2 Surprisingly Valuable Skills College Accidentally Taught Me

There is no denying the fact that college is super expensive.

Most of its value comes from the promise of a better, higher paying job when you graduate. Unfortunately for many, that’s not what happens. College can’t really guarantee you a job any more than graduating from high school guarantees you a place at a college. There is no way to guarantee what life has in store for you.

College is still valuable, though. The classes, the friends, the coming of age that comes with growing up and being an adult… there’s plenty you can learn that will directly impact your future after college.

But while I learned tons from class, looking back I am surprised by how much I learned by accident. And those accidental lessons turned out to be far more valuable than what I learned from the syllabus.

Scheduling and Prioritizing My Time

There was a point in college when I was a Resident Advisor for a dorm, taking a full load of courses, putting on a 3 hour weekly radio show, and playing club rugby. Needless to say, I was a little busy! At a time when many people slept in until 11AM and wandered around looking for food, I had a color coded date book that scheduled out all of my meetings, dates, commitments, and study sessions.

Looking back, I’m so glad I learned this kind of scheduling and time committment because it helped me learn how to prioritize what’s going on in my life and make room for everything I want to do. As an adult, I can now see how to put together my weekly schedule to cook, sleep, eat, and socialize just enough without feeling too harried too many weeks in a row.

Socializing and Meeting New People

I’m also glad I was involved in so many activities and took so many classes outside my comfort zone (Telecommunications as an English major, anyone?). This helped me develop a wide base of conversational interests so that I felt comfortable making small talk with people in each new job I took and when I meet people out in town. Now, I’m probably still an introvert, but barring an occasional week of shyness, these experiences in college helped me know how to talk to people when I want to.

Nowadays, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to start a conversation and maintain it if I run into someone at the grocery store or meet a new person at a party. I also feel like I have a better idea of where other people are coming from since I met and befriended so many different kinds of people in college.

Did you learn any surprising things from college by accident? Do you think it’s by accident, or is this just how the educational process works?

10 thoughts on “2 Surprisingly Valuable Skills College Accidentally Taught Me

  1. I would say those aren’t actually accidental: they’re a huge part of what college is supposed to “do” to people. I structure my assignments loosely in part because students are supposed to be learning, in a relatively safe environment, how to balance the multiple parts of a project around all their other commitments while not having their manager (me) breathing down their neck reminding them about everything. And I ask students to participate in class discussion in part because I think they’re supposed to be learning how to talk intelligently to people that they might not be immediately comfortable with. Glad it worked for you! 🙂

  2. I wish I had focused more on the social aspects of what you learned in college. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, avoiding social situations as much as I could. The truth is while I never looked forward to joining clubs or groups, I usually enjoyed the experience once I finally allowed myself to get involved.

    It’s that comfort zone thing again, and I didn’t want to leave.

  3. I think I mastered time management in high school when I was in school, working tons of hours, in dance, band, church activities and also somehow had time for a social life. Sometimes now I wonder how I did it back then.

  4. My time management was honed in high school. If anything, I slacked off in college. Although I did put in a lot of hours at the student paper and keep my grades up.

    In high school, I was part of two after-school activities, in honors/AP classes and working at least part-time during the school year.

    I got darn good at fitting everything in, although the occasional meltdown did happen.

  5. I always thought time management was a great skill to learn in what I first saw as a totally unstructured environment in college. It wasn’t long before realizing that it was up to me to get my work done while still making time for and enjoying other experiences.

  6. Those are definitely two hidden lessons that I don’t think most people realize they’re learning when they attend college.

    For me it was learning to work for a complete A**hole! Our senior year cap-stone project was headed up by one of the worst, most-feared professors in all of engineering school. (Rumor had it he once failed the whole class years ago.) Anyways, it was a unique experience for me because it was the first time that getting good grades simply wasn’t enough. You had to pay attention to this guy and really get to know what made him tick in order to not prompt him to tear you apart. In the end I must have really studied him well – I earned an “A” for my senior project!

  7. It took me almost getting deported back to Hong Kong before I learned my valuable lesson from college. I first came to the US on a student visa to study economics. When I realized that I wanted to switch majors because my classes weren’t what I thought they would be like, I dropped most of them – not knowing that you needed a certain number of credits for your student visa to be valid.

    So basically, getting threatened of deportation really helped me get my life together. I became more organized, told myself that a single class cost $100 (to help me not skip classes), and started becoming more involved in extracurricular activities. I managed to graduate a semester early with double majors and a minor in fields that I loved. I don’t think I would have been able to pull that off if I didn’t have that harsh wake up call in freshman year haha.

    • I agree that the biggest thing college taught me was how to communicate with a lot of people. It’s not like in high school where you have a whole year to make a judgement of other peoples’ character. College forces you to be a good judge of character.

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