Non-academic things I’ve learned in college


by Phoenix Sadd, marketing major

Phoenix smiles for a headshot as part of homecoming royalty

College has been nothing less than life-changing for me. As I approach the summit of this fantastic and beautiful journey, any opportunity to look back and appreciate the path that I have taken is one that I do gladly.

I have always stated that college is meant to be something more than GPAs, homework, and classes. The plethora of life lessons one can experience if one can reach and push outside one’s comfort zone is priceless. Now, some people have reached farther corners of campus than I have, but I feel that I have branched out more than a typical college student might. In summary, I have had some part in each of these organizations and areas of campus in one form or another:

  • First Gen
  • Greek Life: Beta Sigma Psi
  • Huskers Voter Coalition
  • Housing/Reslife: Resident Assistant
  • Conference Services: Conference Assistant
  • College of Business
  • College of Music: All-Collegiate, Varsity Chorus, University Singers, Chamber Singers
  • Opera
  • Homecoming Royalty
  • Intramurals
  • The Big Event

The important thing is that I have spent a lot of time meeting new people, doing new things, and trying my best to make college more than just a diploma. I would even be bold enough to say that the nonacademic lessons I learned throughout college have impacted me much more than the time I have spent inside a classroom.

Though every college experience is different, I hope you can gain some insight into what worked for me, and maybe it’ll work for you, too.

Phoenix, third from left, jumps in the air with friends in front of the tunnel in Memorial Stadium

Lesson 1: Find Your Fit

As a first-generation college student, I knew very little about what college would entail. Joining college in fall 2020, I was scared and completely lost. Having good friends who pushed me to join groups was the one thing that saved me. Finding people with similar interests will help you in many ways. I gained role models who truly cared about my college experience and helped the transition to college go smoothly. Another benefit of joining these groups came in the form of personal growth. I took leadership positions, gained valuable experience, and grew relationships that will last a lifetime.

Lesson 2: Ask Questions

Like I stated before, I came into the college setting blind. I had no point of reference. I had no idea what to do or where to go. It can be so easy to sit in your room and hide because so much change is happening around you. Trust me when I say this: Don’t. Embrace the confusion around you. When you don’t know something, ask somebody. This was the whole reason I became an RA. I wanted to be that person for others. There are so many resources here at UNL to help you be successful; all you have to do is reach out to them. Ask the questions. Look things up. Ask your RA, ask your friends, ask your advisor. Most of the time, the answer is available. Future you will be so grateful.

Lesson 3: Managing Your Time

If you read through my list of involvements, you may think I must have been insanely busy throughout college… You’d be right. Doing all those things, working another job, and trying to keep a semi-decent GPA, I had to find a way to balance it all. Even if you don’t choose to be that involved, time management in college is so important. I found the most success using my Canvas Calendar. You know that website you have all your classes on? Did you know there is an interactive calendar that shows your assignments, courses, and other resources? Well, there is! And it’s excellent! Utilizing your resources to stay organized is a great way to decrease stress and prepare yourself for a future career. Whether that’s a digital calendar, like Google or Canvas, or a physical planner, staying organized will make your time at college much less stressful and more enjoyable.

Lesson 4: Open Your Heart to Change

Now, this lesson may seem out of left field. Growing up in a small town in Nebraska, it felt like everyone had a set point of view about many things. It almost felt like there were no other opinions or points of view out there. When I came to Lincoln, I couldn’t have been more wrong. You will have the opportunity to meet so many different types of people from many different backgrounds who will believe so many other things. To me, that is absolutely amazing. I am not asking you to change how you feel about anything. But I am asking you to be willing to respect the fact that others may not agree with you. I have learned many valuable lessons about life from people who totally disagree with me on many things. The critical difference is that we respect each other and care more about each other’s hearts than what we may be passionate about.

Lesson 5: Be Willing to Grow

I cannot stress this lesson enough. As I reach the end of my college career, I feel I have come full circle in this area. I came to college scared, excited, nervous, and passionate. I grew through the many groups I was a part of and gained confidence, happiness, and gratitude. As I get ready for the next chapter in my life, I find myself starting again. As a matter of fact, change is never easy. There will always be bumps in the road and new lessons to embrace. Those who embrace these lessons and are willing to grow are the ones who find college to be an excellent and fulfilling experience. There are many ways to grow… You can grow in relationship building and “Finding Your Fit.” You can grow by staying curious and “Ask Questions,” which will help you grow knowledgeable and confident. You can grow by improving your personal working skills like “Managing Your Time.” Finally, you can grow in how you treat others and “Open Your Heart to Change.”

The bottom line is that college is what you make of it. You will be as happy and prosperous as you allow yourself to be. Put in the hard work. Ask the hard questions. However, most importantly, treat others with respect and love. I am forever thankful for my time in college and hope to keep some portion of myself here. Whether that is working for the university or showing up to those fantastic football games, I will always be a Nebraskan. I will always be a Husker.

Phoenix and friends take a photo at Volleyball Day in Nebraska

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