A lot of readers will relate to this question I recently got about the classic college experience:
In high school, I was excited about college. I was excited to get away from home. I thought I’d get the chance to hang out with friends more and have some fun but I never got to that.
All through the first few semesters I was nervous I’d screw up. I buckled down and focused on keeping my grades up in the new environment. I didn’t want to go home with my head between my knees. It was time to buckle down.
Every semester after that I was always distracted by some course. It was Calculus or Calc II or Calc III (because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment.) I would have to spend every free second studying or resting because I was so stressed out the whole time.
My last semesters I was interning and worrying about getting a job.
Now I’m looking back and wondering what the hell I did. Where was my college life? I could have swore I would have noticed people around me doing tons of fun stuff. I figured then I’d join in. It never happened. I never saw any super exciting parties. Sure… I had a few parties but they were nothing like what I imagined (and I was too much of a dweeb to appreciate them anyway.)
I’m now a senior. School is almost over. I’m looking back and realizing I never let myself have a college experience. I’m disappointed. I want to throw caution to the wind and find something exciting to do before I graduate but I don’t know where to start.
Sure… Go have fun. Throw caution to the wind (as long as you’re cautious about it.)
Seriously, caution is a good thing. Perhaps you have a wee bit too much of it but don’t lose sight of how useful it can be. I know a few cautionary tales of high school and college graduates “throwing caution to the wind.” They end with a lost scholarships, no job prospects, and one legally mandated public service sentence.
Too much caution can lead you to miss opportunities but before going into that, I think this might help.
There Is No Such Thing As The Classic College Experience
College in movies is mostly bullshit.
Sure… you’ll find the occasional drunken rager but it’s not what you’ll see in movies. (And it’s sure as hell not that common.) I’ve been to a couple. Have you ever noticed that grown ups don’t throw those kinds of parties? They have plenty of money. Many have the time to do it on weekends. They don’t do it because they come to realize something…
Yes… I get the short term charm but what you’re ultimately getting is a bunch of drunks hitting on the other drunks while dancing poorly. It reeks of BO, alcohol, and weed. The music’s too loud to have a real conversation. Okay… so none of you know how to manage your alcohol consumption responsibly… I get it already.
Movies will show tons of people having fun together. Those moments are few and far between. Sure… if you get drunk and/or high, it might feel that way. That’s not the party. That’s the alcohol and drugs. Do it with a couple friends for the same experience.
(I’m not condoning or condemning drugs and alcohol. I am, however, condemning the usual college party.)
Movies aren’t real. The classic college experience doesn’t exist. It’s an idea that’s sold to students. Personally, I think it’s just a slimey marketing campaign. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have it.
You should have some extraordinary experiences. Be open to new experiences. Have fun with friends. You’ll have your mind blown in ways you never imagined. It just won’t be anything like you imagined it.
Your Life Is The College Experience
Don’t worry about living up to some insane standard of college experiences.
I can remember staying up late in my friend’s dorm room. We just talked about stupid and crazy ideas. We insulted each other. Over the whole night, we did nothing particularly exciting. This memory will stick with me better than any of the parties I attended. Maybe it’s just me but that’s kinda the point.
Every person has a different personality. What one person enjoys, another person dreads.
You’ve gone through almost 4 years of college. I’d bet you’ve done what your personality cares about. If you’re a partier then you’d have partied. If you’re laid back then you’d have spent plenty of time chillin’. Are you responsible? Then you probably have lived your life responsibly. (Of course, none of these categories are exclusive.)
Personalities do behaviors they prefer. It would be an extraordinary feat to never fall into your natural patterns over 4 years.
I’m not sure if this applies to you but realizing this has helped me immensely.
Who Are You?
You probably shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are. In the same way, you shouldn’t be ashamed of the results of actions that were inevitable based on who you are.
For years I hated that I couldn’t make small talk.
Eventually, I learned how to make small talk. I became pretty darn good at it. I could make a friend out of a stranger with this skill.
But something important didn’t change…
I was still introverted.
I was skilled but I still hated small talk.
There may be reasons to be ashamed of this but quite frankly, I think life is too short to care.
The college experience may exist for some people. Are you the kind of person that would really appreciate it? If you’ve spent 4 years avoiding it then I’m willing to bet the answer is no.
Don’t be ashamed of a life that’s the result of who you are. You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards. Most of those standards are BS anyway. Here is the most important point of all:
Someone else who had the exact college experience you’re dreaming about is probably dreaming they had your college experience. Partiers wish they buckled down. Responsible people wish they partied. There is always something to wish for.
Actually… most important point two:
Throw caution to the wind until it comes down to risking a court appearance.
JJ will know what I’m talking about. According to him, picking up trash gets boring fast.
CAUTION! Don’t Let This Happen To You
This is an absolutely essential read for anyone on this blog.
R. is a college graduate that I know. He went to one of the best colleges in his field. He worked hard. He scored high. He did everything he was supposed to do…
He’s a smart guy.
Now R. has the degree… but not much else except tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.
He lives at home with his parents barely able to get by paying his loans off… He blew it because he wasn’t ready despite the high scores.
It can give you the fast-track in life…
But it’s not everything.
You need more than just good scores. You need:
- Efficient learning strategies (you can use through life)
- High-scoring testing strategies (to prove you know your stuff)
- Pareto-esque prioritization systems (to use your time better)
- An enjoyable life WHILE learning and scoring high (because if it’s not enjoyable, you won’t keep doing it.)
Welcome to Smart Student Secrets. I’m Aaron.
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