Every year around this time, I get excited for the new school year. Especially for those going to college. Now, mind you, it’s been almost ten years since I’ve been a college student (seriously, where has the time gone?!) but the back-to-school buzz always brings me back to that time in my life.
Going to college was probably one of the most life-altering chapters of my life.
So much of those years were used to mold my life afterward. And, because I didn’t really know myself at that time, nor did I try to really get to know myself, I lost some really good moments that could have saved me a ton of drama and stress.
Instead of focusing on who I wanted to become, and what I was truly passionate about, I poured most of my time and energy into my college relationships (which all lead to terrible breakups, which was a good thing) and organizations that honestly didn’t quite speak to my passions.
Worst of all, I didn’t invest in my relationship with God until my final year of college.
Instead, I chose to live a life of the prodigal son: careless, enjoying the parties, drinking, smoking, very concerned with my social image, who I was seeing at the time, and trying very, very hard not to flunk out of Pre-Med (Which I did during my junior year).
Of course, I’m not at all regretful of the outcome that I have now— I am happily married, a mom, and I am living out my passions of writing and sharing my testimony to thousands of women worldwide. That was all of God and none of me!
One of the greatest lessons that God taught me was how to love. How to love my life, those who are currently in it, how to accept my past for what it is (behind me) and how to love the future that God will lead me in.
Looking back almost ten years later, I can see know that had I’d known then what I know now, I would’ve had a completely different outcome.
So if you’re out there, preparing for college, or perhaps you’re already there, these lessons will help.
Or maybe, like me, you made some mistakes in the past, and wish you had some tips to go off on now post-college that could still help you redirect your life, even still, these lessons will help.
Here are seven lessons that I wish I had learned while I was in college…
1. Connect with a local church and/or Bible Study group.
You can call me proud, but I thought that since I had gone to youth groups for the majority of my teenage years, that I would be OK not having to press into going to a church. And besides, with all the 2 am bar hopping, partying, and/or pulling all-nighters, I wasn’t exactly a morning bird who could waltz into a Sunday morning church service.
I believe during my freshman year, I had good intentions of finding a church home, but I let the new, exciting college-life get the best of me.
And none of the new friends I made were really into finding a church either. Birds of a feather flock together, right?
Throughout my college experience, I thought that reading the Bible on my own would be enough. But it wasn’t. It soo wasn’t.
I knew that many of the choices I was making weren’t lining up to the Word of God. Yet, the more I bad choices I made, the more guilty I felt for attempting to go in the first place.
Eventually, it got to the point where I simply had to go. I had to find a group (which, there were plenty) that would support my hunger for knowing Christ. Finally, during Grad School, I decided to seek out a church, on my own, and I started attending regularly. It changed my life.
I believe that connecting with a college church, or even joining a church-based club, like Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as “Cru“), or women’s only Delight Ministries (I would have TOTALLY joined this group!!), will help you stay rooted in the security that only God can give you.
How to apply this lesson post-college: Connect with a local church and find a group that you can live life with… they may become your greatest friends.
2. Establish who your real friends are.
In college, you meet a lot of people. The number of friends who make it out of your college experience will significantly drop. So rather than to make “friends” with everyone, find out who your real friends are. You know, the ones who’ll accept you when you’re a mess, and when you’re exercising your faith.
Once I decided to live wholeheartedly for Christ, many of my college friends disappeared. Our lifestyles were no longer the same. And because I no longer went out to go drinking and partying, hanging out seemed… different.
So rather you go through that experience, find the few gems who will stand by your side and grow up with you after you all graduate.
How to apply this post-college: Figure out who your real friends are and start distancing yourself from the rest. If you don’t believe you have any real friends, then go places that interest you and find other like-minded women to befriend.
3. Check out ALL of the clubs/organizations that interest you.
There are hundreds of clubs and organizations for students, by students. Make a list of every club that catches your interest and visit them at least once. It doesn’t matter how many members are in the club– if you are interested in that particular topic, then you should at least investigate it for your own good.
I was interested in learning Spanish, dancing, writing, acting, Hispanic culture, women’s studies, Hip-Hop, volunteering, and growing my faith in God. Instead of giving any of those things a chance, I joined a sorority and nothing else. I stuck with one organization that took up the majority of my spare time (outside of homework, working, and my boyfriends) and forgot about the rest.
Looking back, I could’ve learned so many new things about myself had I pursued my personal interests in those clubs.
How to apply this post-college: make a list of all the things that interest you. Find local classes, clubs, or organizations that support what’s on your list and check them out.
4. Discover what brings you ULTIMATE joy.
What I actually loved the most about my college experience was being alone, and pursuing what brought me true happiness. Biking on the bike trail. Reading my Bible at a coffee shop. Going to the gym and swimming. Going to a church service. These are all of the things that I wish I had done more of.
Instead, I let the busyness of college get the best of me. I remembered getting so overwhelmed over a class, something in my sorority, or my relationships… and none of that stuff brought me true joy.
What brings you peace and total happiness at the end of the day? Seriously, figure that out and you’ll be golden. Then, once you know what it is, you can really begin to let go of the rest.
How to apply this post-college: Take a look at your life and see what brings you the most joy? Start to incorporate more of that into your life. (Sidenote: Lara Casey’s Powersheets is a great tool to discover this!!)
5. Analyze your courses.
This one really screwed me up. All my life, I wanted to become a doctor and deliver babies. Once I got to college, I quickly realized that math and science were not my jam. I nearly failed in all of my classes for PreMed.
But instead of taking a second to ask me, “do I really enjoy this subject?”, I pushed through it in efforts to somehow pass and move on. Cause that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
No one really tells you that you have a choice, even though that’s what college is really all about.
Instead of going through your college years dreading every class you take, analyze them. The classes that I had the most fun in were my English/Writing classes (go figure), my business classes, and my Women’s Studies classes. Had I known better, I would’ve pursued a major that focused more on those subjects.
And had I done that, how knows where my career would’ve ended up. Probably writing for a living while running a business on the side while I exercised my right to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
Again, grace and glory to God for knowing my direction, even when I did not.
How to apply this post-college: Are you happy with your current job? Analyze where you are, and adjust your career if necessary. Go after what you want!!
6. Enjoy the learning process.
Over time, we all come to learn a bit more about ourselves. And if we pay attention closely, we’ll discover all of the things that we love, are passionate about, and what drives us towards success.
Yeah, I did not pay attention to that at all. I was too busy trying not to fail at the major I wasn’t called to be in. Or I was freaking out over some fight with my boyfriend. College just seemed to roll on by and rather than to just trust in God and accept the direction He was leading me in, I was stubborn and forced my way.
Enjoy learning more about yourself. Discovering that you really like a certain class, or volunteering for a certain cause. Embrace the change if God closes a door on that major or internship that you really wanted. It was probably for the best.
How to apply this post-college: Learning does not end once you graduate college. You’re gonna continue to learn more and more about yourself as you move into different seasons of your life. Trust in God through it all and go with the flow.
7. Go after what you really wanna do.
This was my biggest lesson I learned about post-college. If I could go back, I would make a list of all the things that I really wanted to do. Whether others accepted it or not. I would’ve done all the things that I dreamed of doing while I was still in high school. Like travel, learn a new language, develop a workout routine, pick up jogging, take a pottery class.
I thought of these things before and figured I’d just do this once I left college and became an adult. I still have these dreams. And though it’s slowly happening, that’s just it: it is slow.
How to apply this post-college: You’re either going to continue living with regrets about how you wish you could’ve made things better, or you can choose to set your mind to live a life that brings you joy, peace, and love. Which one is it? Don’t let your age/circumstance stop you from doing what you really wanna do!
What lessons have you learned (or are learning) in college that you can apply to your life now?? Share them in the comments below!