Redeeming the Time: Avoid These 5 Mistakes In Your College Career
Most of us will only go to college once.
Knowing that information, we make the most of our college experiences. We hang out with friends. We try new things. We eat Ramen.
But the things we will have wished we had done (or not done) by the end of our college careers aren’t necessarily obvious.
During my four years at PCC, I made an effort to live my college life to its fullest, even if on some occasions I had to step out of my comfort zone. I tried the FlowRider and attended recitals. I watched old movies in the library and played broom hockey with my collegian. I walked the Loop with my sweetheart and watched the Turkey Bowl from my window in Griffith. I did the typical things of a PCC student. Yet I still managed to neglect some of the most worthwhile benefits of being a college student.
Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
1.) Not keeping my class notes/projects
This one is a bitter regret.
I’ve so often wished that I could go back in my class notes for information to cite in a paper, to incorporate into a lesson plan, or just to read to refresh my memory on a topic. I’m still kicking myself for throwing away all my notes from my literature classes; now that I’m an English teacher myself, I have to figure out themes and symbols, etc. for my literature lessons—without any references to fall back on.
Some of your class notes aren’t easy to find anywhere else—not even on the internet. Trust me (I’ve been Googling).
One thing that’s unique about the notes for many of our classes is that they manifest a Christian perspective. Sure, the internet has lots of information available on the subjects we study, but rarely from an academic, biblically sound perspective.
Your teachers have spent years studying the topics they teach, and they’ve poured hours into planning the lessons you take notes on. Your notes are invaluable resources—and you didn’t have to work for them.
But you should also keep those things you did work for: your papers and projects.
I’ve kept most of my papers, but sadly I’ve lost a few. Those are the ones, of course, I wish I still had...
Keep digital copies of your papers. All of them. I’ve referenced past papers often throughout my college career—usually to remember how to format some obscure footnote, but also to review the information I had learned while writing those papers.
2.) Not accepting more leadership positions
I’m not a leader by nature. But becoming a Christian Service leader has been a blessing in so many ways.
Being a leader develops interpersonal skills that you wouldn’t get just by reading a leadership book or by always being a follower. As a leader, I’ve been able to practice what I’ve been learning in my education studies by discipling my Christian Service members. I love setting an example of enthusiasm for service to my fellow students and being able to influence the direction of our Christian Service.
If I’d sought out more leadership positions, I know I would’ve learned even more invaluable lessons about interacting with people that would have better prepared me to enter the workforce.
(Oh, and by the way, leadership positions look fabulous on a résumé.)
If you’re not a leader already, consider your options and plan to be one next semester. There are opportunities everywhere on campus—in your collegian, in Christian Service, in your job or ministry. Pray about it, and something will come up. Leading might not be your forte (it still isn’t mine!), but if you’re dedicated to doing your best, God will bless your efforts, and He’ll bless others through you!
3.) Not building my network
I’m not only introverted but also mildly antisocial. I tend to work by myself, and only consult books and Google when I need help.
Though books and Google are great aids for schoolwork, they can only help so much after the schoolwork is over. When the time comes to find a job, whether that’s during a summer break or after graduation, what helps the most in the job hunt is having a comprehensive network.
One mistake I made in the area of networking is not getting to know my teachers better. Just taking a few extra minutes before and after each class period to talk to my teachers would have made a difference in the quality of my network. A teacher, especially one that you’ve had for several courses, who knows your work ethic and how you think (from your class discussions and research papers) is a great reference to include on a job application. A teacher in your department of study can also help you find a job by sharing his own work experiences and knowledge of potential opportunities: many can connect you to a company or ministry requiring your skills.
Another thing that college students often neglect is building their networks of friends.
Having 500 friends on Snapchat isn’t networking, it’s just socializing. Socializing has its benefits, but they tend to be temporary and inconsequential.
Networking, on the other hand, will continue to benefit you after you graduate.
In the context of networking, every friend you’ll make at PCC is a resource. Of course, we shouldn’t make friends solely for our gain, but we should recognize the value of having a variety of friendships. Your friends come from all over the country—from all over the world—and might be the stepping stone to your next job. We’re all, in a way, delegates for our churches, hometowns, ministries, experiences, and past jobs. By having the right friends, you’ll discover unique opportunities for work, ministry, and learning that you’ve never dreamed of (and automatically have a reference).
4.) Not taking advantage of college facilities and programs
Did you know that Bradley Tower and Young Tower have piano practice rooms?
I’ve known that since my freshman year. But I didn’t take advantage of it. . . and now my prowess at the piano is suffering.
You might not be a pianist, but you probably have some kind of skill that needs upkeep. If it’s a sport, don’t let your skill atrophy. Use the Sports Center facilities, the Swim Center, or the track around Eagle Field. If you play an instrument, join the Wednesday night church orchestra! Maybe you brought your guitar with you, but you’re not sure when you can practice without bothering your roommates—ask your RAs if you can accompany a hymn during hall meeting. Be creative in finding ways to maintain your skills.
There are many opportunities to develop new skills as well: you can learn ASL on Sunday afternoons, learn to sing with a choir in College Choir, learn to ice skate in the Sports Center, learn to use the Romans Road in a Christian Service, etc.
By learning to balance your work with extracurricular activities, you stretch yourself as an individual and develop your capacity to handle more activities. Assign half an hour (or whatever you can) of your day to learning or maintaining a skill. You’ll be glad you did.
5.) Not buying my favorite books
Renting everything you can is a great deal.
… until you need that book again. After the rent period is over.
If you deem a book you’ve read to be valuable, buy it. If, later on, you don’t need it, you can always sell it for a decent price. But if you decide to buy a book that you already returned, you’ll have to pay for that same book a second time.
Not every book will be valuable to you later on, but many will be. My Amazon wishlist of books I rented in my college career and didn’t buy is quite long (and unfortunately expensive).
The books I read in Advanced Grammar and Composition were some of the best I’ve ever read, and incredibly practical to my field. But I didn’t buy them. And now, whenever I have a question about English grammar (basically every day), I kick myself, because to get the answer I have to pay a few hundred dollars—plus shipping. Google doesn’t have the answers to my question.
Why pay for a book twice? While you read through your rented books, evaluate them: if there’s a chance that you’ll use a book again after your course is over, buy it. You probably won’t regret it.
These mistakes aren’t life-changing. But if you really want to get the most out of your college experience, you should at least take these ideas into consideration. Even if you’re a senior, it’s not too late to course-correct! Avoid these mistakes from now on and you’ll save yourself some regret.17