9 Things You Didn’t Realize You’d Learn at College

The lessons we learn in college extend beyond our program and the courses we take.Things you'll learn in college outside of regular classroom work.

The college experience should help you grow both academically and personally, and it’s a great time to learn about your strengths and weaknesses.

There are a number of things you’ll figure out during your time in school, many of which you might not realize until later.

Let’s take a look at nine things you’ll learn in college that aren’t on any course’s syllabus.

Who you really are

Going to college is a huge step in your life, and how you handle adversity and challenges along the way will be a big part of how you grow as a person.

You might find a passion for something you never considered. You might learn that you’re a strong leader. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a talent in a certain area.

As you move toward your degree, you’ll discover things about yourself and develop a sense of where you fit in society as a whole. It’s a time for risk taking and reflection and learning who you truly are.

Your parents were right

Whether it’s the importance of choosing the right friends or the value of hard work and dedication, you may find during your college education that your parents were right. A lot.

The wisdom of our parents is often lost on us as young people, but these lessons become clearer as you wade through the complexities of balancing work, life and school.

As you grow as a person, you might start to see the fruits of following your parents’ advice—lessons about decision-making, setting priorities and staying true to yourself will be invaluable as you move forward with your education and future career.

Learn how to learn

Learning is a lifelong process. And in college, you’ll uncover your own process for absorbing and retaining information.

Learning how to learn is a key component of your college experience—and it will also help you in your career. Among the talents you should try to develop include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Working outside of your comfort zone
  • How to ask questions
  • The value of listening
  • Organization

These are skills that can translate to any field and help you become a stronger candidate in your industry.

How to navigate paperwork

It’s boring, tedious and sometimes mind-numbing. But paperwork is also important.

Whether it’s filling out the FAFSA application, financial aid and scholarship forms, or applying for loans and grants, having the ability to properly navigate paperwork is a worthwhile skill.

It will come up again later in life, and learning how to wade through paperwork while you’re in college will leave you better prepared and less intimidated.

Going to bed early is cool

It might take a week or two (or 10) into your first quarter to realize it, but going to bed early is awesome!

You should take your college career seriously, and that sometimes means hitting the hay earlier than you did before you started school. It’s also a good tip to help you maintain your time management and the lifestyle that comes with being a college student.

Remember the old adage and stay “healthy, wealthy and wise.”

How to prioritize

You can’t do everything all the time. That will become clear as you earn your degree, work at your day job and try to keep up with your social life.Things you learn in college, but not necessarily in class.

Prioritizing your time and resources is vital to success in college. You’ll quickly find out what’s important to you, which classes will take more effort and not to sweat the small stuff.

College will force you to prioritize—and that’s a good thing. It teaches you that in order to realize your ultimate goals, some things will need to go by the wayside.

How to network

You might think that your best bet for success in college is to keep your head down, study hard and earn your degree.

But the importance of networking will become more obvious as you approach graduation day and start looking toward a career.

Networking is a skill like anything else, and college offers plenty of opportunities to meet people and learn how to get along with different types of people.

Here are a few ways you can expand your network while you’re in school:

  • Join clubs
  • Get to know an instructor
  • Be active on social media and connect with groups
  • Form study groups with classmates

Building your network can help you find job openings, learn from others about your field and keep you connected to your industry.

How to ‘fail upward’

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” 

—Henry Ford

You’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you respond to them that matters.

“Failing upward” simply means you’re using those missteps as building blocks and learning experiences. Keeping this philosophy in mind will help you take risks, alleviate the fear of the unknown and learn how to overcome setbacks.

College offers you the chance to try new things and grow as an individual. Let your failures be precursors to eventual success.

Your worldview takes shape

We’re not talking about waking up one day and suddenly realizing you’re a Democrat or Republican. 

College gives you the opportunity to think about your beliefs, be they social, political or cultural. You’ll be meeting new people and studying new concepts, and your view of the world will come into sharper focus.

You may also have the chance to reflect on your studies and develop your own philosophies. You never know how your perspectives will shift as you’re introduced to different ideas and ways of doing things.

As you can see, the college experience involves much more than the lessons you learn in the classroom. Your time in school will help you grow as a student and as a person.