The Only Thing You Need to Learn in College

Photo by Hagar Lotte Geyer, Courtesy of Pixbay

If you’re enrolled in college, congratulations! Like the rest of us, you took many tests, jumped through many hoops, AND now you’re in!

Warning — you’ll take classes you won’t like, eat mediocre campus food, & spend way too many hours studying only to end up with a subpar grade, but anyways…Welcome to college!

That pit in your stomach isn’t permanent, but the things you do here could be.

College is great because it throws you in a sandbox where you have the freedom to make your own choices. It’s a fail free zone (well almost) where you can try new things and see what sticks. It’s easy to just keep with the routine you’re familiar with, but -

What’s gotten you this far, will not get you the rest of the way.

You are not fully equipped to make it to the finish line (which is different for everyone). Most people aren’t prepared, not even graduates with jobs. Better yet, no one knows what YOU will need to get there.

Let go of the feelings of despair, everything is still under your control, you just need to stay adaptable.

College is about figuring out how to tap into that adaptability; figuring out 
the process.

Just like with driving — you learn to first start the engine, adjust the mirrors, and back out. These details are minorly related to the goal — getting to your destination — but are key to getting there. Once it’s second nature, you can drive practically anywhere.

On the flipside, you can’t just memorize the steps (turn wheel 85 degrees, accelerate for 3.5 seconds, apply break, wait 2 seconds, etc), because the routes change. Even if you could, your perfect instructions will get ruined by unpredictable variables like traffic, an accident, the weather, etc (one reason why self driving cars aren’t perfect).

It’s vital to move past the step-by-step instructions because your destination is always evolving.

As odd as it may seem, your life will be unrecognizable in a decade. — Did you really KNOW you’d be HERE 10 years ago?

Unless you’re some omnipotent god, you will come across something unfamiliar. The unknown is, after all, where all that is mysterious and magical exists. It is what college is about, exploring that which unknown to you.

That’s harder than it sounds. Sure, you can learn to do something, like drive a car, but the key is to learn how to learn.

As the world continues to change, so do its problems. What you have learned will someday become irrelevant (like what Apple did to the headphone jack).

If you’re doing something important, (which someday you will be or you probably wouldn’t be reading this) you’ll quickly come across a problem that no one has a preset solution for. Even if you’re the most qualified person, what you know might not matter, but your ability to learn new things will.

There is no bigger takeaway from college than learning how to learn.

Most of the information you absorb will not matter, just like all the stuff you’ve never used in high school. When you find the right problem, one worth digging into, you’ll be happy you learned how to learn. You’ll make it because you’ve had the experience of adapting to things unknown.

Memorizing for the sake of regurgitation is so high school. Understanding how you learn is what college is about. That tool will never fail you in the future — with enough persistence you can rise to any challenge.

Knowing how to learn is the ultimate get out of jail free card — you will figure your way out of any tough spot.

Between the required readings and study breaks, remember to;

Learn how you learn!


Check out Coursera‘s online class on learning how to learn for more!

Start-Ups at RIT’s Simone Center

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