A Not-So-Definitive List of What I’ve Learned from Four Years of College

College is this weird moment where you’re still in school, and most of your meals are ready made, and you’re constantly graded … but you’re also an adult? And even though you’re adulting, there’s still a chance to grow, learn and fail in a mostly safe environment. And while I’ll be walking across graduations stage with a diploma, that piece of paper does NOT equal all that I’ve learned.

Some of the things I’ve learned through school are FUN things, like the fact that Coffee is nearly always amazing and I can stay up till 2am and wake up at 7am and function like a halfway alive human being. Other things are not so fun, and even somewhat embarrassing? Like the time I screwed up majorly and had to cancel my booked flight to Spain. because i ran out of money. Opps.

I’m not glossing over the amazing or painting the horrible as beautiful today. Since I’m graduating in just a few short weeks, I’m going to talk about things I’m glad I learned and might still be learning even after I graduate.

Debt is stupid and avoid it, please.

Yes, it might be necessary to take out student loans. But please don’t keep borrowing money. That’s me. And it’s not great! I have like 5 credit cards, including the student loans.

I mean, sometimes you can’t avoid borrowing money. But pay off those credit cards when you can.

Make space for being single.

It’s okay not to date anyone, really. You’re pretty great just as your are, no ring by spring or lifetime plans with someone else right after graduation.

Eating alone is okay.

Speaking of being single, it’s okay to sit in a restaurant and just eat. All by yourself.

And when I think of post-grad life, I’ve realized I won’t be around people all the time. It’s okay to step out into the world alone. It is scary, especially when other college classmates are getting married or are moving back with family, and i’m not doing either of those things. College is just a small taste of single living. It’s good to kind of embrace it now so it’s not so incredibly lonely and daunting once you move on.

And maybe I haven’t exactly totally embraced it, because, heck yes, i’m nervous about living on my own post grad. But nervous is good. It’ll keep me from doing anything incredibly stupid, right?

Grades matter at the moment, but not for a lifetime

You can pull some all nighters. And cry some tears over those miserable french grammar tests. But in the end, very few people will really care about your grades. 

I’m pretty serious. my internship didn’t care. my job applications haven’t cared. Yeah, grad school is going to care but my life isn’t going to fall apart if grad school isn’t too excited about my grades.

Enjoy the sunshine AND the rain

There will be plenty of both. And I’m not just talking about the weather. Some days, you’ll feel very much on TOP OF THE WORLD. and other days, it will be absolutely the end of all things.

Just know these feelings aren’t forever. It will get better and worse. So enjoy the highs, savor them, take pictures, talk about them to friends, just enjoy it.

But those bad days? Don’t knock yourself out over them. It’s okay to go to counseling. Take a mental health day. Share those hard days with friends. Let people help.

Find a good mechanic, chiropractor, church, coffee buddy.

Ask around. Talk to people and find out the best place to get your car fixed. True story: I walked into a mechanic shop and they told me I had a bent car frame and needed to pay $1,200 to fix the whole car. Yes, I freaked out. I was on the verge of tears because there was no way I could pay for this.

Then one of my friends mentioned another mechanic, and they checked and fixed my whole car for less than $50. Yes, car mechanics are shady if you’re a small gal with no idea about cars. Talk to people who might know more than you. 😊 Other people might know who’s trustworthy and the best chiropractor and which coffee shop is the greatest place to escape from campus. 

Travel and find summer jobs outside your comfort zone.

Travel, Travel, Travel!!! I love traveling. Traveling doesn’t have to be to another country. It could be in the same state or an hour away. Just somewhere new to you. Or maybe old. but away.

And one of the best ways to travel is to find a summer job that’s totally different from your expectations. Like teaching in China. Or working in Philly. Or maybe, staying in your college town and working a very regular job in the YMCA.

Campus shouldn’t be your castle.

There are so MANY GREAT chances off campus. IT can be easy to get stuck in the box of coffee shops, movie theatres, and heading downtown.

But there are a lot of places that are off the beaten path. National parks. Local bookstores. Just keep exploring and don’t let yourself get too comfortable going to the same places over and over again.

Friends …will Graduate… but you can always hit speed dial.

Okay, it’s kind of hard becoming best of friends with someone and then they graduate and move away. Or start working full time and you’re no longer going to classes together, and hitting up IHOP at 4am to write papers together. It’s just .. not the same, you know? Undergrad to post grad friendships are hard to navigate.

So, it’s kind fo important to realize that life changes, but you can still be friends. My post grad friends are some of the closet friends I’ve ever had. I can call my best friend at 11 at night or 3 in the afternoon on Saturday, and she offers the best advice, Because she’s gone through exactly my same spot in school, and has made it out. Yeah, we now live 1000 miles apart but face time and speed dialing work.

Learn Some Basic Recipes, aka Oatmeal always works

Someday you’re going to have to cook a meal. If all else fails, Oatmeal should work. In the meanwhile, practice cooking when you can. learn how to boil eggs or make a grilled cheese sandwich. Start making sure you’re eating some leafy vegetables and getting that protein you need.

You’ll feel better, I promise. It’s amazing what a balanced meal does for my mental health and overall life feels.

Oh, and before anything else, learning to make homemade iced coffee is the MOST IMPORTANT. because starbucks isn’t cheap and blending your own iced coffee is SO MUCH BETTER.

Apply for CRAZY gigs, too. Nothing’s too audacious. 

I’m the kind of person who makes lists of places to apply to. Then I write tons of cover letters, and nervously hit apply. Also, I might read and reread my resume a million times and keep changing the wording and always feel like it’s “not done” (cause is it ever done???)

Anyway, sometimes apply for something not on the list. An internship. A study abroad program. Even a class that’s not in your major. Do something different because life isn’t about checking off lists. Yes, life is actually about making lists, but you know, expand the list.

Professors can be amazing friends

Freshman year all the profs are these terrifying monsters who create mountains of homework. Senior year everyone’s your friend and crying with you in their office at nine in the morning. It happens.

Like you don’t have to friend them on facebook or know all their cute kids names and wave at them when you see them in Chipotle. But they’re people too who don’t make much money and who are super sad when all of us graduate. They cheer for you, knowingly smile when you beg for a deadline extension, and probably help with some matchmaking.

They’re not just networking opportunities. Profs can be some of the best friends you’ve ever made. Yeah, I probably sound like a full-fledged adult typing that up.

Adult Up your Wardrobe

Yes, I just totally made up that word. Adult up. Look at me, I’m the next shakespeare.

Anyways, going into senior year, i invested in some really nice business casual clothes. I even chatted with a professor or two about business casual work expectations and what that looks like today. Every place that hires isn’t picky but it’s always nice to dress up and feel comfortable about your style.

College is really the place to experience with style. I tried bold necklaces (not my thing) wearing lots of bracelets (also not my thing) wearing really high heels (totally my thing) You can try any style in college and figure out if it fits. And people are probably going to forget if it was an epic failure, and hey, at least you know not to wear those zebra striped heels.

You’ll Keep Learning

okay, the best thing about college is how it trains you to keep learning? Like you know you’re never going to “arrive.” There’s just too much stuff in the world to learn and college is just like this giant teaspoon of everything that you can’t possibly learn in a lifetime.

Falling Apart is Normal but You Can stand Back Up

I guess my last thought is how often you’ll just fall apart.

There’ll be moments when you can’t possibly keep going. The times I walked into my french professors office in tears. because i spent ten plus hours on THAT TEST and still failed. Totally falling apart in that office.

Or the time I had a panic attack after getting yelled at by some random guy. Or the time I fell apart because my grandmother died and I still insisted I could go to class. (spoiler, i shouldn’t have gone to class)

sometimes it’s just completely overwhelming. But know that you’ll be able to stand back up. You can sleep and wake up and you’ll smile again. 

Okay, this post is evolving. Meaning I’m going to be at my own funeral and pop up and yell, “OH, HERE’S SOMETHING ELSE I LEARNED IN COLLEGE!” 

Yeah, college is going to feel never done. And let’s please all vote for the candidate promising to cancel student debt and make college more affordable and fund historically black colleges. All around, a Great Idea™

Anyway, exactly seven days till i walk at official graduation, so publishing this post today. I hope my messy, almost sappy college learning is either entertaining or helpful. *applause* yes, I’m applauding myself. you can join 

lets chat

Any cool things you’ve learned in school? Are you in college or planning to go? Will I keep having nightmares about missing finals the rest of my life??? Yes, probably. 

Why am i planning on applying to grad school? Someone come convince me it’s not worth it. (not really. Tell me to stop complaining and apply)




  1. April 28, 2019 / 12:52 pm

    Aw, Elizaberh, I love this post !! I’m not yet in college but I will definitely remember these things when it’s my time haha. It’s reassuring to hear that grades don’t matter as much! And I love all of the photos of you — they are beautiful and so are you <3

    • April 28, 2019 / 7:22 pm

      Ah, thank you, friend! and yes, don’t stress about grades if you can! hope your high school year ends well! (just one month or so till summer break, yay!)

  2. April 28, 2019 / 1:57 pm

    I love this post so, so much, Elizabeth and this is brilliant advice, too <3 I graduated from college a couple years ago and all of these things are definitely things I've learned and keep on learning every single day, too. Funny how we focus on grades and are so stressed out about them, when actually they really don't matter at all for internships or jobs haha.:)
    Wonderful post <3 and the pictures are AMAZING!

    • April 28, 2019 / 7:22 pm

      Yes, grades are a lie! And thank you, i had lots of fun working out these pictures! 💕

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