The main lesson I learned in college was ‘how to think.’ I would stress that above all else to my children and grands. While in college we study and learn; however, without the ability to be a good thinker, one never shines. College teaches young people to shine in many ways as they travel through life. Moving away from home, learning responsibility, living with a roommate, spending money, learning organizational skills and flexibility, dating several types of young men, learning what makes a girlfriend a girlfriend, making solo decisions and gaining street smarts are just as important as learning about the desalinization of water!
I think grandmothers and moms should start discussing college with their children and grandchildren throughout their children’s formative years. I would remind them that going away to school will provide them with emotional and thinking skills as well as academic knowledge.
Before I reflect on some of my learnings, I want to add that college is not necessarily the appropriate institution for every high school graduate. Trade schools meet the needs of many young people and I find that very attractive. A well-rounded college education does not suit every child. Some of our brightest thinkers never attended college at all or left midway through. This becomes very important when you discuss further education. Be a good listener. Your grands or children know what they want. Your role is to help them fine tune their goals.
Gathering Up the Positive Tools I Use Today
I learned who I was and who I was not. I learned there are all different types of people. Some will be a blessing and others will be a lesson. With each individual I met, I further cemented the trust I had in myself. I was sent to college for academics and instead I filled my brain with the knowledge of life. I learned that life isn’t about what you know; it is about having a goal. I learned that a sorority should be for the young girl searching for her self esteem. I leaned how to survive in a huge university with thousands of young people. Oh did I learn.
Two College Experiences
I met my first college roommate when I opened the door of my first room away from home. She was a very nice girl and I was a very nice girl. After six months of living together, we never spoke again until I saw her several years ago at a wedding. We were mismatched from the start.
We both went through sorority rush. I joined a sorority. She did not get accepted. That incident started the problem. It truly was neither of our faults, yet looking back on this memory, I would say she could not accept the rejection. Before starting college, I believe she had always received what she wanted in life. She was strong-minded and committed to studying. She thought it was her right to be accepted into a sorority.
On the other hand, I was a small town girl from Kankakee by the Sea. From my early years, my mother made sure I maintained my down-to-earth sense of self. My mother was very strict and although I was fortunate to have been exposed to wonderful happenings, she taught me the importance of humility.
Experiences That Illuminate
I tried to be nice and understanding. While I probably could have done more, at 18 years old I was still finding my wings. I will never forget the day I walked into our room and she said, “I am not your telephone operator.” I stopped dead in my tracks. That was the end of our relationship. It was very hard living with her until the end of the semester but I learned from the experience that I am not attracted to women with her type of personality–strong but paradoxically weak. My future experience with roommates was stellar and I am still maintain a close connection to this day with one of them.
The First Day
A frightening academic experience was attending classes on the first day. First class was History 101. The room must have had over 1,000 students. I noticed they swiftly took notes as the professor lectured. I tried, but had no idea how to take notes. They did not teach that at Kankakee by the Sea High School. After History 101, I went to my English 101 class. The hall had the same amount of students and again the professor lectured and I felt lost. I walked back to my room crying. What was I going to do? I called my mother, who advised me to find someone to teach me how to take notes.
I’m forever grateful for Barbara. She sat next to me in English 101. I noted her outline of the professor’s lecture was perfect. Not being a shrinking violet, I asked if I could talk to her after class. I explained my situation and she was eager to teach me.
Our Differences United Us
We were like night and day. She was intellectual. I was not. She was a bit of a plain Jane. I was not. She was strong and had a good sense of herself, unlike my first strong roommate. I realized I was attracted to strong women but of a different nature. I was now exposed to strong, accomplished women who possessed a kindness of heart. Barbara taught me how to take excellent notes and what to look for in a friend. One day, she asked me how to wear make-up and do her hair. I loved helping her.
The college years are an important passage in a young person’s life. The college of choice is most important. There are high school advisors to help you find your child’s and grandchild’s niche. There is so much to take into consideration. The stakes are high whether the young person attends a university, college, trade school or a school of the arts. Use the tools you learned and your research to help your children and grands.