You’re going to learn a lot in college, like seriously, the amount of information which is going to be violently and repeatedly thrown at your head is staggering, and truth be told, there’s a lot of crap there you’ll never use again. (Unless it’s to appear smart at parties and you purposefully try and steer a conversation in this direction – which, by the way, pro-tip, is a shitty idea – that little nugget, that gem of wisdom which you think is either A) incredibly insightful or B) hilarious, isn’t. At least it wont be if you can’t use it organically.)

While it’s important that you pay attention to your studies, what you also need to be aware of are the life lessons that you learn outside of class, because let’s face it, anyone with a library card and a lot of free time can learn the crap that you do.

Now, if you’re a mature student, chances are you probably wont be learning all that much outside of the classroom, this is because you will have most likely gotten your life experience elsewhere, like say in the real world, so you get to sit back and watch the folly of youth unfold right in front of you.

First things first, there is a correlation between grades and where you sit in class, the closer to the front you are, the better you’ll do. You’re in college now, no one cares that you sit at the front of the class and what to do well, if they do they’re not the sort of people you should surround yourself with anyway – they might be ‘nice’ but they obviously don’t care enough about you to want you to do well in college…and that’s kinda the whole point of being there.

Take the opportunity you have to learn life lessons in an insulated environment seriously – what I mean by that is, if you f— up (I think I’ve reached my swear quota already) remember it. Own it. Deal it. Get on with it. Don’t do it again. This could be from not managing your money correctly or pissing of your roommate because you’re being selfish – chances are in college the fallout of messing up wont be that bad – you mess up your budget in the real world and it could be a few weeks before you have enough money to buy food or, worse, have your internet connection switched back on.

You’ll look at people just a few years older than you and neglect to realize that you will become them. Once you leave college and you’re out working you wont party as much. For some people they just can’t be bothered with that scene any more, for others, suffering through a full day of actual work with a hangover (which do get worse as you get older) is not worth it. You’ll confine it to the weekend and you’ll become everything you said you wouldn’t.

Enjoy the freedom and free time you have now while you can, it’s easier to blow off a class than a job.

Use this extended party time to identify your limits when it comes to alcohol – spend a few years before you realize that not mixing drinks actually does make a difference the next day – but also use it to know when you can get happy tipsy and stop drinking – it means you can slip out the occasional weeknight and not feel too awful the next morning.

Stay up all night cramming and then failing a test because you’re too tired to function. Stay up all night producing a half-assed essay but know that this consistent quality of work in the real world wont fly.

Learn how to resolve disputes with those you live with without resorting to passive-aggressive post it notes, cleaning the toilet bowl with their toothbrush or pouring bleach into their fish tank.

You need to teach your grown ass how to resolve issues with your friends if you want to keep them. Not speaking to someone for a week doesn’t fix anything, you just look like a child, and no one wants to be friends with a child. Well, not anyone that shouldn’t be on a list anyway.

Take your romantic relationships as an opportunity to learn, find out what you’re willing to accept and what you’re not, but never use them as a benchmark, never use any relationship as benchmark. Why? Right, because every relationship is different! Why is every relationship different? Right, because every one person on this planet is different! You are learning!

There will be people who get righteously offended by every little thing, this is just their nature, accept it and move on. There will also be people who disagree with something you’ve said based on a feeling rather than a fact – accept that you will never be able to change this and don’t waste any effort trying. It’s like arguing with your parents, only there’s a slightly greater chance than your parents will stop mid-scream and admit defeat.

Learn to balance your time wisely, but know that if you’ve “enjoyed wasting time, then it wasn’t wasted” or whatever that quote is – but just be sensible about, don’t enjoy wasting it all, try and so something with it too, you’ll probably never have as much free time again until you’re retired, hospitalized or dead.

Come to realize that all the opinions and things that you thought you knew before you got to college were probably wrong and misinformed. Feminists don’t hate men; they’re not all lesbians and they’re also not all women. Not all gay guys are camp or feminine, but it’s totally cool if they are. You can like science and sport. College is a great time to learn about other people, probably because it’ll be the first time you’ve spent with people who aren’t from your school, from your town or even your own age group – you’re being exposed to new ideas rapidly, enjoy this, it’ll probably never happen at this rate again unless you’re incredibly proactive in seeking new experiences.

You can be incredibly smart but totally dumb at the same time. You might know organic chemistry inside out, big deal, bet you wouldn’t know how to open a bank account or how to go about claiming off insurance. For everything you do know, a) someone else knows it better b) someone else knows something you don’t, sometimes these are useful things too. Don’t be a smartass.

There is very little in this world that is actually mutually exclusive.

Learn that the world doesn’t operate in black and white, it never has and it never will.  That was you thinking you knew better.

You’ll realize that for every point you feel passionately about there will be someone with the opposite view, and they’ll feel equally as passionate about it, and guess what, it’s okay if you come around to their way of thinking and it’s okay if you don’t – chances are you’re probably both wrong and the answer is somewhere in the middle. (Unless it’s about rights – everyone gets them, even the gays, stfu Old Testament.)

There will be people who teach and inspire you, they wont always be in the classroom and they wont always be older. Appreciate these people because although teachers are pretty common, people who actually teach and inspire you are petty rare.

There are some things you wont be able to learn, there are things in life that can’t be articulated neatly or explained and there are things that, unfortunately, you’ll learn too late. There’s nothing you can do about any of this. You’ll see your friends make the same mistakes you did, let them, no matter how much advice they’re given, they’re going to do it anyway. If you don’t advise them it’s easier to console them instead of saying “I told you so”, that and everyone needs to make their own mistakes to learn – advice is just advice until you put your hindsight glasses on, then it becomes retroactive knowledge.

Finally, know that learning life lessons wont stop in college, you will never know it all and you will never have it all figured out – and that’s okay, no one does – even those people with 9 to 5s, a car, a house and whatever else society tells you is the mark of a successful person, don’t have it figured out, they just do a better job of pretending, because the big secret is, there is no secret, there’s no right or wrong way to live your life, there’s just the conventional accepted way, and then every other way.  Remember that, think about it and recall it every so often. Make the choices that are right for you and not the choices you feel you have to.

Oh, P.S. Never, ever, ever say, “I told you so.” – if you did tell someone so, they already know, they don’t need to be reminded.  Stop being such a smug jackass. (Unless they actually deserve to hear it, then say it, text it and e-mail it.)

[Image credit: pagedooley]

About the Author:

Graeme Carson is a 25 year old “mature” student studying for an undergraduate BSc (Hons) in psychology at Bournemouth University, England. He is quick to point out that he is not actually English, but Irish or Northern Irish, he isn’t sure and it’s still quite confusing even to him. He has a Macbook Pro and an 80gb iPod which can only actually hold 9gb of music.

Graeme likes science in general, and comics. You can find him on Twitter