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5 Unexpected Things I Learned From my Bachelors Degree

Many of us venture into the post-secondary world pursuing an education that we’re completely unsure about but go through with it anyways. Or perhaps you went through university being one of the very few who grew quite fond of student life. If you are falling towards the latter, congrats- you’re just like me. Don’t get me wrong, enduring four (and a half) years of university wasn’t a walk in the park nor was it sunshine and daisies. In fact, it was hell. But if you’re like me, you loved it anyways.

As I slowly adjust to the non-student life (not getting student discounts anymore sucks by the way) I’m constantly confronted with the question of what I really learned from my undergrad. Sure I could talk your ear off about marketing, events, and tourism (and don’t even get me started on Maslow) but was all that money worth it for a silly piece of paper? Well let me tell you, it was worth every-damn-penny. For me, getting that piece of paper wasn’t about what I learned in the lecture hall or from midterms or final exams. Instead it’s about what I experienced in the midst of all those late nights, late assignments, impossible deadlines and stress-induced meltdowns. And it has absolutely nothing to do with academics.


1. Comparing yourself to others is detrimental

Whether its comparing grades, Instagram followers, sales, number of reps at the gym, comparing yourself to others doesn’t do you any good. I remember feeling bad about myself for getting 81% when others were achieving in the 90’s, as if the work I put in to my studies wasn’t as good as someone else’s. And you know what? It’s BS. Pouring your heart and soul into something that matters to you is far more important than comparative stats. Instead of measuring your achievements to everyone else’s, focus on your own improvements and hard work and celebrate every single accomplishment you make. Small victories are still victories.

2. What you learn about yourself and others is more important than your major

Sure, you should know a thing or two about your area of academic expertise, whatever it may be, but I will bet you that knowing more about yourself, how to effectively communicate with others, understanding your existential authenticity, and practicing your gift will get you a hell of a lot farther in life than memorizing every single table and figure in your Macroeconomics textbook. What’s more important than any textbook is getting to know yourself on a 360 level. What are your quirks? What makes you different than your friends? What are your values and how to you incorporate them into your life? Having a clear understanding of yourself will project tenfold in how you interact with others and the world. Your friends, family, future employers, clients and customers will acknowledge this and gravitate towards your confidence and self-awareness far before your ability to solve a statistics equation. (Unless you plan to be a statistician in which case just disregard that last part)

3. Not everyone is going to like you

People pleasers beware. As much as we want to get along with everyone and their dog, reality is very much so the opposite. No matter what you say or do or how hard you fight it, you will meet people that you just won’t jive with (for whatever reason that may be) and that’s OK. As my home girl Dita Von Teese said so perfectly: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” The fact of the matter is that some people drink tea and some people drink whisky and you, my dear, cannot be both. Instead, be proud of being the tea or whisky person that you are (or some lemonade concoction of the two) and accept that you are someone special that not everyone will come to understand. Never apologize for who you are ever ever ever.

4. Failing is good

I’ll tell you a story. I was in my second year when I took my very first economics class taught by a less-than-favorable professor. After a couple weeks I took the first midterm exam and when the marks were given back to us, what did I see? A grade no where near a pass followed by a full page message in red ink from my professor explaining to me that I was not cut out for this class and that removing myself from the course was highly encouraged. After only ONE midterm. As if my performance on one midterm meant that I wasn’t cut out for an entire course and instead of trying, I should just quit. After many tears and some consolation from Mom I decided to withdraw from the course. Not because I was discouraged from failing the midterm but because juggling Macroeconomics as a 6th course in my semester wasn’t the best setup for success. That failure taught me that I couldn’t run myself ashore and expect amazing results. Timing is everything, and failing was a good thing. Failure is like a message, coded in a secret language that you must interpret with an open mind and a gracious heart in order to fully reach your next potential.

5. Your successes and failures are 100% your own

You might be thinking “duh, this is obvious Kate” but honestly think about it for a minute. I don’t know about you but I feel pretty good about myself when I succeed at something. I also feel pretty crappy when I’ve failed at something. But what makes success and failure awesome is that YOU control them and no one else. Netflix didn’t plot to make you miss that deadline nor did your alarm purposely not go off so you would be late for work. On the flipside, you don’t owe anyone but yourself an applause for making that last sale nor do you owe your trainer for helping you lose that last 5 pounds. Your successes (and failures) are YOURS and that’s pretty amazing if you ask me. You control your own outcomes and no one can take that away from you.

There you have it! These 5 things have taught me more about the reality of life than anything I heard in the classroom. Although I’m a sucker for the student life I will say this: I don’t think I would have had these unexpected epiphanies if I had been a non-student counterpart, at least not at that time. After all, you only take away what you put in. Get out there and go all in.


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