Lessons Learned from My First Semester of College


My first semester of college was an exhilarating experience full of challenging assignments, new friends, interesting professors, and yummy food. It was a growing process that presented numerous opportunities for self-improvement. Being a college student has taught me many practical skills, such as networking and going the extra mile. I discovered that college is more about developing a hard work ethic and positive habits than the material learned in class. I have come away with many lessons that I wish I had known before college started and will now strive to implement on the rest of my journey.

Beware of the money suckers

Financial and health dangers lurk on college campuses in the form of food. Fast food restaurants know that college students are perhaps the most susceptible target audience. While I did not buy many full meals because I packed my lunches, the vending machines and convenience stores on campus regularly captured me. I do not have advice on how to avoid this since I have not found the silver bullet yet: I just thought I should warn you.

Schedules are really important

Because I am a commuter, I am only at campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On those days, I have to be up by five in the morning. Unfortunately, this past semester I woke up between 7-8 the other days of the week. My main priority this semester is to develop a routine to combat last semester’s erratic sleep patterns. Scheduling school assignments is just as important as sleep schedules. I learned from trial and error that if three papers are all due on the same day, the work should definitely be spread out.

What is my motivation?

I am fiercely independent, sometimes to my own detriment. During college, I was trapped by the pursuit of seeking my own credit. I wanted to be fully responsible for the outcome of my work, and I wanted the credit as a reward for this responsibility. But my self-sufficient attitude blocked me from receiving God’s help. I sought my own credit in my own strength when I was supposed to be seeking God’s glory. Through trial and error, I learned that when I act in God’s strength, He receives the glory instead of me, and that is exactly how it should be. I mistakenly believed that if I asked for help, either from people or God, it would almost be like I cheated. I so badly want to say I did it on my own, which is wrong. It is unbelievably easy to burn out, especially towards the end of the semester. The feeling of exhaustion can be felt around campus as everyone seems to be worn thin. The remedy to burn out is to remember the purpose of school is to glorify God, to do all things unto the Lord, and to depend on His strength.

Show Extra Effort and Avoid Shortcuts

Most of my classmates only attended class to earn participation credit, take notes, and then leave as soon as possible. Students with this attitude will not enjoy the fullness of college. Being fully engaged makes the material more interesting and easier to master. For instance, in sociology I discovered that I enjoyed engaging my mind to think of connections in the real world. Because I interacted in class and asked the instructor questions, I retained more information (and thus avoid extra studying outside of class). Being engaged also helped me to discover that I learn best when I connect the material to an example in my mind. Thus, in class I spend more time making connections that taking notes.

In a culture where Google searches are the most common form of research, it is tempting to constantly take the quickest route possible. After struggling to complete a worksheet with scanty internet information, I finally buckled down and found a documentary on my university’s library. I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary, as opposed to my rather boring Googling. Being thorough and detail oriented is time consuming, but it is well worth it in the end.

Be friendly

Being an extreme extrovert, I went to college with the determination to make connections. I completely lost track of how many people I introduced myself to, especially during the first week. On my first day, I approached the dean of the honors college which was an excellent opportunity and connection. A few weeks later, I struck up a conversation with a fellow student in the library restroom and had the opportunity to tell her about a book that was related to here future goals. Showing interest in people shows that we care about them. As Proverbs 18:24 points out, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” College is a training ground for professional networking and future full time work. But more importantly, college is far more enjoyable with friends.

Keep outside interests alive  

College can turn learning into a mundane, uniform process, when learning is actually fascinating and life changing. One day as I was walking around the library, I discovered a book about the Nuremberg trials after World War 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the productive diversion from my normal school tasks. I realized that I had completely pushed aside my own personal research projects in the pursuit of good grades. It is a struggle to find a stopping point as there is always more studying that can be done. At certain times, I had to force myself to take a break. During the school semester, I taught public speaking classes, volunteered at a homeless feeding ministry, and packed Operation Christmas Child boxes. These activities were a brief, refreshing break from schoolwork. They also helped me to stay connected to people outside of my normal school sphere.

During my first semester, I began to learn how to apply the knowledge I gained in class to real life. Thinking critically during college gave me the opportunity to not just memorize and learn, but to understand the world a little better. College is also an excellent opportunity to practice having a good attitude even during poor circumstances. With my second semester starting tomorrow, I am excited to embrace all the new challenges and adventures!



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