of pliers. So eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper, and never lose faith that one day you'll wear those skinny jeans again with pride.

Laugh at yourself. Every student walks into the wrong classroom at least once during their first year. Every one of us has dropped our food in the dining facility, or fallen out of our chair in class, or been called on by a professor when we were not paying attention. Every one of us has been caught in a fire drill during a shower, or been spotted walking down the hall in our bright green alien pajamas, or been caught singing in our sleep. Embarrassing moments like these happen to everyone everywhere, and if we take them too seriously, we'll never live them down. I've learned that the only way to walk around with my head up after tripping headfirst into the pavement during the rush of students on their way to class is to laugh at myself. Your embarrassing moment will only last as long as it takes for someone else to do something as equally stupid, so why not just let it go and laugh it up.

Ask questions. If you don't ask, you'll never know. The greatest thing I could have learned from my professors is that people like to talk. They like to be understood and acknowledged. It never hurts to ask questions no matter how juvenile or simple-minded you think they are. The more you ask, the more you know. And if I dare to be genuinely profound, and without sarcasm, in this single life lesson from a college student, I wish to emphasize the power of asking questions. When we were young, all we wanted to know was "why?" I've learned that now, more than ever, it is important to keep asking "why?" - to wonder about things, to search for answers - to never, EVER, stop asking questions.

Spend Money. This may sound funny coming from a poor college kid. I just recently sat down with the financial office to confer on the thousands of dollars I owe to my lenders for educational loans. But there is a difference between saving money and being cheap. Every college kid knows what it's like to spend your summer working trillions of hours serving tables or filing papers. It's an experience that everyone should have. I never appreciated my education before I started working summer jobs and realized that I had better do well in school if I didn't want to be stuck taking orders from short-tempered clients or answering phones for the rest of my life. I appreciate every cent that I have, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it even more when I can take a good friend out to dinner or buy a nice dress for a big dance. Sure, it would be nice to have all the money in the world and spend what I want and not have to worry. But that's not life, and living in college has taught me that there's more to work for than a paycheck… there's pride, achievement, and personal respect. So work hard, do what you love, but remember that it's not always about the money… and spend!

Choose your friends. As I mentioned in my preamble to these life lessons, college is like one big sleepover. Sure, you have lots of responsibilities: homework and tests and campus jobs and internships and due dates and presentations and career searches and on and on and on… BUT, you get through it because of the people you surround yourself with. I'm not just talking about your classmates or the girl you got stuck living with freshman year. I'm talking about the people who treat you like family while you're away from home, because over the years, they have become like a second family to you. I'm talking about the friends that put on a song and dance when you're having a bad day just to cheer you up, the friends that sit by and tell you you're better off without whoever it was that broke your heart, the friends that share everything with you and act as if whatever they have is yours for the taking because they know you feel just the same way about them, the friends who aren't afraid to say "I'm sorry" or 'I "was wrong" because they know you'll forgive them and who are just as quick to forgive and forget; the friends who make your birthdays unforgettable, your weekends worthwhile, and your graduation all the more unbearable because you never really imagined there'd come a day when you wouldn't always have them around. Not every person you meet in college will be your friend. In fact, there are many that you will call your friends, only to find out later that they are not the people you thought they were. College life has taught me that your time is too short to waste on people who make you miserable. In college and in life, choose your friends carefully and always remember that they are the people who helped you make of yourself what you are now and who you will become.

With these lessons for life, I know my short time here has left lasting impressions on my head and my heart. College is more than a frat party or a classroom, it's like a pre-school for the Real World. It has equipped me with the basic social tools and lessons I need to make it in that big ocean of responsibility and life. I know I'll spend my last two weeks here as if the end were coming all too soon, but with every last night at the bar or late-night cram session for exams, I'll know it's only the beginning, and I'll thank college life for the wonderful memories and the lessons I'll never forget.

Read other articles by Michele

Michele is a communications major at Mt. St. Marys, and
servers as Communications Director