12 lessons I learned in college
Maggie Kuk graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 2008 and from Washington, D.C.’s American University in December 2011. Kuk majored in International Relations and has already worked at both a D.C. environmental organization and volunteered in Latin America. Still living in D.C, Kuk hopes to continue working in the environmental sector, focusing on conservation or alternative energies. A former intern at SONOMA magazine, Kuk recently took a few minutes to send us some college advice for Sonoma students.
1. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
2. Do not start an essay with a quotation. It is cliché.
3. Breaking the rules can be very satisfying.
4. The majority of the time you won’t find answers in your textbooks. The greatest challenges you face in college will not be academic and you cannot always open a book to find solutions. Most answers will come to you when you least expect to see them.
5. Accept this fact: Not all questions have an answer.
6. There is no such thing as a wasted education. Everything you learn will benefit you, even those seemingly useless statistics classes you are required to take.
7. Your major does not equal your career for the next 50 years. You don’t have to find a job that suits exactly what you studied; odds are you probably won’t find a job at all.
8. What you imagine to be some of your worst days will end up being your best. The one part I miss most about college is pumping out research papers at 3 a.m. in the library, cracked out on too much caffeine while g-chatting with all my friends about how I am most certainly taking years off my life due to my coffee addiction and stress. I miss these moments. So cherish them while they last, even if at the time you’re convinced these moments will kill you.
9. Don’t be ashamed to be poor in college. I knew a kid in college who ate dinner for free every night by going to different events or meetings where free food was being served. Be resourceful – you can live with far less than you imagine.
10. Work dirty jobs. I worked as a nanny through college, cleaning up vomit and dirty diapers. Cooking dinners you don’t get to eat and doing other people’s laundry humbles you and prepares you for what lies ahead. The messy jobs teach us the most about work ethic and commitment.
11. Do something creative. Learning about dying polar bears and cramming for accounting exams is draining – beneficial but draining. Firstly, you will be far more productive in the boring or overwhelming subjects if you are also painting, writing, playing music, cooking or dancing in between studying. Secondly, it will prevent you from wanting to drop out of school due to pessimism or brain failure.
12. Stay positive. It’s much easier said than done. But optimism will get you farther than brains. Don’t be brought down by people who enjoy relishing their own unhappiness. Being cynical turns you into a cliché sitcom character, not a productive human being.