When I will think back on my college days, what I remember the most vividly has nothing to do with the classes I took.
It has continually been said that college has never really been about the degree itself, but rather, the college experience as a whole.
We learn more from the act of going to college than reading our textbooks, and the most important of these experiences are:
1. Who our real friends are.
Let’s face it: No one went through college without losing some friends.
Whether these were your high school friends you just slowly drifted apart from or one of your closest friendships, which somehow blew up into World War III, we all learn whom we can really trust.
Your real friends are the ones who held your hand through your breakup, who picked you up in the middle of nowhere when you drunkenly called at 5 am and who let you be all kinds of crazy and still stuck by you.
They’re the ones you’ll take with you into the next stage of your life.
2. How to handle alcohol.
It’s definitely hard not to cringe when you think of what you were like when you first entered college.
But, that eager freshman who spent most nights out either being the vomiter or taking care of a fellow vomiter has now figured out how to be classy (or, at least classier).
By the end of college, we can all look at ourselves in the mirror and say "never again." And eventually, we reach the point of actually meaning it.
We start to learn the do's and don’ts of mixing drinks, the rules of pregaming and the terror of tequila.
Let’s all pray we can leave the nights and early mornings of being passed out over a toilet behind us.
3. How to live on a student budget.
If we ever get stranded on an island, we’ll definitely know how to survive on the bare minimum.
In fact, the extent of the math we used in college was basically calculating just how long you could survive off 2-minute noodles or how far you could stretch that last $5.
Our parents may have judged us for eating cereal for dinner, but we can assure you all that it’s perfectly acceptable (if not expected) in our student dorms.
4. How to act like we’re not hungover.
Job interviews, work, assignments or brunch with your parents: Whatever you had that next morning, we have all learned how to go from zero to hero.
That unique feeling of waking up and feeling like an elephant is doing cartwheels on your head is hard to shake.
Usually, we’d tackle it with a strong dose of pancakes, bacon and lots of coffee, but sometimes there just isn’t the time for that.
If we never master the power to say no to alcohol, at least we will have learned how to power through the after-effects. That counts as "resilience" on your résumé, right?
5. How to get our work done at the last possible minute.
Oh, midnight study sessions, how I’ll miss you so. Other than lacking the motivation to do anything a second before you had to, I really do think we just liked the thrill of leaving work until the last minute.
Either way, students have the ability to do a semester’s work in one night like no one else. It’s actually quite impressive, and we can’t imagine getting through college any other way.
6. Whom to date and whom to hate.
The good, the bad and the disastrously ugly: College dating puts you through it all. College is the time to get all the experimenting out of your system.
Remember when you watched all the "Star Wars" movies because a cute but geeky guy wanted? Or when you tried yoga and green smoothies to please your free-spirited girlfriend?
As each relationship came to an end, we learned more and more about who we were or who we weren’t.
Gone are the days of adjusting our personalities for the person we’re dating. It’s now time to find the person who loves us and all our beautiful weirdness.
7. How to be fake nice to someone we don’t like.
Think through your college years. Remember that one person you just hated?
Whether it was a roommate who never cleaned, a member of a group project who didn’t pull his weight or that bitchy cheerleader, there is always that one person who stands out for all the wrong reasons.
On the plus side, now we can definitely be fake nice to the coworkers we dislike, and that’s a skill that’ll come in handy far more than knowing the photosynthesis equation.
8. How to get a Ph.D. in procrastination.
Do you know what you should do when it’s exam time? Learn how to play the flute.
Or, you can start a new TV show, redo your whole room, convert to Buddhism, read the entire "A Song of Ice and Fire" series or basically do anything but study.
If the ability to waste time was awarded, we’d all have honors in Procrasti-baking.
9. What we really care about.
Most college students will go through a phase of believing they’ve found their true callings.
They will find it in campaigning against whaling, playing football, being in a band, dancing or being a student government officer.
Extracurricular activities have this way of making us fall in love with something and hopefully, we’ll figure out what we truly love doing.
10. That the only thing we really know is that we know nothing.
Graduating is a wonderful and exciting thing. We’ve learned so much throughout our time pursuing our degrees, and we’ll take away so much more than is written on our diplomas.
Yet, the reality of it is that we’re only just at the beginning of our learning.
We leave college with more questions, more curiosity and more uncertainty than we had when we were entering.
For the first time, we (well, the most of us) are leaving a relatively safe environment to head into the unknown that is the rest of our lives.
The most important lesson we can take from college is that nothing is ever as we expect and, as Steve Jobs said in his famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Address,
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
As we, class of 2015, move forward in our lives, our college experiences in and out of the classroom will continually influence who we are and how we change the world.