Nine of The Most Valuable Lessons I Learned in College

I have nine weeks of school left. As hard as it will be to say goodbye, I feel like I've "done college" and can walk away happily knowing that I did everything I set out to do at JMU. I left no stone unturned here. From making memories, to majoring in something I love, joining organizations and taking on leadership positions - I did a lot throughout the past four years. No doubt, these last years of my higher education dished out their fair share of trials and tribulations, but those very tests led me to failures that I learned from and victories I happily celebrated.

Today I'm sharing with you the lessons I learned in college. Although I did spend the last few years in a classroom, these lessons are ones learned through real life lessons. I happily take them with me into my next chapter, whatever and wherever it may be.

Learning to Say No - My spring of my junior year was hands down the most stressful season of my life. From taking on leadership roles, interviewing for internships, handling major unexpected obstacles within my sorority and completing the toughest course load I would take in college, it was undoubtedly tough to juggle it all. It was in this season where I learned the joy of saying no. As big of a people-pleaser I am, I realized that I couldn't do it all and how valuable saying a simple two letter word was. I couldn't commit myself to everything so it was better to complete a shorter list of tasks excellently than complete a long list of tasks adequately.

Learning How to Go For Things - I started to learn how to "go for things" during my spring semester of my sophomore year. I applied to be a tour guide (which is a very competitive application process) with every intention of being kindly dismissed after the first interview. Shockingly, I was accepted to the organization and I swear it's like an entire other side of campus opened up to me. Because I took the risk, I ended up reaping the rewards ten times over. Being a tour guide changed my college career entirely.

While applying I told nobody. I didn't want to let anyone else, in addition to myself, down so I kept my cards close to the vest. At that time I had to be the one to push myself forward, to be my own sense of encouragement. Sometimes that can be a hard thing to do in the face of intimidation...I'm so glad things worked out how they did though because now as I apply to jobs and internships, I feel much more comfortable just going for it.

Learning to Place Life Over School - Not always, but sometimes I place life and making memories over schoolwork. At the end of the day, I know I won't remember any of the ridiculously long evenings studying or memorizing speeches, I know I'll remember the moments I threw all caution to the wind (in terms of school) and opted for time with friends instead. Those nights have turned out to be the best nights of college. Now as a second semester senior, those nights increase a little more as I hold onto those close friendships a little tighter and I hope over the last nine weeks of school, I make just as incredible memories.

Learning How to Change Perspectives - Long story short, I hated JMU in the beginning of my college career. I wanted to quickly transfer out and because of that I planted no roots here as a freshman. When I returned to JMU as a sophomore I wanted to understand why everyone seemed to love this place so much. In attempting to do so, I changed my major, picked up a job, sought out leadership roles, applied to organizations and made connections with my professors and peers.

Through all of this, I found the reason why JMU is such a loved place. I stepped entirely out of my comfort zone, challenged myself and sought to find the answer to my questions. It wasn't easy but at the end of the day, trying completely new things and taking on new challenges at JMU led to an incredible love for this place I now call home.

Learning You Don't Have to Be Loud to Make A Statement - I learned this lesson throughout my senior year as I phased out of leadership positions. This stage of college gave me the respect of those in charge while I valued a more resigned position as a general body member. Sometimes the best thing you can do is sit and listen. Raising your voice isn't necessary and exceptional work and reliability speaks just as loud as someone standing on a chair raising their voice.

I learned this through performing well in school, being a good friend and keeping my head down. Avoiding drama, listening, and adopting empathy takes you far in any stage of life. All three can be continuously improved on, but sometimes being a general member in a club is just as important as being a leader. Keeping your head down in a group project and doing your job while another takes the reins is just as important as rising to the occasion and taking charge.

Learning to Be Comfortable Being Alone - A lesson truly learned within this semester, I learned how to be comfortable being alone. It's one thing to be alone for a while and be cool with it, but after feeling supported and appreciated in such close proximity to another person, and then transitioning back to being alone is sometimes difficult. The power of being comfortable physically alone and sometimes mentally "alone" is a game-changer! Within the same vein, learning how to be your own cheerleader or the person to yell at yourself is refreshing. When you are comfortable being alone, you also help establish a great sense of self confidence.

Learning the Importance of an Internship - During my college experience, I completed two internships. It wasn't easy giving up two summers to 9-5 (sometimes 9-11pm) work days but in the long run, taking on internships during the summers of 2018 and 2019 was the best thing I could have done for my academic and my professional careers. I completed assignments at jobs before I even learned about them in the classroom which only set me up for success. I learned how to network, how to talk to superiors, how to complete major assignments on time and strengthened my PR, communication and marketing skills overall. Now, as I seek out full-time employment opportunities, I'm eligible for a much larger pool of job calls due to my experience.

Learning What is Worth the Money - One of the greatest things I think any college student can do is hold a job while taking on a full-time course load. Some people don't necessarily need a job in order to keep up with their education, but for me it gave me so much more than a paycheck at the end of every two weeks. It taught me how to budget and understand the difference between a need and a want. It also taught me how to save money for long-term investments (which could be a sorority or spring break trips) and it taught me how to appreciate the feeling of having extra money and being able to "treat myself". Aside from the financial part of working while studying, having a job also helped create a list of references for future employers, taught me how to time manage and helped expand my JMU community.

Learning that Everything, Absolutely Everything, Happens for a Reason - Probably the best thing that I learned in college is that everything you do happens for a reason. When I was a freshman I went to a sorority mandated speech by a woman named Rachael Bozsik for one measly sorority point. A math major at the time, listening to a speech on women in Corporate America had no appeal to me. An hour and a half later I was on the phone with my dad telling him I was willing and ready to give up a scholarship and a guaranteed job to switch my major from mathematics to public relations. If it hadn't been for that one sorority point required to attend formal, I wouldn't have changed my major to something I love and set me on an entirely different path.

Fast forward four months to me not getting into UVA as a transfer applicant and being forced to stay at JMU. Now I'm sad to leave this beautiful place in such a short time. Speed up time to December of my junior year when I applied to be an orientation leader and didn't get it. That led to an experience-packed summer where I stepped into an internship at Virginia is for Lovers where I expanded my skills and portfolio for full-time jobs.

Everything happens for a reason and the phrase, when a door closes a window opens, is so true. If it hadn't been for a required sorority point, or a denied application or a rejected summer job I wouldn't be where I am today. So while in college, if denial or rejection makes you question everything, listen to those questions and take unexpected action. You never know where you might end up.