College: learning a lifetime of useful lessons — finally

College: learning a lifetime of useful lessons — finally

Jasmine Santos, Class of 2014; UCLA Class of 2018

To the poor souls trapped in an institution of obligatory learning,

High school is a wonderful place… I can’t even read that sentence without laughing. I used to think that high school would be so awesome, but that was before I got there. In reality, it’s not. In retrospect, it was tedious, ridiculously easy, filled with unnecessary drama and hormones. Lots and lots of hormones.

Not to make it seem like college is this amazing and totally different place; I used to think college would be so awesome too. It’s not. It’s the same tedious required learning, and the same hormone (or mostly alcohol) driven drama. The main difference is that I’ve deliberately placed myself in this situation. And not only did I choose to be here, I’m also accumulating a lot of debt before I even have a prospect for earning real money. The classes are also harder. Like way harder. Like I’m not even sure I know what life is anymore. Why am I in college again? Never mind, that’s beside the point.

For me, high school was that stage of desperately wanting to be independent. Thinking that you’re so smart and so cool that you don’t need parents when really, you’re probably not that smart, and you’re most definitely not that cool, and you’re literally a dependent to your parents. Although arguably there are some students that are forced—by whatever circumstance—to be already practically self-supporting during their high school years, for the most part, high school students are dependents (read: legally minors).

College isn’t that much better. You still think you’re so smart, and you still think you’re re so cool. But it gets obvious pretty quickly that no matter how smart or cool you think you are, there will always be others that are smarter and cooler than you. You’re just going to have to accept that and move on. But don’t be discouraged! There are other better and more important things.

While being eighteen legally means being an adult, the arbitrary age defined by the government does not automatically grant a person the responsibility and wisdom that is key to adulthood. There are people older than eighteen that make you wonder how they’re not dead or incarcerated yet. Life skills like responsibility and good judgment cannot be taught, they are learned only through experience.

And really, that’s what college life is. It’s one giant experience that makes you learn so many useful things outside of the classroom in such a comparatively small amount of time. I’ve learned so much about how the world works in the six months away from home than I have in twelve years of mandatory schooling. Granted I wouldn’t have basic knowledge about anything had it not been for those years, very little of what was taught in school can be applied in college life and life thereafter.

I wasn’t taught about taxes, tax incentives, loans, wages, public transportation, interpersonal relations, or anything else important in a classroom. Academics is actually a very minute (but admittedly important) part of college, it’s everything else that makes up the bulk of it. The only thing you get as proof of your education in the classroom is a piece of paper, but the skills that you develop stay with you forever and the proof is in your success in the future.

College life is a drastic change from the handheld life that we suburban kids are used to. There’s a lot of figuring things out on your own, or, using millennial terms, ‘googling’ things on your own. And it’s entirely up to you what you make of it. Yeah, I know, freedom is scary. But don’t worry, it’s also really fun. You just have to find the right balance between having fun and getting down to business.

There’s going to be a lot of blunders along the way, I know I’ve had my own share of those and I still have a lot ahead of me. But I guess what I’m really trying to say is, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to leave home. Don’t be afraid of things you don’t know. If you make a mistake, learn why. If you challenge yourself, don’t quit when it gets too hard. If you don’t know something, learn it. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Much Love,
Jasmine Santos

A poor soul trapped in an institution of higher learning, but enjoying it
UCLA Chemical Engineering Major