8 Lessons I Learned in College

“Enjoy it while it lasts”, they said, “It’ll be over before you know it”. This is the number one thing I was told from post-grads and adults while I was in college. At the time, I knew it was true and now that I’ve graduated, those words have truly settled in. Going away to college is unlike any other experience that you’ll have in your life. Since I’ve graduated, my life is drastically different and much more “normal”. I’d like to say I graduated with a 4.0, but I didn’t. The most valuable things I learned took place outside of the classroom. I remember being a couple months into my freshman year and thinking “Wow, I’ve learned so much about myself and life every single day”. I also remember thinking how fun college was. Despite some of the lows, I absolutely loved it. Beyond my daily struggles in the classroom, college became my home and my life. My friends, my apartment, my routine, became more familiar than my hometown. If you are privileged enough to be in school at all, take full advantage of it. If you allow both the hard times and the great times to shape you along the way, you’ll leave college as a much better and smarter ‘you’ after 4 years.

1.The Power of Goal Setting

I’m the type of person that always had goals, but I didn’t always know how to execute them properly. About midway into my college career, I learned the power of goal setting. Its nice to have goals and ideas inside of your head – but there is a lot going on in there and just like any typical plan you would carry out, you must develop a process for reaching your end goal.

Once I began writing my goals down, developing action plans, setting deadlines, and staying committed, I was able to see results. Research shows that your goals are more likely to come to fruition if you simply write them down. How will you get to the end without all of the steps in between? That is the difference between goal-setting and wishing/hoping. Action makes all of the difference. In college, it’s so easy to get caught up in everything other than what you actually came for. Setting goals and revisiting them frequently can help you stay on the right track.

2. Invest in Real Relationships

When it comes to the relationships in your life, quality is always better than quantity. Remember in high school when they told you that you would only keep in touch with a small fraction of your ‘friends’ after graduating? That rule applies to college as well. Being very involved in college can leave you little time to make time for the people you really care about. Its important to spend the time to foster and invest in relationships that actually mean something to you. Hanging out with someone simply for the sake of having someone to hang out with is not a friendship.

A true friend encourages you, inspires you, supports you, and builds you up. If your “friend” never seems to be happy for you when you’ve done well on a test or landed your dream internship, they may not be a very good friend. A true and genuine friendship can breathe life into you. Cling to those who love you for you and remove those who bring negativity into your life. Oh, and don’t forget to make time for family in the midst of it all – they’re growing older too. In college I realized that my parents were my only real & true best friends, and I should be treating them as such.

3. How Travel Changes you

Prior to college, I’d never left the country. It was always something I wanted to do, but it seemed so out of reach for me at the time. The first time I asked my mom to study abroad, she simply said that we couldn’t afford it. So I picked up additional oddjobbs(shoutout to Oddjobs.com!!) on top of my regular part-time job, that would ultimately fund all of my trips. First, I got the chance to travel to rural Panama. This trip was not luxurious by any means, but we volunteered and taught basic accounting concepts to indigenous communities. This was my first time being exposed to a completely different culture and I fell in love.

Within the next year, I traveled to India, South Africa, Swaziland, and Panama once more. All of these places were so different from my little bubble of a college town. I came back with a completely new perspective of the world. Its one thing to hear or read about other places, but its another thing to actually experience a place that is worlds apart from your own. It really does change you. I learned more on these trips than I ever learned in a classroom. Please study abroad if you have the opportunity to do so! Don’t be afraid of missing out on what’s going on at your college. It will all be there waiting for you when you get back 🙂 The only difference is that you’ll have a new set of eyes when you return.

4. Procrastination Kills

Okay, not literally, but you get what I mean. In college and high school, its kinda cool to be like, “Oh, I wrote my paper an hour before it was due and I aced it”. I will say that this is actually is very cool and I’m not mad about those instances where that happened for me. At the same time, procrastination is not cool by any means. This is something that I struggle with daily, even after graduating.

I missed quite a few opportunities and deadlines over the years because I thought it’d be okay to put something off just a little bit longer or until I felt like doing it. I learned that you miss out on a lot by procrastinating. I most likely would have had a 4.0 if it wasn’t for the fact that I always wanted to wait until tomorrow. Procrastination will never allow you to reach your full potential.

5. Take Advantage of Your Resources

This is so important. If you’re in college, please take advantage of the plentiful resources that are around you. If your school has career fairs, networking sessions, mock interviews, etc. to help YOU land a job/internship, you better take advantage of that! These resources are in place to benefit you. I don’t know how many times I told people about my university’s online job/internship search site and they had no idea what it was or where to find it. This was how I landed my internship and numerous other on-campus interviews, yet so many people were missing out on the same exact opportunities.

Your school probably has a lot of resources that you’re unaware of. At one point I almost paid for rosetta stone, until I learned that the library rented it out for free. The library also rented out movies, albums, cameras, iPads, tripods, go-pro’s and a lot of other things that could have been beneficial to me…for free. Take advantage of networking events, ANY FREE FOOD, tutoring sessions, scholarships, counseling, advising, or anything else that doesn’t come with the ‘Adult Life’ package once you graduate.

6. About Myself

Every single day, I learned more and more about myself. There will be days where you feel completely lost, but you must embrace those moments because whether you know it or not, they signify growth. I saw so many people trying to be someone that they weren’t, and its honestly so sad. Don’t try to be like this person or that group. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself and you’ll attract the best and most genuine people for your life.

For most, college is the first time you’ve ever actually been ‘on your own’. Take advantage of that and figure yourself out if you haven’t before. This is so important. In addition to learning about yourself,  love yourself. Make that a priority and focus on growth as an individual. Figure out what you love and wgat you need to do to be successful. If you graduate college and you’re the same person that you were as a freshman, you probably did something wrong.

7. Perseverance

Sometimes there will be things that you don’t want to do, but you’ll have to do them anyway. After your first round of tests your freshman year, you’ll probably wonder how you’re going to make it through the next four years. With hard work and dedication, you’ll make it through. You’ll feel so good about finishing the class that you struggled with, because there was a point in time where you genuinely thought you were going to fail. There may have been times when you had to listen to your stomach growl while you studied because you couldn’t afford to spend money on food. The feeling of graduation will be so amazing because you know just how many struggles you had to overcome along the way – not only academically, but socially and mentally as well. If college teaches you anything, its perserverance.

8. Have Fun!!

because if I haven’t already said it enough, college is fun. You only get four years and during those four years, you may be thinking ‘Ugh, four years’. After those four years, you’ll be begging for more…because there is no place in the world like ‘college’. There will most likely never be another time in your life where your surrounded by so many people who are in the exact same place in life as you are. Eventually you drift into the world of 9-5’s, bills, children, and every other responsibility.

At times college can be stressful, but be sure to have enough fun to balance out those lows. Take a spring break trip, go to football games, take random road trips, stay up all night with your roommates, and just have a good time. In the end, it will all be okay. Ride the wave, don’t let the stress affect you too much, trust in His plan, and keep the faith. Just like anything else, college is what you make it. Get up, get out, stop being scared, and do what you must. If you have to be there, you better make the most of it and enjoy it!

If you’re currently in college, what are some things that you’ve learned a long the way?

Spread the love

Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

Things you need to know before visiting Tulum


Things you need to know before visiting Tulum


Sign up to stay current on all my latest tips, tricks, photos, and lists.



The Ultimate Travel Book

Travel is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself and I want to pay it forward by making sure that others get to feel that magic for themselves. If you’re a long-time follower and/or friend of Hey Ciara, then you know that you’re in for a treat. This is a comprehensive and cohesive guide that provides actionable steps to help you get out into the world.

Coming Soon...


Get my packing list

Get the ultimate packing list to make sure you’ve got all the essentials. It’s been 7 years in the making so I’m confident it won’t lead you astray.

Don't know what to bring?

send it to me!