The Most Important Thing I Learned in College

The Most Important Thing I Learned in College

Choosing the right college for you

There are literally hundreds of books and online resources you can access about maximizing your time in college. But when it comes down to making the most of these defining years of your life, nothing is more valuable than honest advice from people who have been there, done that. 


With that in mind, we asked people to share the most important thing they learned in college. Here's what they said:



“First, always give any task 100% of your effort. It is better to have failed without regret than to think of what you should have or could have done differently. And secondly, surround yourself with the smartest, most skilled individuals in any field or scope of practice. You can always learn from the best and become better yourself!” 


—Erica, Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh



“The most important thing I learned in college wasn't a product of my major or any of my other classes. What I took away from my experience was socialization. And not in the overtly general sense of the term. College is a time for young adults, who are all of a sudden thrust into a level of independence from other's direct guidance, to learn about being young adults. It's influence vs. intellect. It's truly preparatory for what’s next—life.” 


—Justin, Public Relations, Westminster College



“Surprisingly, I would say learning how to have social skills. I had a really hard time meeting people and making friends because I commuted. So I really had to put in some effort. As an adult, I have been able to use those connections and relationships to build my career.”


— Tamaira, Media Arts, Robert Morris University



“I learned that I am capable of quite a bit academically. And also to dress in layers.” 


— Dale Ann, Social Studies Teacher Education, Slippery Rock University



“I wanted to be a dentist. But after four years of hard college classes, I was a little burnt out. So I took 14 months off and worked for a dentist, where I realized that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in someone else’s mouth! So I reapplied to pharmacy school. I was feeling guilty because I hadn't ‘succeeded’ the first time, and I felt like I wasted time and money. But then a good friend's father said these words to me: “Nothing you learn is ever wasted.” And that made me change my thought process. You may recreate yourself many times in a lifetime, but you bring all of your knowledge and experience to that new situation. And you are better for it.”


— Mary Fran, Biology and Chemistry/Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh



“I went to college after the USAF. I was married with a young daughter. The two most important things I took from it were 1) critical thinking and 2) a more worldly view on culture, economics, politics, religion, and, most important, history.”


— Brian, International Area Studies, Drexel University



“I learned it required a lot of dedication and hard work, and the fact that you alone are responsible for your success!”


— Erin, Speech Pathology, Geneva College



“Get involved. You will meet people from different backgrounds, and the networking later in life is wonderful. You will learn valuable skills that will not only serve you well in your career, but also in your life.”


— Jen, Political Science, Penn State - Behrend



“There are so many people that work behind the scenes to help you complete your studies. When you are able to, find a way to give back to the next generation. Education comes from the heart of those who were there before you.”


— Leanne, High Technology Communications, Community College of Beaver County



“No issue or situation is ever black and white. There is always more than one way to understand an issue and the motivations of those involved. Also, history is extremely valuable for understanding the present and approaching the future.”


— Mandy, History, University of Virginia



“The most important thing I learned in college was you have to show up and work to make the grades. I really never had to study in high school and tried that early on in college—didn’t work! And once my education was over when I graduated, I realized that my education was actually just beginning. College shows that you can be a success. But in the real world, experience truly means everything!” 


— Paul, Mechanical Engineering, Geneva College



"Something big that stuck with me: the fact that a professor may be hard to understand due to their having an accent is no excuse for not acing a class. The 'real world' is full of people who speak differently from you. Work harder. Talk to your professors more—that's how you get to understand them. I even use that example in presentations I give on resilience I give to students now.” 


— Bethany Ann, Medical Anthropology, University of Toronto



"I learned that selecting from scheduled classes is good, but the three independent study courses I created were great. Life on campus was fun, but the six months I studied abroad were life changing. And the a cappella singing group I helped to start, even though it got complicated, now makes me very proud. Make things happen and take risks." 


— Carrie, English, Hamilton College



"After graduating from high school with average grades in advanced English and writing classes, I hated writing because my senior year English teacher made me think my writing was junk. My first paper written in college returned with an A; the next, an A; my final paper written about John Hughes and his movies, an A+, and a copy was mailed to John Hughes himself by my composition professor. My writing wasn't crap after all. The lesson: Don't define yourself based on one person's opinion. They may not know what they are talking about.”


— Hillary, Biology, West Virginia Wesleyan College



"The most important thing I learned was how to live a life of service, and how, in doing so, you can actually live your best life.”


— Aimee, English, Westminster College


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