Lessons From A College Graduate: Tips on How To Make The Most of Your College Experience
By: Cynthia Giles
I’d rather do what’s hard and find joy and purpose, then do what’s easy and become miserable and discontent. I made a decision to study English and Writing, and a career in writing puts you in a tough market. It took me about a year to do something that relates to my degree.
Now, I’m an editor for blogs, articles, podcasts, and much more! I am thankful for my occupation. I work while experiencing chronic pain in my bones and muscles. I tend to push through the pain to finish each day. I went through this same pain while I was in college. While enrolled in college, I dealt with chronic pain, depression, sleeplessness, and other issues. I remember a time when I walked into the dean’s office with doctor notes and papers in my hand. I begged for in-completes to finish school. Sometimes, I did not finish classes until the semester after final grades were posted (due to leniency from my academic college). I worked on assignments from previous semesters while others were enjoying the break. I went through many dark seasons. I remember when I saw a school counselor, a Christian counselor, and met with a professor once a week for support.
Although school has always been difficult for me, the rewarding experiences made every struggle worth it. I made friendships with people that I am still in contact with. I became a resident assistant and I planned creative programs for students on campus. I joined different clubs and activities. I became the president of a spoken word organization. I had many hilarious and thought-provoking conversations in the cafeteria. I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything.
The good, the bad, and the ugly taught me about a life beyond grades or a textbook. I learned that life is the ultimate test and you study it through trial and error, ups and downs, and refusing to crumble. When I was in high school, I wanted to drop out. When I was in college, I had moments where I wanted to quit but I didn’t quit. I kept going.
After having my fair share of triumphs and trials, I have a few words of advice to encourage anyone who has a desire to go to college or is tempted to quit in the process.
Here are my 11 tips on how to make the most of your college experience:
- Don’t worry too much over what degree you pick. The most important thing is that you have a degree. Give it some thought, discover who you are, and create a plan. You don’t have to be a perfectionist. If you’re meant to do something in life, God will point you in the direction to achieve it. Nothing can stop the will of God (not even the degree you choose). I’ve had interviews for jobs that don’t relate to my degree at all. As long as you are living with purpose, provision will seek you. Finishing is most important because most employers want to know that you can start something and finish it.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. There are so many people who want to help you in college. If you humble yourself, professors will be more willing to cut you some slack. If it wasn’t for grace from some professors (and God), I wouldn’t have graduated. You can live with uncommon favor.
- If you want to find a friend, you have to be a friend. I was a transfer student so I found it difficult to meet new people. Once I became a resident assistant and joined an organization, everything fell into place. You can’t be afraid to go out and try new things!
- You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Accept it. You’re going to fall down and things will sometimes look like they aren’t going to get any better. The truth is, things will get better. The most important thing is to not let your mistakes define you. Mistakes are meant to refine you if you learn from them. You’re only human. Be gentle with yourself.
- Network! Find an internship. Try to look for a job BEFORE you graduate. It will save you the headache.
- Pay attention to advisement. Go to you advisor. Trust me. If you don’t like your advisor, try to get a new one. If you don’t go, you might end up like me, pulling your hair out because you had to take 5 writing classes in your last semester! That was way too many at one time and I was scared I wouldn’t graduate!
- Be Healthy. If you’re unhealthy (spiritually/emotionally/ physically), everything else will fall apart. Your health is a gift. Take advantage of all of your resources on campus! The gym, a counselor, or a trainer can help you. It’s much harder to get into shape after college because those amenities will cost you a lot more and you will have less time to invest in those sort of commitments. Be grateful for it now.
- Be present as much as you can. Try not to let the future overwhelm you. Everything will be alright. It may not work out how you thought it would. However, it will work out. Continue to do your best.
- Avoid debt at all costs. Try to save in college or before you even enter college if you can.
- You may not get your ideal job and live your dream as soon as you graduate. College is a process and life after graduation is a process. Don’t feel like there is something wrong with you and don’t be discouraged if it takes you a long time to find the right job. There’s nothing wrong with you. It took me a year to find a job that related to my degree. The best things in life take time to develop. Remember, the right job is on its way. It may not come when you want it too, but if you have faith and stay the course, it will come. Be patient!
- Lastly, you are an overcomer. If you are battling some type of sickness or emotional pain in school, it will make you stronger. You are capable of graduating because God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you dare to ask or imagine according to His power that is working on the inside of you.
I graduated from Kennesaw State University. I studied Literature and Professional Writing and received a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies. Me, being someone who struggled in school since the time I was a kid, graduated on the Dean’s list! I remember experiencing abuse in the classroom. I remember times in grade school when my teacher wanted to hold me back because my reading level was too low. I remember times in college when I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even lift my body off the floor! Yet, I finished because I am an overcomer and you are too!
I’ve accomplished many things in life because of God’s grace and favor. God’s grace brought me through this far and it is God’s love that has made me an overcomer.
The bottom line is this: “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” It’s not about how many times you fall down in life. Get back up. Your future is bright if you refuse to give up. Don’t stress out too much about the destination (your graduation date) – the most important treasure you have is the special experiences you create along the way. You’ll laugh at your best memories and your worst memories will make a fighter out of you. Every moment will serve its purpose and you’ll be grateful for each lesson you learn.
So, let go, smile, and enjoy the ride because the journey you’re on is worth it!
Here is some encouragement for you from Cynthia:
Cynthia Giles is a spoken word artist, published writer, and speaker with a heart to make a difference in her lifetime. She is passionate about inspiring people all over the world through the arts! She believes It only takes 1 voice to change a life. If you change a life, you change a community. If you change a community, you change the world. Cynthia has been on a radio program broadcasting in several countries (93.3 FM and 91.5 FM). She has spoken to nearly 1,000 high school students, opened up for an Emmy Award winning journalist, and spoken at a Writer’s Conference with an Author’s Guild and so much more. To learn more about Cynthia or see more of her spoken word, visit her at: https://cynthiainspires.com/.