What I really wish I would have known before starting school

By: Mary Perino


I’m always a big fan of lists: grocery, Buzzfeed style, classic to-dos (or in my case, to-procrastinate) and if there is a list on the internet about bettering yourself with a few quick tips, you can bet I’ll read it. Call me a list-fanatic.

I’m also a big fan of school: so much so that I plan on being in it for the rest of my life, making my career out of teaching. Every list I’ve encountered about going to back school is always composed of the same sort of thinking: get an agenda, drink lots of water, make an honest effort to sleep at least eight hours a night, join a club and so on. While all these clichéd tips and tricks have merit, I think there’s much more to being successful at school than color coding everything. I’m talking about the life tips, the big picture thinking and the advice I wish someone had told me, which in turn, I shall pass on to you.

Care about what you wear: When I first started university, I had this idea in my head that going to class in sweatpants would be the normal — no, the preferred — way to dress. I was just as excited about living in sweatpants all the time as I was about living away from home and aptly packed more lounge-y clothes than I did jeans. Somewhere down the road I realized “hey, I have a lot of sweatpants” and then “hey, I get really tired in class sometimes” and it took a while (about a year) to realize that dressing down meant I didn’t care, and that attitude translated into my school work. The days where I put effort into outfits, or at the very least, threw on some eyeliner and called myself professional, were the days that I felt like I could handle the mess that was my undergraduate degree. However, that’s just what worked for me. My point is to wear whatever makes you feel your best. Own those elbow patches. Work that updo.

Use you words, not your hashtags: this one I learned the few times I left my phone in my bag and actually had some interactions with other human beings that didn’t occur through a double tap or a retweet (weird, right?). More often than not, the experience was positive because — get this — other people are also looking for meaningful interaction! Make an effort to actually talk to those around you in everyday situations instead of just scrolling through your phone. Whether it be a bus driver, a customer service representative, someone waiting in line behind you; there is no harm in just saying “hi” or commiserating over the weather, or admiring the lunch special. In fact, you may make someone’s day, you may even become great pals and if nothing else, you socialized. Great job, member of the human race, way to do what you were made to do.

Remember the cup: Okay this is a metaphor, are you ready? The cup is never half empty or half full, but rather it’s some combination of air and water and we need to be grateful that we even have a cup at all. School, like life, will be full of experiences that you treasure and moments you’d rather forget; the same with classes, professors, friends, finances and relationships – you name it. The important thing to remember is that we are lucky enough to experience it and it will all balance out in the end.

Whether it’s your first semester, your last, or you’re starting your post-grad program, best of luck this year. Let’s try to not take our cups for granted, regardless of what we have inside them.

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