When I went to college I tried a lot of things – some of which I should probably not mention here. I still didn’t try close to enough, however. For, though you think two to five years is a long time, it is over in the blink of an eye. At least, it certainly was for me!
For that reason, I now advise everybody to make a college bucket list. In that way, they will know how many things they want to try and they can also work out how often they have to try them if they want to get through them all. Do note, you will add more things as you go along, so always add extra time.
I think the best idea is to set an a month from now, so that you take another look at the items on your list and you won’t forget to actually embrace these ideas. After all, we all die – but not all of us get to live.
Sound good? Then let’s consider some of the things you absolutely have to try while you’re in college.
1. Do something your parents would frown on
This has to be first on the list, don’t you think? After all, you’re out of the house so you have to things that wouldn’t be permissible in the house. Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you do something that would have them disown you (unless they’re very strict or very old fashioned) but definitely something that would either raise eyebrows (or lower them).
So, crack open a beer for breakfast, try something (or someone) new in the sack, stumble home drunk from a party when the sun is out (on a Tuesday), or take a course in pole dancing. It doesn’t matter. For every family different thing are not permitted and for every person a different way of breaking out will be the most appealing.
And in the process of doing something like this you can find yourself. Perhaps you’ll realize that you went too far and that this really isn’t for you. Perhaps you’ll realize that you haven’t gone far enough and that you need to do a lot more. Either way, you’ve learned something about yourself.
2. Take a course that’s interesting but different
Often our interests when we’re young are at least in part our parent’s decisions. If they didn’t want us to do something, then we didn’t get to do it. Often, they do actually know best, as age does bring along some wisdom (even if it is only through a process of osmosis).
At the same time, they aren’t you. You need to form your own interest and your own ideas. And the only way you can do that is by trying new things to see if you like them.
One thing to note. We have this idea that what we’ll do for the rest of our lives will just come to us, like love or at first sight or being struck by lightning. The thing is, as the psychologist (and MacArthur Genius Grant winner) Angela Duckworth explains in her book ‘Grit’ it can take us quite a long time to find out what we actually want to do.
An interest has to flower, as it were, into a passion. So keep track of what you find interesting and keep trying them out. You might be surprised where you find your passion lies.
3. Join clubs, groups and have room mates
The people we’re the most likely to still have contact with from our youth are not the ones that we met in elementary school or high school. Instead, it’s the people we meet in college that are the most likely to end up our best friends.
And that makes sense. After all, when you’re younger who you could meet and hang out with was limited. You could only choose people that lived relatively close by. And thus, you chose people not based on their personality but more likely based on proximity (and parental ties). Sure, those are strong ties, but they’re not going to last into far adulthood.
In college, on the other hand, you’re thrown into a situation where you are surrounded with countless other people of about your own age, some of who are going to end up sharing your interests, your sense of humor and your outlook on life. Now those are the ties that bind for the long term.
Of course, if you want to meet your friends for life then you do actually have to meet people. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find the people that you really click with. So make sure that you go out and do things where you can meet new people.
You don’t have to go to parties (the people we like drunk or high aren’t necessarily all that interesting sober). You can go to clubs or groups instead. But do something. This is both good for your mental health, your memories of college and even your future employability – after all, it doesn’t matter how smart you are if nobody knows about it they’re still not going to employ you.
4. Road trip!
When you’re in college holidays can be expensive. One thing that’s still very affordable is road tripping it with a bunch of friends and sharing the gasoline costs. What’s more, it can be an incredible bonding experience where you share music, stories and the chance of getting lost.
Personally, getting lost was one of my favourite things. Stopping at weird little dinners in the middle of nowhere for a quick bite to eat and some directions was a great way to see how the other side lives.
One time we didn’t even make it to our destination. Instead, we found some little town by a lake and ended up spending our entire weekend there. It was just so beautiful and the local bar was just so awful it actually became cool again.
We always made sure at least a few people in the car could drive. Then you can actually keep going for a whole day and make some real progress (and really test if these people can’t get on your nerves).
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have friends to go with you! Pick a destination and go on your own. With a positive attitude and sincere smile, you will meet new friends everywhere you go!
5. Going a little crazy
I have never, in my life, had a good New Year party. The reason is obvious. Expectations are simply way too high for anybody to ever really meet them. No, the best parties I’ve ever had have always been the spontaneous ones. You know what I’m talking about. You go out for a beer on Thursday and suddenly it is Saturday. If you like to plan, make it well. Find fun party favor ideas and surprise your friends!
Of course, the only way that kind of thing can happen is if you’re willing to be spontaneous. Change your plans. Accept that you don’t have to attend every class. Realize that a diet is no reason not to have a great time. Use academic help resources if you need. In other words, let yourself go just a little crazy.
For many people this one is easy enough. Some people really have to work at it. If you belong to the latter camp, then give a friend that you really trust who has more fun than you a ‘go crazy’ card. They get to play it when they think that you’re letting your obsessive compulsive nature get in the way of a really good time. They respect that sometimes they can’t play it (when you’ve got an exam tomorrow) you respect it when they do and agree to come.
Then, if it turns out they were right, you had an amazing time and the consequences were worth it (or even negligible), give it back and let them play it again.
6. Stand up for a cause
Causes and organizations are not just magical constructs that exist out there and don’t need to be tended to. They’re made up of people who dedicate themselves and sacrifice in order to make it a reality. Without those people, the cause will wither and die.
Don’t let that happen. It’s vital for our modern culture that we take part in it and help keep it healthy. Besides, giving makes us a lot happier than getting. And if you both get to be happy and make a difference, well then it’s wins all around, right?
Personally, I focus on the state of our democracy. It’s in shambles – that’s something you have to accept whatever side of the aisle you’re on. Still, if you would rather care about the rights of animals, protecting the interests of small businesses or some other group, then go for it. As long as you’re part of something you’ll be doing your part.
7. Stick with something
A lot of the accusations hurled at the millennial generation are entirely unfair. It’s people forgetting how irresponsible they were when they were young and how much they screwed up. I mean, it’s the baby boomers retiring now! They took more drugs than we do, made more mistakes and abandoned their causes in far greater numbers to embrace materialism than we have.
One thing that our elders do have right, however, is that we’re abandoning things too soon. We’ve let ourselves be hoodwinked by the instant gratification of modern culture, through such our gadgets and our 24 hour society, that we want it in all aspects of our lives.
The thing is, the really important things that matter the most to us don’t come instantly. They don’t even come within six months. They take years of work. Take college, for example. Sure, dropping out when things get hard might sound really appealing. But by doing so you’re really screwing over your future. For even if the degree isn’t in a direction that you’ll end up pursuing, people will still think that the fact that you got a degree counts for something.
Similarly, once you start stopping when things get hard, it will become a habit. You’ll start to think that just because something is hard it isn’t for you. Some people realize that this is a mistake later in life. You have a chance to learn it while you’re still young.
8. Finding out where there are student discounts and then using them
You know what the big deal is about student discounts? Yes, of course, things are cheaper. That’s always nice. But that’s not the whole deal. Student discounts attract aliens – no wait, college students. That means it isn’t just a great opportunity to do something cheaply, it’s also a great opportunity to meet people that you otherwise might not.
So go. And while you’re at it, wear something crazy, weird or fun. Why that last thing? Because when you wear something like that, people will talk about it (hopefully to you) and then you’ve just started a conversation without needing to actually say anything.
In other words, it’s a great ice breaker. So, the shyer you are, the more outrageous the item should be, as then it can do even more work for you.
9. Go do something you think is a waste of time but somebody else things is awesome
Don’t like sports? Learn to understand the rules of one anyway. Don’t like ballet? Go see a performance. It doesn’t really matter, but try new things. First of all, you’ll get really make a friend happy as they get to share an interest with you (as long as you don’t complain all the time, anyway). Secondly, you might find that you actually really enjoy it as well.
You can even do this to win over a secret crush. You like somebody? Then offer to attend something they really care about. Lie and say you were always secretly interested but never took the time to see if it was for you.
You might surprise yourself. You might find that it’s actually really good. Even if it’s not, you get to spend time with somebody that you’re interested in and that in and of itself might already be enough for the investment of time.
And remember, we forget nearly everything that we do in our lives. That’s just how our memory works. The things we’re the most likely to remember are the different ones, where we did, tried or experimented with something we normally don’t. So do a lot of different things in order to have more memories.
10. Try different things
In fact, that deserves to be all on its own. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. So don’t let yourself get caught in the same loop. Always make it a goal to try new things. Spending every Friday night in the bar? Then why not try going for a hike on Saturday morning instead?
Spend all your time studying? Then go to a bar, for Pete’s sake!
It really doesn’t matter what you do differently, as long as you do things differently. For memories that are all the same become the same. And you really don’t want to sit there when you’re forty and think ‘Is that all I did for all those years in college? Couldn’t I have been a little more adventurous?’
So write that bucket list and when you see that all your items head off in one direction – say hedonistic pleasure or studying – then make sure that you find some other thigns that you can add in that will enrich your experiences. For experiences are the pallet of your life and if they’re all the same then they’re all one color. What kind of picture are you going to paint with that?