Am I Doing This Whole College Thing the “Right” Way?

Throughout my college career, I have struggled with doing what I’m expected to do, but also doing what fulfills me. For my first three years of college, I did exactly what people told me to do—I spent hours in the library and became really involved on campus. Yet amidst this busyness of trying to do what I thought was right, I found myself unhappy and empty. My grades took away little pieces of me, and I began to question just how far a perfect GPA could take me when I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I’m a senior now and am finally realizing what true satisfaction looks like in my life. Here are three things I have learned along the way and wish someone had told me before starting college.

Relaxing, Kelly Teague
Flickr: Kelly Teague

First, there is true value in rest. It is so common for us to lose ourselves in all that we do. Let’s face it— the world is competitive. It can be scary thinking about what others may be doing to get ahead that you aren’t. And while it’s important to be involved and work hard in classes, our worth does not lie in our busyness. I repeat: our worth is not measured by how much we do or how perfect our GPA is. So, I am giving you permission to rest, to go to bed early, to take a few extra minutes in the morning to sip your coffee. As a senior, I have reached the land of the burnt-out, and it’s not the prettiest place. All I want is to not be busy. So before you reach the burnout zone, take a break from the busyness and know that you will still be successful and achieve your goals by setting aside time for yourself.

The second thing I wish I had known coming into college is you will change. College will change you, no matter how hard you try to not let it. Don’t be afraid of the change; rather, embrace it! As long as the change is taking you to a better place, making you a better person, and helping you to do more good for the world, let college change you. Change can be scary, but I think the scarier thing is remaining the same when you have the potential to make this world just a little bit better.

Change, Arthur John Picton
Flickr: Arthur John Picton

The third thing I wish I had known is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. We are always waiting for something better—to get through this and get to the next best thing. If I’m sure of one thing, it’s how quickly college flies by. So don’t think your purpose here is to just move onto the next best thing. We are all living the best thing, right here, right now! We are at an incredible institution, learning from brilliant professors, surrounded by passionate, creative minds that are making this world that much better. Work hard so you have the option of moving forward after college, but don’t forget to enjoy your time here. Whatever you do, make sure it helps you in learning how to be content in what you have right now, not what you may have in the future.

So, in closing, if you feel a bit lost, stressed, and unsure, then you’re most likely doing this whole college thing the “right” way. My best advice for you is to fully and completely embrace it. Discover what your values are and hold onto them. Explore your passions and what makes you tick. Stick to who you are, no matter how out of place and lonely that feels sometimes, because the world needs you, not copies of anyone else. There is no one “right” way to experience college. The best thing to do is focus on what you need, because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and your choices.