What I Learned in College Wasn’t Found in My $200 Textbook

2009 December 14
by Grace Boyle

Groaning at the enormous bill my college bookstore just slammed on me and how heavy my bag was going to be on my way back to my apartment I thought, “Somethings gotta give.”

The deepest, most meaningful lessons I learned in college weren’t found in the text from Psych 101 or even my core major, Public Relation case study books–it was from the people, the professors, the experiences, the music and projects. Not my textbooks.

collegegirls

Some of my best friends from college at graduation, goof balls.

We often bypass or overlook our emotional education, versus the paper diploma hanging on our wall (or our parents’ like mine). Don’t get me wrong, I feel privileged to have a Bachelor of Science and I did learn a lot in regards to education and experience but our emotional education develops who we are and where we go.

Author David Brooks highlights the importance of the other education. Brooks writes, “We don’t usually think of this second education. For reasons having to do with the peculiarities of our civilization, we pay a great deal of attention to our scholastic educations, which are formal and supervised, and we devote much less public thought to our emotional educations, which are unsupervised and haphazard. This is odd, since our emotional educations are much more important to our long-term happiness and the quality of our lives.”

Here’s A Sampling of What I Learned:

  1. How to live on a tight budget, creatively cook food that cost $1.00 and still be resilient.
  2. How to function on little-to-no-sleep after studying or a late night out.
  3. The friends you had freshman year aren’t always the one that stick it through to the end.
  4. The four years of college can pull you tighter in friendships than the friends you may have grown up with.
  5. Your college years are meant to enjoy (really). Go out for drinks on a Thursday even if you have class at 9:00 AM the next morning. It’s okay to be a little tired. You will remember the experiences you had, not your GPA from one semester 20 years down the road. I’m not saying toss everything to the side, just remember the balance. I graduated at the very top of my class (Summa Cum Laude), worked and had internships, yet I had a fun, fulfilling, (yes, even a bit wild) social life too. Books and late night studying aren’t the end all be all. There will never be another time in your life (in terms of age, youth, and inhibition) than college. So embrace all of it.
  6. Take advantage of everything your college offers. It’s available to you and you never know who you could meet. We often become sidetracked or forget that besides the classes you may begrudgingly walk to, there is probably a great student center with activities, classes, causes and trips. I have friends who wished they got their ass of their dorm room couch and actually tried to participate and meet new people.
  7. Work hard, play hard.
  8. Study Abroad. There are so many financial aid, loans and college assistance opportunities out there so seriously, travel abroad. It was the best 6 months of my life. I learned my industry from an international perspective, I traveled Europe, I met lifelong friends and learned the power of indulgence (a.k.a. la dolce vita) thanks to Florence, Italy.
  9. It’s okay to not know what you want to do and lack some direction. You will figure it out. Don’t stress it.
  10. Beware of jungle juice. Although it might be a college prereq, be weary.
  11. You might fall in love, you most likely could have your heart broken. It’s a good time to explore and meet new people. I’ve seen so many friends become lost in a college relationship, some of my college friends are married, some (including me) are no longer with their college love. Don’t forget who your friends are when you meet that boy or girl.
  12. The walk of shame. I think everyone’s gotta do it (at least once, right?) If not, it’s still fun to watch the girl at 8:00 AM struggle in her dress and high heels, clearly, she hasn’t been home yet.
  13. Reach out to your professors. Big or small university (small being more available) professors are there to help, guide and teach you. There’s more to them than the classroom. I still keep in touch with my favorite professors and during college, I would stop by their office and even have dinner at their house. They taught me a lot and helped me along the way (personally and in college).
  14. Question everything. Stand up for what you believe in. This is the time you’re molding your thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Recognize they may change, but always remember: Stay hungry, stay foolish.

What did you learn in college? You know, not the textbook kind of learning, the real, nitty gritty.

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  • http://talltara.com/ tarable

    I learned that I take attending classes much more seriously when I'm paying my own tuition bill.

    Also? Don't play drinking games with members of the university's football team.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanendres Ryan Endres, PMP

    My favorite one in this post is #5… I spent way too much time with my nose in a book then I should of …. if I could do it again I would spend a bit more time socializing …..

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Tarable Not drinking with football team members has been noted. Good call!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan I like everyone's perspective and quite often, many people wish they would have read a little less and spent a little more time socializing. Hindsight is always 20/20, yes?

  • http://www.lifewithoutpants.com Matt Cheuvront

    I'll go so far as to say that I learned less in my business courses than I did in my philosophy and theology courses – electives that I didn't need, but taught me much more about life and how to live than any textbook on statistics could ever even begin to teach me.

    And it seems to be there is always that one – that one professor who somehow has a lasting impact on you for years to come. There was one for me – a philosophy professor, young guy, who taught using films (The Matrix & American Beauty were two of our focuses) – Not only was the class sweet as hell – he put no emphasis on grades – it was all about learning, about growing – it might have been totally subjective, but as long as you were 'seeing things more clearly' by the end of the course, you had no problem getting a good grade.

    It honestly to this day has me wishing I was a teacher from time to time – because it seemed so real, and so NOT like school, you know? Anyways, my man crush rant is over – but I think you get what I'm saying. It's not all about books and tests, it's about the life lessons we can take with us forever.

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  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Good list. Agreed, all around. The actual content you take home from college isn't nearly as valuable as the experiences and the life lessons that you get.

    I learned a lot more from my social interactions at school than I did in the classroom. The classroom to me, was just a lesson in work ethic. It taught me how I can find a balance between work and fun.

    Unless your'e going to grad school, your gpa doesn't matter…at all. It's the person that college has helped you to become that will get you that job.

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia.com

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Matt Ah, it's good to hear from you over yonder!!

    I like that you bring up those electives that might not be relevant to your major but provided deep insight and an emotional connection to an overall happiness. I really think it's important to treasure those professors (mind/man/woman crush) because mentors are not only inspirational but they come at a transient time in college.

    Thanks for sharing, my friend :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @David It's interesting, because there's so much emphasis on getting the right textbooks, doing well in each individual class and getting no sleep or a headache from assignment to assignment.

    I also think you bring up a great point about the classroom teaching you about work ethic. A very important lesson indeed. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    I love this post, Grace! I totally agree that school is only part of our education. There are some things that simply can't be learned in a classroom. For example, there's a difference between learning to write a news story and interviewing your classmate, and conducting an actual interview and writing a story on deadline. As we've discussed before, this is one reason why internships are so important.

    You definitely learned some valuable lessons outside of the classroom, and I'm so glad you shared them!

  • http://www.lifewithoutpants.com Matt Cheuvront

    I know, I know, but I promise I am back to being a regular here – count on it!

    I'm really glad I opted for “useful” electives instead of underwater basket weaving – although I did take “History of the Samurai” and “Stress Management” – haha – OK so I did a little slacking. The point is, there is much to be learned away from your gen eds, and away from the classroom in general. Thanks again for the great discussion :)

  • http://www.cornonthejob.com Rich DeMatteo

    Great list you put together, Grace!

    I started out freshman year extremely shy, and went back home for most of my weekends. A pretty serious hockey injury put me in surgery and physical therapy for 6 months, so that also had me at home most of the time. I was lucky that my college wasn't too far away from my home town!

    Sophomore year I got much more involved with my small college. I helped start a Roller Hockey and helped form an official club. I spent all of my weekends on campus and that year was when my big group of friends all came together. Junior year I joined the executive board for Student Government and Senior year I was the Senior Class President.

    I grew up at in college. The activities I took part in helped form the leadership qualities that I have today, and most of my best friends all came from college, not from growing up like you mention in your list. The college I went to is a small private catholic college with only around 1,000 students. Everyone knew each other, and I can honestly say that everyone liked each other. It was a great community, and maybe my biggest take away was learning the value of community and respecting those around you.

    I also learned how to climb up a brick wall and sneak into an ex's dorm. Being spider man is not easy…

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam You're right. It's funny that I didn't include internships in this list…it was largely based off the overall experience but I definitely think of it as part of my growth in college. I'm glad you like this list :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Rich I understand where you're coming from, college is definitely out of your comfort zone at first. I had many friends go back home on the weekends or not involve themselves, some even ended up dropping out because they just wanted to be home. I applaud you for getting involved and the way you grew within your college, congratulations. Such a good story.

    I actually didn't have that opportunity because I am from Iowa and went to college in Vermont (also a small college, 1400 people). I was nowhere near home, nowhere near anyone I knew, which is why I think I too was able to grow up and become close to my college friends, fast.

    Oh and I LOVE the last line about spider-maning your way into a dorm room. Classic!

  • http://www.cornonthejob.com/ Rich DeMatteo

    I'm pretty sure that if any of the RA's had caught me sneaking in they would have just applauded by effort and let me stay for the night.

    I'm serious, Tobey Maguire can suck my dust…

  • http://fiwk.blogspot.com/ Royce

    Kind of like Matt there, I am glad that I went with a subject I really enjoyed (English Lit) and feel I learned a ton because of that. Absolutely would recommend picking a subject based on what moves you, not based on what you think is most practical.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Royce I'm glad to hear you picked a subject that moves you. My major was exciting and I always enjoyed it. It means so much more than a subject I have no interest in.

    However, a lot of people have no idea what moves them or even what's practical when they're 18 and beginning college. I think even that's okay…to not know what you want because it takes time and luckily, you will be learning more than just what your major is in while you're in college.

    Thanks for sharing, Royce.

  • http://tomaszgorecki.com/ thomas

    Great post, I been out of school and I can honestly say I missed out on a lot while being in university. Nothing can be done now except to keep going but this will be something that will stick with me for a long time and I will be sure to share it with my kids.

    I think one thing that is most important from that list for me at least, is love and friendship. Through school, I was constantly in relationships and unfortunately did not have as much time for friends or even parties. I basically didn't live the lifestyle while in school.

    On top of that, I am 24 now and actually not looking for a relationship until I will be around 30 because I want to get my career in place first. This of course should have been my focus when I first started High school and University.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Thomas Interesting perspective to where you are now. I wrote that point because I saw many friends shy away from their friends when they became consumed in a relationship. Friendships are so important, especially at that time in college. I'm not saying that relationships aren't but a balanced one is ideal.

    Thanks for sharing. Hindsight is always 20/20, eh? :)

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  • http://25andtrying.com Beth Oppenheim

    Oh my goodness. These lessons are spot on. I definitely had both the experience of working hard and playing hard, and I was always given a hard time because I chose to go to school in the middle of New York City, and not have the “Campus experience.” Looking back, college was the most formative experience ever. It was everything (and more, much more) that it was promised to be – but never in the order that I expected.
    The thing that I agree with the most is the studying abroad thing. It changed my life completely, as well as helped me get through some really rough times I was having back home.
    I really got nostalgic reading this post – and I urge everyone out there reading this while IN college to enjoy it while you can :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Beth I'm so happy to hear that you feel the same about studying abroad. It can be such a powerful experience and I think that it should almost be required for all college students…it's just amazing.

    I felt nostalgic writing this too. I loved sharing this because I knew many people would have similar experiences and if not, share their own different ones.

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  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    Good list Grace, I agree wholeheartedly with the study abroad part. It made me go back to 'Work Illegally Abroad' which was undoubtely more fun than Study Abroad.

    The one piece of advice I'd give is for new students to truly think about what they want to study. I say this becuase so many people to go college now just to go to college, and that is fine honestly if mom and dad are flipping the bill.

    I left college with an immensely large chunk of money to pay back, almost $75,000. That included 2 years of grad school that was a waste of $$, but hindsight is 20/20.

    Financial aid may seem great and that refund check at the end of the month might be amazing, but when you get out of college with a degree that everyone else in the world has, and you cannot find a job. Those $700 a month payments are going to make it seem like a bad idea (I feel this way everytime I click on 'Submit a Payment'

    So that means my wife and I will live in an apartment for a much longer time, something that I regret.

    Would I give up college for that? Probably not but I would think twice about signing on the dotted line for everything.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan You bring up a very good point, especially coming from your personal story. The only thing is, when you're 18 how are you sure of what you want to study? We often think things so differently at age 18 even up to the point you graduate, let alone ten years down the road.

    I feel lucky that I knew what I wanted to study and that it was practical and relevant. However, my 'Submit a Payment' still gives me a little knot in my stomach each time I pay as well. I feel your pain and I think it's such a valid point for future generations. Thank you, Ryan!

  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    Grace — You are right. I guess I didn't explain my thought right. Hell, I went from Aeronautical Engineering — Phys Ed — Spanish Teacher — Linguist.

    I guess what I would say instead would be if you don't know what to go for, there is nothing wrong to go to community college for 2 years to get your gen-eds taken care of while you maybe get some work experience/volunteer in a variety of places to get a taste for what you want.

    We are now required to attend college whereas our parents, going to college was what some people did. That puts pressure to attend college straight out of the gate at 18, with like you said, without a clear idea of what you wanted to do.

    After my undergrad degree I took 2 years off, worked for one year, then moved to Spain for a year. Those 2 years gave me a break I needed.

    When I have kids, if they do not know the direction they want to go, I'd definitely encourage them to do the same and take some time to see what they want to do. We get so set in our ways in education that it makes it hard to actually see what we want to do because we don't even know what the real world is!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan Ah, yes, thank you for the clarification. It makes even more sense.

    There is NO need to jump into an expensive college if you have no idea what you want to do. Wasting money like that is just crazy. I have a few friends who took 1-2 years off before college to work and figure things out and now they found what they're passionate about and are going to college.

    Sounds like you have a really good outlook and I so appreciate you sharing it.

  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    Good list Grace, I agree wholeheartedly with the study abroad part. It made me go back to 'Work Illegally Abroad' which was undoubtedly more fun than Study Abroad.

    The one piece of advice I would give is for new students to truly think about what they want to study. I say this because so many people to go college now just to go to college, and that is fine honestly if mom and dad are flipping the bill.

    I left college with an immensely large chunk of money to pay back, almost $75,000. That included 2 years of grad school that was a waste of $$, but hindsight is 20/20.

    Financial aid may seem great and that refund check at the end of the month might be amazing, but when you get out of college with a degree that everyone else in the world has, and you cannot find a job. Those $700 a month payments are going to make it seem like a bad idea (I feel this way everytime I click on 'Submit a Payment'

    So that means my wife and I will live in an apartment for a much longer time, something that I regret.

    Would I give up college for that? Probably not but I would think twice about signing on the dotted line for everything.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan You bring up a very good point, especially coming from your personal story. The only thing is, when you're 18 how are you sure of what you want to study? We often think things so differently at age 18 even up to the point you graduate, let alone ten years down the road.

    I feel lucky that I knew what I wanted to study and that it was practical and relevant. However, my 'Submit a Payment' still gives me a little knot in my stomach each time I pay as well. I feel your pain and I think it's such a valid point for future generations. Thank you, Ryan!

  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    Grace — You are right. I guess I didn't explain my thought right. Hell, I went from Aeronautical Engineering — Phys Ed — Spanish Teacher — Linguist.

    I guess what I would say instead would be if you don't know what to go for, there is nothing wrong to go to community college for 2 years to get your gen-eds taken care of while you maybe get some work experience/volunteer in a variety of places to get a taste for what you want.

    We are now required to attend college whereas our parents, going to college was what some people did. That puts pressure to attend college straight out of the gate at 18, with like you said, without a clear idea of what you wanted to do.

    After my undergrad degree I took 2 years off, worked for one year, then moved to Spain for a year. Those 2 years gave me a break I needed.

    When I have kids, if they do not know the direction they want to go, I'd definitely encourage them to do the same and take some time to see what they want to do. We get so set in our ways in education that it makes it hard to actually see what we want to do because we don't even know what the real world is!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan Ah, yes, thank you for the clarification. It makes even more sense.

    There is NO need to jump into an expensive college if you have no idea what you want to do. Wasting money like that is just crazy. I have a few friends who took 1-2 years off before college to work and figure things out and now they found what they're passionate about and are going to college.

    Sounds like you have a really good outlook and I so appreciate you sharing it.

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  • Anonymous

    $200.00 for a textbook is insane.  The world of Physics is changing. The Large Hadron Collider was built to study the Graviton Particle I discovered in 2,002 . This new discovery has become Graviton Physics, an update to current Physics. I’ve been working on a new Graviton Physics course which will include a textbook covering the graviton, gravity, inertia, light and matter equivalents, and a lot more. My pledge to you as students is an effort to make the textbook affordable….Alfred-   

  • lauren

    Hi, how did you defer your loans in the 2 years you took off after your undergrad degree?

    I am just wondering because I have loans out for college right now. I did things backwards; I went to college for one year then community college for two, but I still don’t know what I want to do.

    Thank you!