5 Things I Wish I Knew in University

belushi2-602x338This is a guest post from Catherine at Plunged in Debt, a personal finance blog documenting her and her husband’s journey to debt freedom. She’s also a momma to a sweet baby girl, dental hygienist and self-confessed Twitter addict. In Canada, university =college and college=community college. She starts with the clarification since questions always seem to arise. 

I’ve always excelled academically. There was no question that after high school I would be attending university. Even entertaining another thought was out of the question. As an adult I don’t think forcing university on a child (which you are at the age of graduation) is necessarily a good thing. Forcing one to start forging a career path in the hype of hormonal rage is probably not the best choice. Who we are in high school is not who most of us are come adulthood.

Nonetheless, I loved university. I learned a lot about myself, but some of it was discovered too late. Things I wish I knew before starting university. Things that likely would have changed my entire life.

For instance:

  1. It’s ok to not go to university. I started university with a plan and was ready to attack it. My plan didn’t end up working out as expected for many reasons and it left me sort of lost. Instead of taking time off from school and working or volunteering in different areas to gain new skills and experiences, I continued with a degree I didn’t love and essentially wasted thousands of dollars. I remember sitting on my dining room floor one afternoon (the sunniest spot in the house) and telling my mom I didn’t want to return after my first year. I needed time to get stuff figured out. Before I had time to develop my thought process further, my mom stopped me and talked me out of my plan. Though I ultimately went back to university and am doing something I love, I wish that day never happened.
  2. Learn to budget. I graduated high school, was handed a ton of money to pay for my education and had NO idea what to do with it. I had been working part-time jobs since the age of 15, but ask me where my paychecks went and I couldn’t tell you where 80% of it went over the lifetime of all my part-time jobs. This makes me sick. I didn’t learn how to manage money until I was in my mid-twenties. Over 10 years of lost opportunities.
  3. If you have a bad feeling about a class — drop it. I’m not talking about dropping those no-option boring classes necessary for graduation. Most departments have more than one option in terms of class selection and topics. I took too many classes that I loathed. Why?! I’m paying good money for these classes and learning experiences! I should have dropped them in the first few days when I realized I wouldn’t be happy or the prof wasn’t a good fit. I don’t know why I put up with the crap I did.
  4. Establish good study habits and routines in high school. Like I said, I’ve always excelled academically. My opinions of the high school education system are a post in its own, but I did very well in high school with little to no effort. Entering my first year of university with this mentality was toxic. Imagine my surprise when I actually had to learn study skills to do well on exams. It isn’t easy! It took me a few years to get a good hang of things.
  5. Enjoy it. I remember my mom taking me on a tour of my “new-to-me” campus (her alma mater) and annoyingly reminiscing about how much she missed it all. Five years post-graduation, and I totally understand where she was coming from. I miss the smells, the library, the socializing, the beer and wing nights; I even miss the all-nighters and exams. You’re learning so much more than academia in university but you don’t realize until you’re done and looking back on it all.

I live my life believing that you’re never faced with more than you can handle (which is why I seemingly have huge shoulders). I look back at mistakes and wrong turns made while I was in university, and though they sucked, I am happy with the person I am today. I can whole-heartedly say I would not be the person I am, or be in the place I am in my life if things had been different or easy. I wouldn’t change a single life altering mistake for anything.



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