The No. 1 Thing I Wish I Did Differently In College

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My philosophy on regrets is the common idea that they're a waste of time. Looking back at all the bad choices I've made (and trust me, there's plenty) I'm grateful for every single one. After all was said and done, I was able to look back and learn from the decisions I made. Moving forward I'd always remember my experience and make better choices. 

One thing I can't go back and do again though is college. Almost four years after graduating, there is something I wish I had done when I was there ā€“ wanted to learn. I wish I took advantage of the fact that smart, educated people were standing in front of me to explain subjects that I now have to learn on my own time.  

Like most college students, I enjoyed partying and hanging out my friends the majority of the time. That's not to say I didn't work really hard. During my junior and senior year, I held down two jobs, an internship, classes and was editor on the school paper. Unfortunately, the thing that fell by the waist side was classes, which ironically was costing the most and the reason I had to work two jobs. All I cared about was having a good time and a good resume to show off to get the job I wanted. I worked just hard enough so I could get A's that would keep my GPA high enough to look good on my resume next to everything else. Instead of using college as a place to learn and expand my mind, I used it as a playground and a resume booster.

Confession (I hope none of my professors read this): I was an English major and read maybe three full books throughout my entire four year college career. Instead of taking the time to read a novel, I Sparknoted and skimmed through pages so I could pin point certain sentence structures and language during class. I bullshitted my way through discussions year after year. Rarely did I come up with fresh thoughts. They were mostly things I found online about the deeper meaning of the book. The only time I came up with my own ideas was during a script analysis class and that's because the reading was so short I could read it the night before. Not to mention, I was the only english major in the class so I was more used to critical analysis than most the performance majors I was with.  

Now that I'm out of school though, I'm always reading a new book. Not just fun Gillian Flynn-type books either, but novels that I was supposed to read and discuss in class six years ago. I can't put them down! Only now when I finish I don't have anyone to discuss themes and characters with, which can be a real pity at times. 

It's not just books that I'm going back and indulging in either. History has always been an interest of mine, especially New York City history. When I took a class with this specific focus sophomore year, we never got passed the 1800's. As disappointing as this is to me now, at the time I was thrilled that class was so slow and easy! In my own time I now read all kinds of history books about New York City. They often take a while to get through and there's lots of checking back in to see if I remember stories and facts correctly, but I just love knowing things! As stupid and trivial as it sounds, it's true. I like understanding references people make or telling a story to others who may find it interesting. It's a strange (and I'll admit, sometimes annoying) development in who I've become as a person but it is what it is. And if I'm being honest, I'm proud of it.  

Recently I went back to a museum I was assigned to go to college. "Ugh, I have to go into the city and go to this stupid museum," I remember bitching to my friends. Last week, I went to the same museum and chose to pay the full price that we got comped for class last time. It wasn't cheap either. It was a guided tour about Irish immigrants through the Tenement Museum. It felt so great to be a part of an hour class-like environment, asking questions and answering others (probably obnoxiously so). 

I don't regret how I did college by any means. I'm working and writing in the industry I strived so hard to get in to. I also made friendships and memories I wouldn't take back for all the money in the world. Anyone who spends too much time focusing on classes is also missing out on prime opportunities college offers. It's not bullshit when people say there's more to a college experience than just a degree and studying. For most people, it's the first time you're on your own and away from your parents, making your own decisions and meeting new people. There's a lot to be said for this time in your life when you're learning who you are as an individual. 

Then on the other end of the spectrum, if you're skipping and bullshitting your way through classes, you're missing out on part of the joys of a college education. Instead of just counting down the minutes until class was over, I wish I spent my time listening and caring about what professors were telling me. I mean actually caring too, not just caring because it would effect my grade. Okay, maybe not all classes because no matter what I will never pay attention to a science or math lecture, but in my english and social science courses. I should have engaged my mind more rather than just doing the bare minimum.

It isn't until you're out of college that you realize that it could be your last chance to be in school. It costs a lot to learn in this country and I can't afford to do it anymore unless I do it myself. So all I'm saying is, if you are in college, acknowledge it for the gift that it is and take advantage. Not everyone has the opportunity you were given and you might not ever get it again.