11 Lessons College Taught Me

I share parting words of college wisdom in this love letter to my CF readers.
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Katarina - Florida State University
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I share parting words of college wisdom in this love letter to my CF readers.

To All My Beautiful College Fashion Readers...

college women

Photo Credit: ELLE

Now that I’ve graduated, I’m sad to say that this will be my final article on College Fashion. It has been an honor to write for this website, and I’ve loved interacting with each and every one of you.

As my final goodbye, I’ve decided to share some words of wisdom from yours truly instead of writing my typical article. I won’t pretend to be an expert at offering advice or some sort of collegiate Oprah, but I have learned a thing or two on this crazy ride that we call college. If I could go back in time and share a few things with with my wide-eyed freshman self, this would be it. 

So without further ado, and at the risk of sounding like an overly cliché Thought Catalog article, here are 11 of the most significant things the past four years have taught me.

college campus

Photo Credit: ELLE

1. Change is constant.

There are very few things we can depend on in life, but change is one of them. Accept this, and use it to your advantage. Instead of viewing change as something scary, try to look at it as an opportunity– a chance for you to reinvent and re-inspire yourself.

2. You do you.

Don’t feel pressured to be anyone but yourself. Unlike high school, there’s a lot less pressure to fit in with some preordained “cool crowd.” This is your time to cultivate who you are and figure out what you like (and don’t like).

You can be anyone you want to be in college. It’s an opportunity to start fresh and develop new interests.

3. Fake it until you make it.

After the traumatizing ordeal of applying for colleges, I spent the majority of my freshman year paralyzed by a lack of self-esteem. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I would never be good enough. My perfectionist tendencies prevented me from achieving any real success.

By my junior year I had an epiphany: no one really knows what they’re doing in this thing we call life. So I decided to start faking it. Because I acted confident, I actually started to feel more confident. It works, I promise.

4. Perfectionism is overrated.

I’ve always been a perfectionist, and it’s been this increasingly heavy weight I’ve carried around all my life. I pushed myself to be perfect at everything, and when I wasn’t I would give up in defeat.

I drove myself crazy trying to portray this flawless vision of myself, but in the game of perfection you can never win; there will always be someone more skilled, more beautiful, more intelligent, more _____.

The trap of perfection is exhausting, and frankly unattainable. It forces you to wear a mask so that the world will never know what lies beneath the surface. And behind this mask hides a girl that no one will ever truly see. Once you let go of the toxic, impossible idea of perfection you can begin to live a life that is truly your own.

5. Ignore the omnipresent FOMO (fear of missing out).

I can deeply and profoundly relate to this all-consuming feeling that something is happening and you’re not a part of it. I’ve been there many times. It is far too easy to compare ourselves to others on social media these days.

A quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things (which I highly recommend you read!) sums it up best:

“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

You are exactly where you need to be right now. And if you’re not, do something about it. As long as you are living your life fully, graciously, and bravely you’re not missing out on anything. There is no prescribed life plan. Just because someone else is doing X with their life, doesn’t mean you should follow suit. You have an infinite amount of other variables and choices to feast upon. I dare you to choose the path less traveled.

friends on beach

Photo Credit: ELLE

6. YOLO.

As annoying as people who overuse YOLO are, I can’t help but agree with the sentiment. Live dangerously. Live colorfully. Live outrageously. College is a safe, four year bubble where you are given all the freedom of the real world without having to deal with the full weight and responsibilities of being a full-fledged adult.

Make mistakes. Screw upTake risks. Live outside your comfort zone so that when you look back on your college experiences you’ll have fond memories of debauchery and sleepless nights (in addition to some more than likely hilarious anecdotes).

7. They either like you or they don’t.

This tidbit of wisdom is applicable to a lot of different situations, but I find it most helpful when it comes to dating. Once you realize this, it’s extremely liberating.

You can spend hours analyzing a three word text message and crafting the perfect witty, carefree response. But at the end of the day, if someone likes you, then they won’t care about silly little details like that. Relax and be yourself. If said person doesn’t like you, then no amount of planning, overanalyzing, or second guessing will ever change that.

8. Lean in.

I have to credit these words of wisdom to the one and only Sheryl Sandberg. When I read her book, Lean In, it was life-changing. Whether you agree with her or not, these two simple words are something we can all take to heart. Lean in. Be present. Be engaged. Participate.

9. Put things into perspective.

It’s far too easy to go through our lives on autopilot without really experiencing the things around us. On my last day of college I walked through campus without headphones or my phone to distract me and was overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia and overwhelming gratitude for my life and my school.

Coping with my fear/excitement for the future had gotten in the way of appreciating where I am right now. Don't live in the past and don't stress about the future. Be exactly where you are and remember that someday college will just be a short chapter in your life.

college grads

Photo Credit: ELLE

10. Embrace fear.

This might sound crazy, but I think fear is an integral part of our lives. To me, being fearless is not an absence of fear, but the act of overcoming it.

Eleanor Roosevelt is famously quoted as saying “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Experiencing fear, pushing past it, and eventually conquering our fears makes us stronger.

Whether it’s the fear of failure, the fear of failing your next Chem exam, or the fear of disappointing a loved one, don’t let it paralyze you. Let it motivate you.

In the movie We Bought A Zoo, a single dad tells his son:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

I urge you to embrace your fears, conquer them head-on, and whatever you do, don’t let them defeat you.

11. Do it with love.

As a dance major at Florida State University, this is our mantra. Do it with love. The beloved namesake of our on-campus theatre first spoke these words and the simplicity yet vast complexity has always moved me.

If we all infused our daily lives and actions with a little more love, surely the world would be a better place. If we chose to move past our hate and our anger for the things beyond our control, and simply replaced it with love, wouldn’t we be far happier?

Parting Words:

Whether you are just beginning your foray into college life or leaving it behind like me, I hope you take these words to heart. I hope you make the most out of your four years. I hope you remember that if college is less than what you hope it to be, there is so much more to look forward to in the future.

I hope if you are graduating, like myself, that you are simultaneously excited and terrified of what the next few years have in store for you. I hope that this electrifying, liberating, gut-wrenching post-grad feeling makes you feel as alive as it does for me.

A Final Thank You...

Thank you for your wonderful comments. Thank you for your thoughtful, honest feedback. Thank you for reading my words these past few years.

Here’s to you, all of you.

xo, Katarina