I hate to say it, mainly because of how much I spent on tuition, but most of what I learned at college took place outside of the classroom. So much of life happens beyond books and chalkboards, lettered grades and numbered GPAs. My most important lessons have come from the people and moments around me at my small college.
1. Everybody knows somebody who can help you
This small school mentality will help you network in the real world. Want to know what it’s like to live abroad for 3 months? Ask one of my housemates. Looking for a job in finance? I have a friend who’s freshman year roommate is currently working in that field. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help, and just how many connections you actually have.
2. Do no harm, take no sh*t
I picked up this bad boy of a motto this past year. It now hangs on a poster in my room (which I’m currently moving out of *tear*) at school. Okay, so it sounds a little rough around the edges but what I actually get from this quote is that you need to be strong and stand up for yourself, but be respectful at the same time. Causing pain to someone else won’t make yours any better. Life is all about balance.
It also looks very wholesome until you read what’s written on it.
3. Find your tribe and love them deeply
Life is too short to be surrounded by people who don’t inspire you, make a smile stretch to your eyes, or fill your photo albums (yes, I’m old fashioned) to the brim with amazing memories. Find people who make life feel like home. It can seem like a daunting task to pick out your humans from a sea of other people, but going to a smaller college made that easier for me.
4. …but you still have to learn how to deal with everyone else
Going to a small school makes it easier to find your close friends, but it also makes it harder to avoid people you don’t really care for. Instead of seeing this as a nuisance, turn it around and learn how to treat everyone in a kind way. I genuinely believe that everyone in our life has something to teach us, and keeping that in mind will help you shift your mindset from a negative experience to a positive one.
5. It’s all but a grain of sand
This goes for a lot of things: gossip, grades, drama. In a small community, small things seem like a big deal. That exam I flunked will cause the demise of my degree. Someone said this, someone said that. In the grand scheme of things, life goes on. If you can remember that your problem, your college, your failed exam, is just a grain a sand on an entire beach, you’ll be able to keep everything in perspective.
6. Just because you’re leaving college without a job doesn’t mean you’re a failure
This one definitely comes from personal experience. A lot of the people I know have jobs lined up post-graduation, but I’m planning on taking a few months to travel before beginning the corporate-ladder-climb. There are definitely days when people don’t understand my choice or think I’m some kind of lost soul (more on that here), but just remember that everyone has their own path. There really is no right or wrong, despite what other people might tell you. So take everything that you’ve learned and begin your adventure.