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Three dire lessons we all should learn in college

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Four papers, four finals and 12 class days left, and then I will be done for the semester! Unless I take summer classes or accept an internship, my late-night studying and tireless work hours are done for three months.

The past three years have, at times, seemed to trudge by yet simultaneously sneak past me like a ninja. The close of junior year marks 16 years of education but not the end of learning.

Education is often confined to lectures and textbooks, but there is much more to discover outside the classroom. As I reflect upon my college years thus far, I can’t recall half of what my professors taught me. But life’s experiences have revealed to me a few essential lessons.

Life lesson number one: You don’t need to do “everything” to succeed.

College is not only about studying, checking items off of a to-do list and maintaining a high GPA. College presents an opportunity to explore the social and financial constraints in life to discover what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what might be a logical next step outside of college. This cannot be accomplished when you are overcommitted to academics or constantly stressed about flawlessly executing every project or extra credit opportunity.

So I say, procrastinate when you please! Give into peer pressure once in a while. Take a risk and put down your books! Constant work is not sustainable. It is stressful to the body and stifles creativity.

It is important to accept the fact that we cannot do everything, nor do it all well, and as much as I hate economics, I have to admit: Yes, opportunity cost is very real.

A big part of effectiveness and efficiency is prioritization. Happy and productive students take a moment to identify tasks and activities that warrant the greatest return. This means declining a lot of “necessary” things to enjoy yourself once in a while.

Life lesson number two: You need to be comfortable with social drinking.

The modern professional is presented with plenty of opportunities to have a few pints, pitchers or cocktails after work. If you didn’t go to college and learn that there is always a time and a place for this type of event, you may not have been able to control yourself.

You now know that your work supervisor finds it much less entertaining if you show up for the job late, hung-over or generally unproductive. Sure, you could order that last drink on a Wednesday night. But Thursday morning comes awfully fast, and you won’t have the option of just skipping this class.

If you save big party nights for the weekend and avoid keg stands at company parties, you know you’ll be safe in your place at work.

Social drinking has almost become a necessity in the modern work world. It presents a time to connect with your boss and fellow co-workers in a relaxed setting. So while in college, make sure you go to parties, go into a bar (legally) and kick back a few drinks, even if they are non-alcoholic. Just being in a relaxed setting can set you up for a promotion down the line because your boss and co-workers will know the non-professional you.

That’s not to say you have to drink alcohol, but in today’s world, you need to be comfortable around those who drink a little after work.

Life lesson number three: Stay young.

So you want to eat pizza and Cheetos every night for dinner. You occasionally sleep till noon and ignore the alarm like a bandit. And nobody stops you. I hope you realize by now that college, like life, affords you incredible amounts of autonomy to make your own decisions. This is a great thing, right?

It was until you realized the main consequence of complete freedom is total responsibility. You know that if you forget to finish an assignment, you’ll get a low grade. This is why you now know that if you fail to finish a project at work you might actually be fired.

This doesn’t mean that the occasional crazy stunt should be avoided. After all, staying young is also important. Can you drink a gallon of Mountain Dew at 5 a.m. like you used to? Probably. Will your kids make fun of you and will you feel crazy hyped up tomorrow at work? Ooooh yeah.

There are countless life lessons I could share with you, but for now I leave you with my top three.


Dustin Paluch is a junior in the John Cook School of Business.

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