Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Real Life Beta: The College Years

By Kyle Slavin

College is a beautiful mess.

From the safe and protected confines of their hometown, the college student is plucked from their life-long friends and their regular home-cooked meals. They are then placed in the most chaotic situation conceivable. Legions of lost strangers surround them in an unfamiliar town, with all of the worst influences now available for consumption. Hormones are flaring, and while these young men and women struggle to feed themselves, sleep and bathe regularly, they are also expected to study for the hardest classes they’ve ever taken.

If they make it out alive, they still have to find a job!

There is a saying in the professional sphere: “It’s like learning to drink from a fire hose.” Like throwing a new swimmer in the deep end, our society shocks our new students with more than they can logically handle, just to see what they’re made of. Sometimes, it is necessary to evolve by force.

College is a time to prepare yourself for the rest of your life. And we believe that there is as much to learn outside the classroom as there is inside. Learn from all your experiences, not just your lectures, and you will prepare yourself far better for your future.

For example, here are some parallels between college and what you can expect from the real world:

Your Professor Is Your Manager

There are few of us who will go on to be our own boss. This means that much of your work life will involve pleasing someone else who has authority over you. This is far easier said than done. Think of your classroom as a department that you work in, and your professor as your manager.  Your ability to stand out and out-perform your coworkers - the other students - is pivotal in your own success.  

To accomplish this, make yourself seen. (This is where office hours come in key.) In your work, don't try to perfect the ordinary - your professor has seen the same assignment and papers handed in a million times.  Instead, attempt the extraordinary. The effort will be unique and noted, resulting in a more memorable student profile and better grades.

Besides, your parents need encouragement to keep those checks coming.

You Are The Company You Keep

College is a unique opportunity to start from scratch socially.  You will be inundated with new people, all of whom are looking for companionship as well. But before you start wearing a funny hat and ad-libbing your own personal history (as I did), there are a few checks to run your new potential besties through.  

First, no matter what their intentions are, make sure that their behavior is in line with yours. Even if they are perfect angles during the day, if they are drunken womanizers at night, you will be painted with the same brush stroke.

Next, make sure that they support you as much as you support them.  You will learn that every relationship should be balanced and fair. If they bail on you once, they will most certainly repeat that behavior.

Finally, be yourself.  The sooner you come to terms with what you like, who you are, and what you want to accomplish in life, the more genuine your friends will be. This will forever be true, even in your eventual business partnerships. It's hard to keep up a front, but it's even harder to keep an entire fake relationship.  

Don't Be Afraid

In college, you are thrust into an excessive amount of unfamiliar scenarios. Guess what - that doesn't change with time. Walking into an exam is like walking into a big business meeting, and impressing "that girl" at the party is just like nailing a really important interview.  

No matter the situation, your own confidence and self-assurance will put you in the advantage.  Even as a college kid, you have the unbelievable potential to talk yourself into - or out of - any pressure situation.  Just roll confidently, trust that you will make the best decisions, and "OWN IT!"

Due Diligence is Worth It

A smarter man than I once spoke of taking pride in nailing the little daily chores. "If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"* This is true in your weekly studying just as it is true for eventually paying your bills and your mortgage. The annoyance is small, the task is minimal, but if you don't put out the fire instantly it will burn into an inferno.  

There is always, ALWAYS something you would rather be doing, and if you get in the practice of procrastinating, it is nearly impossible to break out of it.  Even if you do some extra work that you didn't have to do, you still come out ahead.  And the lack of stress will be a welcomed relief for "Future You".

Everything in Moderation

College is the first time in your life that the training wheels are completely off.  You can eat, drink, study, sleep, party, and work out - or, you can do one of these in excess. It is vitally important, a crucial life lesson, that you don't over-do it on your body.  

There are an infinite amount of coping mechanisms. If you study too much, you may feel like you deserve a big night out. Trust me, this will do you more harm than good. As the stress increases, coping mechanisms become obsessions, and obsessions begin to hamper your mental and physical health.  Even if you believe you can handle a really bad meal or a drink-fest once, it rarely ends after that one time.  

Just feel comfortable in your expenditures of energy, time, effort, and comfort.  If you think you've studied too long, take a walk.  If you are tired but your friends are still up and raring to go, feel comfortable in calling it a night.  Don't force yourself into anything, and you'll be far more productive on the tasks you do wish to accomplish.


Remember - college, like life, is chaos.  It is up to you to create order and a system that works for you. No one knows you better than you know yourself.  Do what you enjoy, and do your best at it. It is remarkable how often good fortune happens to those who follow their own path.  College is simply your opportunity to branch out and see what works for you, so you can build on “you” for the rest of your life.

* John Wooden

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