4 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Years

By Christopher Mercer

You’ve probably heard them say it. ‘Your college years are the best of your life’. And that’s easy for them to say. They always make those comments wearing the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia and memory. A lot of people have a terrible time of it during college. They waste a lot of money, don’t learn anything and have more memories that they are ashamed of than they look back at fondly.

To say unequivocally that your college years are the best is to paint with a very broad brush. At the same time, your college years can be among your best, if you play your cards right. If you take the right attitude and approach the problems you’re going to face in the right way, then you can have a lot of fun, lay a great foundation for your future, and end up being one of those people talking about those good-old golden years with the many friends they still talk to from back then.

Obviously, that begs the question, ‘how do you do that?’ Well, here’s how:

Learn everything

Universities seem to suggest that wisdom is in books. That’s not true. There is a lot of knowledge in books and you do need knowledge to become wise (so don’t skip those classes). But wisdom also means applying that knowledge to the real world.

For that reason, make sure that you learn things. The best way to do so is to find ways to apply what you’ve learned in class. That means, finding some real world application for what you’re doing (or at least taking the time to see if you can imagine some real world application for what you’re doing).

The best way to apply what you’re learning is to find a job where you can directly start to apply that. So find something that’s related to what you want to do – even if it is just part time and even if you’re starting low down. The very act of seeing how the theory works in practice will mean that you’ll learn those lessons ten times better and remember them ten times longer.

It also means taking classes that are interesting. Interest is a hugely powerful emotion that doesn’t get even close to enough recognition in our world. It can keep you motivated and have you push through things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to deal with.

For that reason, make sure that you don’t just take courses because you should, or because you have to, but simply because they’re interesting. Chances are, you’ll learn more from then than all of your other courses combined (and find some way to apply it to the life you’re living).

Meet lots of different people

Though your college and university might claim differently, the truth is that who we are doesn’t come from your professors but from the peers you hang out with. So, make sure that you hang out with lots people – preferably people from different walks of life, with different ideas, different perspectives and different beliefs.

In this way, you will really learn about people, the world and the lessons life is trying to teach you. You’ll not just learn ideas that support your position, but also learn why other people believe differently (and trust me, it’s not just because you’re right and their wrong). You’ll also learn valuable social skills, who to talk with anybody anywhere and finally have a huge number of people you can call on whatever you decide to do later on – be it on a personal, professional or other level.

Yeah alright, you’re saying, of course I want to meet people. The thing isn’t so much ‘do I want to’ as ‘how do I do it’? Well, here are some things to consider:

  • Mix things up. If you’re always going to the same places and doing the same things, then you’re only going to meet the people who go there and do that. If you want to meet different people and boost your luck, then you have to make sure you do different things. Say ‘yes’ as often as possible. Sure, I’ll try a cooking class, running a market stall on a Sunday morning or helping pick up litter. It might not sound like so much fun, but maybe I’ll be surprised. And if I’m not, then I’ll know and I’ll only have lost a few hours.
  • Invite others. If you’re going to do something, then invite other people. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and talk with them. The wacky context might just create a special bond. Even better, when you invite people many will reciprocate, which will give you more things that you can do.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume people don’t mean to offend you or insult you. Similarly, if they don’t agree with you, don’t simply assume they’re idiots. Dudley Field Malone said, ‘I never in my life learned anything from a [person] who agreed with me’. That is only true, though, if you take the time to listen to way they think that.
  • Organize things (or make friends with people who do). Become somebody who creates dinner parties, invites somebody to speak or decides that it’s a good idea to go see a museum. Can’t do that? Then find somebody who does. It’s a lot more fun to hang out with people if you’re not always doing the same thing.
  • Reach out. Just because somebody hasn’t gotten in touch, doesn’t mean they suddenly hate you. They might just have been busy, something might have happened, or perhaps they’re embarrassed about something. So why wait for them to connect? Do it instead! A lot of people will appreciate it. Besides, friendships that last a life time aren’t built over night.
  • Sometimes you have to lose a number. Ultimately, you can’t blame the people you’re with for the mistakes you make, even if they’re the ones that pushed you into it. That was your choice for hanging out with them. So, if you don’t like the direction that the people you’re hanging out with are taking, choose a different path.

The hedonism

Of course, you’ll have a drink, go to a party and do some hedonistic things. There is nothing wrong with that – as long as that doesn’t become what it is all about. Why? Because if it becomes all consuming then when you do finally get bored with it, you won’t have very many other skills, life experiences and options to fall back on. And chances are, you will eventually want to do something else, because hedonism becomes boring after a while. Yeah, I know, hard to believe, right? You’ll never get tired of the parties!

But the rest of humanity begs to differ. You can be sure most of us enjoyed going on all night benders when we were younger. And you can be sure most of us got bored with it as we got older. There are a lot of reasons for that. In part it’s ‘been there, done that’. In part it’s that our chemistry changes and our priorities shift.

Bio: Chris Mercer is a writer, developer, and the founder of Citatior, the academic formatting tool chosen by students around the world. Chris is also passionate about outdoor sports, running, and lifting weights. He believes that anything worth doing is worth passion.



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