What I Learned In College (All Of It!)

At the end of every year of college, I’ve sat down and made a list of a handful of things I learned. They ranged from the weirdly specific and the universal, the personal and the professional, the idiotic to the sublime.

Now it’s the end of my last year. I perform my final project as a USC student in 10 days, and I graduate in 12. It’s over, all of it. I’m doing exactly what I hoped to be doing. I still have panic attacks and stage fright, I still wake up some mornings thinking I look like a bridge troll, and I still leave some social interactions thinking, WTF did I just say? Seriously, what was any of that? What?

But fortunately, I now have coping mechanisms for all of that. And I realize that most of those things are pretty normal, or at least common enough that other people have told me they feel the same way sometimes. And more importantly, I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the last four years. Obviously I’m not talking about academics, although I’ve definitely retained far more academic information in college than I did in high school—what a crazy concept, that when you’re learning for the sake of learning, you actually enjoy it and you remember what you’re taught! But just like every other cliché college grad, I’m talking about what I learned Outside The Classroom (cue Green Day).

So here is a semi-exhaustive list of absolutely every godforsaken thing I figured out going from 17 to 21 at one of the most wonderful, welcoming, stimulating, scandal-ridden, economically imbalanced universities in the country !

— don’t mix your liquor, you will get a hangover, if not this time, then eventually
— do you have your keys?
— clean your toilet
— drink water
— take pictures
— don’t send that long dramatic text it’s not worth it
— asking for consent does not ruin the mood in fact it makes the whole experience better (and, uh, legal!)
— keep a planner or at least a running to-do list, a physical one, not on your phone
— keep a journal, again a physical one with paper in it & stuff, even if you only write in it once a month you’ll be so glad you have it in ten years
— don’t be a narc
— don’t tell your friends what people say behind their backs
— DO tell your friends if their partner is cheating and the partner is too cowardly to do it themselves
— bring medicine — painkillers, stomach meds, vitamin C, et al
— bring snacks
— do volunteer work
— vote
— get involved in a local election somehow please everything is terrible
— stop being passive-aggressive, call out your friend/partner on their BS before it festers into something bigger than it needs to be
— don’t be afraid to ask people to hang out, bite the bullet and be the ringleader
— nobody is going to remember that embarrassing thing you said/did in six months so stop beating yourself up about it
— try dating apps just to see if you like it, if you hate them you can delete them
— dress in layers because some classrooms are boiling and some are freezing
— take a class in a subject that’s always interested you but has nothing to do with your major
— we’re all just people who do good things or bad things but none of us is inherently good or inherently bad (up for debate I guess but that’s where I’m trying to land)
— don’t forget to put on deodorant
— find a pleasant perfume or cologne to wear on special occasions (or, if you’re like me, to wear every day so you always smell like a bakery)
— find a form of exercise that doesn’t make you miserable and do it for 30-60 minutes, three or four times a week
— seriously do you have your keys
— people without uteruses: have trash cans in your bathrooms
— clean your toilet, I know I already said that, but please clean your toilet
— drink more water
— if your crush is single, tell them how you feel, you have up to ONE MONTH to pine and then you have to grow up
— if your crush is NOT single do NOT tell them how you feel because they do not like you and if they make a move on you while they’re in a relationship then they’re not the kind of person you want to be with anyway
— call your parents more
— call your siblings more
— work on that essay/project/presentation/test prep a little bit every day for a week before it actually needs to be done
— take out the trash
— with few professional exceptions, no one lives or dies on the basis of your good work, so don’t stress about getting it done perfectly, just get it done
— eat more fruits and vegetables
— drink less coffee
— buy a reusable water bottle and to-go coffee/tea cup, it won’t save the planet but it’s a start
— stress less about what you look like; you’re probably a lot more attractive than you think, and more to the point, nobody is looking at you, everyone else is way more worried about themselves
— related to the above, being attractive doesn’t automatically make people fall in love with you
— stickers from Redbubble are a quick way to boost your mood, they’re also great birthday presents & the best part is that you get discounts buying them in orders of 4 or 10 so stock up
— take at least one day every semester to skip all your classes and do absolutely nothing
— do not do the above thing more than once a semester
— it’s better to turn it in late but decent than to turn in something crappy / to plagiarize / not to do it at all (PLEASE DON’T PLAGIARIZE)
— seriously any grade is better than zero so no matter how late it is just turn something in
— if you’re not sure if it counts as cheating, it’s probably cheating (romantically & academically)
— if you’re always paranoid that your partner is cheating on you, you should break up with them, because either they’re cheating on you or you have serious trust issues
— ask your friends more questions about themselves, don’t hog the conversation
— open up more to your friends, no need to clam up around people who love you
— ask your professors/advisors/mentors more questions about their lives and careers
— create traditions with your friends, it can be something as big as a yearly trip or as small as a weekly brunch
— everything gets two tries - hate it once, give it one more shot, & if it still sucks, never do it again
— muting people on social media is just as effective as blocking them and unlike with blocking they’ll have no idea you did it
— unfollow those influencers that make you feel bad about your body or your life, seriously, hating yourself is optional
— actually almost everything is optional so if you can safely quit the job, dump the partner, end the friendship, or move to a new place, sleep on it, then do it tomorrow; and if it’s something small like dying your hair or rearranging your furniture or learning an instrument, START TODAY
— also even if it’s not optional, it is temporary, so if nothing else, ride that wave until it’s over, one day it will be— platonic love is not a second-rate version of romantic love, it is deep and valuable and intimate and you’re lucky to have it
— stop trying to grow up so fast, there’s plenty of time for that
— hang out with people of different genders/races/religions/socioeconomic statuses/sexual orientations, listen to their stories, check your privilege
— don’t have sex with someone just because you feel like you’re supposed to
— don’t go on a date with someone just because you’re too scared to say no
— say you’re sorry immediately and then leave the person alone to forgive you on their own time, if you keep apologizing it’s not about them it’s about you and that’s not the point of an apology
— accept that some people will never forgive you
— try to forgive people who genuinely apologize and have tried to be better
— don’t be friends with sexual predators
— sorry I don’t think you heard me, DON’T BE FRIENDS WITH SEXUAL PREDATORS
— if you’re teaching someone to be less racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/just in general to be less ignorant, try to be patient
— but don’t feel obligated to teach absolutely every single person you meet how to be more tolerant
— start packing up your dorm/apartment/room early if you can, it’s very overwhelming trying to do it all in one day
— use protection REGARDLESS of your gender or your partner(s)’ gender and if there’s a risk of pregnancy, double up
— get tested, IDK how often I’m not a doctor
— unless the person is literally the leader of a nation they are not too busy for you, if they want to see you they’ll make time
— I can’t remember who said this but: don’t make anyone a priority who just makes you an option
— make time to read for pleasure
— leave yourself motivational notes around your room, it’s not lame, it might make you smile
— sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the big stuff make gratitude lists of dumb small things that make you happy you’re alive (for me it’s cappuccinos and going to the movies and the golden hour)
— why don’t you just check and make sure you have your keys
— do things you’re bad at for fun, not everything has to be a job and if all it does is make you happy that still counts as being productive
— go to therapy if you can afford it
— wake up earlier than you need to
— go to bed earlier than you need to
— learn to say no to stuff you don’t have time to do, even if it sounds cool
— try to say yes to things that will help you in the long run, even if they sound hard/scary
— be honest with romantic interests about the depth of your feelings & your long-term intentions
— listen to people when they tell you their intentions with you, and don’t try to change their mind
— post less on social media (unless it’s your job, then go nuts)
— expensive cocktails are often bad, don’t bother
— apply for the job, enter the competition, your chances may be slim but if you don’t try then your chances are zero
— if you did something that’s gonna hurt your friend, tell them about it right away, the lying is worse than whatever you did
— I know you think you won’t, but you WILL fall in love again
— ask for help
— if your friend is suffering don’t worry about saying or doing the right thing, just do something, they need to know you’re there
— tell your loved ones you’re thinking about them without the prompting of a holiday or birthday or tragedy
— one more quick key check just to be safe
— you can do this
— please for the love of god drink more water