College changes your life in irrevocable ways. It's a magical four years (five for some, but no judgment here) in which you shed the naïveté of adolescence and begin to morph into a full-blown adult.
When it begins, and you're a wide-eyed little freshman, the years that lie ahead seem like an eternity. But by the time it's over, you wonder how the time passed by so quickly.
It's become quite cliché to say "college is the best four years of your life," but in many respects it's absolutely true.
This isn't to say it's all downhill from the age of 21 onwards, or that life suddenly takes a terrible turn the minute you accept your diploma.
But, let's be honest, there's nothing quite like college and the way it perfectly meshes scholarship, mischief and adventure.
It's one of the most important periods of life, and it continues to affect you and your perspectives for many years to come.
Indeed, college is a right of passage, and much more than a matter of simply receiving an education (although that is a vital part of it all). But the fact of the matter is you may end up in a profession completely unrelated to what you studied in undergrad.
In many ways, the most valuable lessons you learn in college don't happen in the classroom at all, but arise as a byproduct of the entire crazy and wondrous experience.
More than anything, college is about self-discovery, and much of this has to occur away from professors, books and lecture halls.
Here are 11 things college teaches you outside of a classroom:
1. You have to clean up your own mess.
When you head off to college, you're truly on your own for the first time. Your parents aren't there to clean up after you anymore, in both a figurative and literal sense.
College teaches you to stop making so many excuses and take responsibility for your own problems. It helps you realize the state of your life is entirely up to you.
2. You don't have to go out every night.
At the beginning of freshman year, you can't imagine missing a single party. But you eventually begin to realize there will always be another one. It's okay to take a night off.
Sometimes there's nothing better than a movie night with friends.
3. Best friends don't necessarily make the best roommates.
College helps you understand the important difference between enjoying a person's company and being able to tolerate he or she as a roommate.
Just because you're the best of friends with someone, doesn't mean you should get an apartment together.
Rooming with a close friend can have disastrous consequences, but it teaches you a lot of valuable lessons about your own quirks. No one is perfect!
4. Your parents are actually pretty cool.
When you're finally granted independence and have to make decisions on your own, you begin to realize a lot of the advice your parents gave was pretty sound.
Your parents were young once too, and likely did most, if not all, of the stupid things you did during college.
You begin to stop seeing your parents as authority figures and start viewing them as friends. It's a beautiful transition.
5. You don't have to be afraid of growing up, but don't grow up too much.
Growing up is hard. The world can be a harsh and decidedly unfair place. You begin to recognize this unfortunate reality during college, and the innocence of your youth starts to fade.
At the same time, college helps you understand that the best things in life don't have to be confined to any single period of time.
There's no age limit on enjoyment. College teaches you to find the things you love the most and celebrate them with childlike enthusiasm as often as possible.
6. Never take a home-cooked meal for granted.
There is nothing better than a home-cooked meal. A few months into college, as you're struggling to make Ramen noodles, you begin to understand and acknowledge this universal truth perhaps more than anything else.
For all of the above reasons, college helps you recognize the value of learning to cook. There's more to life than microwaveable meals.
7. If you have an opportunity to travel, don't hesitate, just go.
Life is full of distractions and obligations, making it difficult for most of us to find the time to get out and explore. But college is easily one of the best times to travel.
Anyone who studied abroad in college will almost undoubtedly tell you it was a life-changing experience.
Anyone who chose not to will probably tell you how much he or she regrets not going when presented with the opportunity. Traveling is an education in itself, if you can go, don't delay.
8. Celebrate your community.
One of the biggest lessons you take away from college is the value of community. Humans are inherently social creatures, we survive and thrive by being around others.
College inspires within you a desire to celebrate the beauty of human connection, a vital notion that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
9. Keeping in touch with the people you love takes little effort but reaps big rewards.
It's easy to get distracted in college and forget to contact your parents, grandparents or that friend you've known since the time you were in diapers.
But it's also pretty easy to find ways to remind yourself to do so, and you'll be very grateful you did in the long run.
When it comes down to it, the only thing that truly matters in life is the relationships we keep, but they have to be cultivated. In other words, go call your grandma, she won't be here forever.
10. Home isn't a place, it's a feeling.
When you first get to college, feeling a little homesick is pretty normal. Moving out of your parent's house and living on your own for the first time is a huge transition.
Eventually, however, your campus and the people around you will begin to feel like home. You begin to understand home isn't so much about where you are, it's about how you feel.
Simply put, home is wherever you're able to shed your inhibitions and be your truest self. It's a mindset, not a location.
11. There's no better time than now.
You may not fully learn this lesson until after you graduate but, at some point or another, college helps you understand how important it is to seize the moment.
One might say the most important thing you learn outside of the classroom in college is to say "yes" as often possible.
Embrace uncertainty, go on adventures, don't be afraid to make mistakes, take big risks and recognize every single day is a gift.