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10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

College. Think about that word and what that means to you. The odds are, everyone has a different image of what college is or what the typical college experience may be. Images of long study nights, dorm or frat parties, new friends, classes, club activities, etc. are probably some of those in mind. However, there are valuable lessons we learn in college or as recent graduates that aren’t always tangible things or memories.

College is most certainly a time for learning and cementing who we are as people. This is my list of 10 lessons I learned from college life.

1. You don’t know everything

Okay, to be fair, you probably already knew this, or just really didn’t give it too much thought. The next thing you know, you’re walking into your first college classroom and realizing you know no one, you know nothing about what you want to do for the rest of your life, how to navigate the campus, or even what major you want, and those are just the beginning of your thoughts. This is likely the first time most of us learn about debt and financial responsibility, mostly paying the price the hard way.

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2. Learning is forever

Being forced to go to school can be really frustrating and can lead to rebellion and angst during growing pain periods where we all want nothing more than to hang out with our friends, play or write music, or do other things we consider fun. We finish high school thinking it is all over, but it is really the beginning. Sure, we will all go to college. Eventually, that, too will end, but we will never stop learning about relationships, each other, and we regularly rediscover ourselves. We start realizing that in college through our group work, the awkwardness that is trying to make new friends, and learning how to move on.

3. Worrying about what people think about you is a waste of time

You could be the best person in the world, and someone still won’t like you and will find plenty to criticize. Sometimes, someone will just find looking at you annoying. Yes, there are people out there who will simply look at you, think “I don’t like that person”, and from that point on, you’ll be on their bad side. The fact of the matter is, are those people really trying to impress or waste your time over? Do you really want to worry over people who are devoted to misunderstanding and undervaluing you? If someone doesn’t have an honest critique of you or is talking about you to everyone else except you, don’t worry about it. What they do says more about you than it does about them. You start realizing these things in college, as going gives you exposure to all kinds of people you perhaps wouldn’t normally meet or associate with. College is a definitely a time where you learn to develop a thicker skin.

4. You can’t have everything

And that’s okay. You don’t need everything. Living in a dorm or at home with Mom and Dad while pursuing your education is evidence of that. Long study nights on the laptop you still use from 2008 and endless ramen noodle cups will likely become a staple in your dorm, if you aren’t living at home. If you are living home, expect no rules to change on the account you’re slightly older and in college. This is an important lesson, though, because life is all about making choices and priorities. You will learn about what is important to you and your values based on the choices that you make.

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5. Relationships can be complicated

Entering college can sometimes mean losing all of your former friends from high school, etc. Earning new friends can be difficult, and romantic relationships are no different. Dating is complex. Sometimes you’ll know you’re dating someone, but you won’t talk about it. You won’t use the title of boyfriend or girlfriend. There may not be many conversations about the relationship. Don’t expect your college relationships to make much sense or be concrete. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out, and that involves learning how to communicate, express desire, and figure out what and who they exactly want for the future. I don’t encourage anyone in college to take dating seriously, but although we leave college, relationships never end up less complicated. They may become simpler, better defined, less insecure, but will take work and dedication.

6. College is a big bubble

You’ll learn a lot in college, but it isn’t exactly the real world. Unless you’re a working student while going to school, something I recommend every student becomes and does, you’re going to live in a big, college bubble. If you have loans, you won’t have to worry about them, until you graduate. Much like how you had to exert yourself to make new friends in college, you’ll have to learn how to live without many of those friends upon graduation. The cycle starts all over again, and before you know it, you’ll have a 9 to 5 every day. You may get married and have a family, or go travel the world. I, for instance, teach English in South Korea now, and it is amazing! I am slowly learning a new language, new customs, how to live on my own and support myself, etc. Sometimes I stumble and fall, and  other times, I surprise even myself with the resolve I see myself have sometimes. There is a whole world outside of college. Explore it.

7. Things don’t always work out the way we hope for them to

We could all always use just a little bit more money, a little bit more time, or a little bit more of something else. We’ll make plans that will fall through, we’ll change majors 3 or 4 times, we’ll learn to live without that person we thought we could never live without. It happens that on occasion things seem to not go our way, but that feeling isn’t permanent. There is always something else to discover and to strive for.

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8. People change and so will you

Your dress style, who your attracted to, your values, and what ideas you support and activities you deem important will change in your new environment. This is where you start becoming and realizing who you are. You have to sculpt that person, and that begins in college. No one is there to hold your hand and walk you through doing your essay. No one is there reminding you to check your daily agenda for anything you may have missed.

9. Trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple

My honest opinion is choosing one path in life for a permanent career is extremely limiting and dangerous to the human mind and spirit. We need to be stimulated, creative, excited, and always dreaming, so don’t limit yourself. Yes, trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple, and maybe it’s something you shouldn’t be doing. Like I said before, desires change and people change, they grow and they evolve. Limiting yourself in terms of friendships, relationships, and career paths doesn’t benefit you. In college, there will be a lot of pressure to pick that one major and do something in that field. I say study what you like, and use all the tools you learned to promote yourself the way you want to in the industry you want to. You can have a chemical engineering degree and be a brilliant writer. You can have an English degree, and be an incredible inventor.

10. Always have a back-up plan

College is not for everyone, despite the push for everyone to go to college. Some students go in and excel, others have a hard time affording it or aren’t having their unique gifts catered to. Other students don’t find the material they are learning applicable to the lives they think they want to lead, and therefore, they drop out. It is important to always have a back-up plan. Maybe you know college isn’t for you, but how about a paralegal certificate from a community college or through online learning? How about vocational school? In college, you will be told about the reality of your degrees and your employment prospects. You will have the resources to build an impressive resume, consult a career center, and other valuable options. You will learn that despite having your degree, you will need additional experiences and ideas moving forward. Whether you’re dealing with an unpleasant roommate, soaring tuition costs, or other ideas, having a backup plan is invaluable.

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That’s it for the top 10 list. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you agree or disagree with the points I mentioned here. For those of you needing a back-up plan or have questions about your degree path, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Happy learning!

Featured photo credit: Diego Grez-Cañete via commons.wikimedia.org

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Emina Dedic

TEFL Instructor, Traveler, Professional Writer, Model

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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