10 things that college taught me
Having just completed by under-graduation from NIT Trichy, I wanted to highlight on a few life lessons that I learned.
May 30, 2017
When you reach the end of your college life, unknowingly, you start thinking about the things you did, people you met and the lessons you learnt in the past four years. I have this habit of typing down my thoughts, and thought I’d share with you all a few things that I learnt. Some of you may find this blatantly obvious, to some of you this might not make sense, but I hope the rest of you find it remotely useful.
1. Inculcate respect: Respect, respect people for who they are and most importantly, respect organizations and clubs that are small. Most of the clubs/organizations that I have been part of (or started) have been in their infantry stage, and unless you have worked in one such, you will never understand the pain of building it, and giving it shape. I know people who look down on teams that are just being formed or are at the incipient stage, and I really hope you do not imbibe that. That quality will only make you look like a jerk (I hope the people who read this know who they are). The thrill of building something from scratch, the exhilaration you feel every time you encounter a small success and the people you meet is unparalleled. However, know that I am not glorifying the work, it is a tough job and not everyone can do it; which is why you need to respect every single upcoming team in NIT Trichy and try to understand their goal, because every single team in our campus does have a goal. This quality will take you places, and make you stand out.
2. Help people, never hesitate: This might seem downright obvious, but do people actually do it? I am where I am today because of countless seniors, juniors and batchmates who have helped me with bits and pieces of advice, gestures and amazing support along the way. When you are surrounded with such a conducive environment, you start fitting in. I make it a point to always respond to favors and requests, and do it promptly. More than anything, help your juniors. These are people who look up to you for guidance, these are the people who are eager to learn and won’t let you down. The bond that you form with them would be long-lasting, trust me.
3. Choose passion over prowess: Some of you might reach a stage in your College life when you feel that the circle of ‘What you are good at’ and the circle of ‘What you want to do’ does not intersect. I faced this last year. Choosing the latter is not easy and be ready for a string of questions and open-mouths, however, you know you will have to pick it. Of course, Disclaimer: Other factors do play a role here. Such as financial situation. If you feel that choosing the former would help you with your financial situation then go ahead. Somewhere down the line just remember your passion and don’t lose the momentum.
4. You cannot please everyone: Whatever you do, wherever you are, know that you cannot please everyone. There will always be people around you who will demean you, put you down and talk behind your back. Instead of giving them the advantage of feeling disappointed, rather go ahead and do great things. You are never at your best, and you can only keep going up. Always keep a bunch of positive people around you who motivate and encourage you. Learn to be enthusiastic about little things, and learn to stay away from those who put you down. (P.S. NEVER gossip!)
5. Do very, very simple things and be unique: When you’re walking down the road and you see a crumpled paper on road, pick it up and throw it in the nearest dustbin. When you see someone being ignored in a conversation, don’t just neglect it, try to make them feel welcome. When someone is speaking during a meeting, don’t use your phone (yes, the speaker CAN easily spot and it demotivates them drastically). When you see someone doing something good however insignificant the deed might be, appreciate; I would say keep telling people why they are awesome constantly (I have used this word so much that it automatically pops up on my keypad). When you want to volunteer for something (as simple as asking question in a class), do it without apprehension. It is okay if you make a fool of yourself, at least you tried.
6. Do not dip your hand in too much stuff: This is totally from personal experience. I have been part of a lot of teams, and while it looks glamorous from an outsider’s perspective, it is not. I definitely did learn a lot from each of them, and I am going to cherish the lessons for life but that doesn’t negate the fact that it was extremely demanding and it felt like I was dabbling. If you want to orient yourself towards acquiring specific skills, then don’t join teams that will not help you, especially after you enter your third year. I have observed that in general people work for a team for three reasons: 1. They truly believe in the goal, 2. They love the team members or 3. They do it out of obligation of being a member. Make a wise choice as to where you want to belong.
7. GPA does matter: Let’s face it. At the end of the day, this is indeed an engineering college and people expect certain things out of you. As much as you want to hear that it doesn’t matter, it does. However, the perception of what a ‘good’ number is varies and is influenced by what your career goal is. MS aspirant? Try to keep it above 9. MBA? Above 8.5. Placements? Above 8. I know dozens of people who have gotten into amazing universities and companies despite a low GPA, but isn’t it better to be on the safe side? This is just my perception though. Having said that, here’s something you will never hear: Disadvantages of having a high GPA: Yes, you will be the topper. You will reap a lot of advantages because of it. However, does it mean you will be the best in every subject? Rarely. Since you are trying to be the best in everything, you will end up being better than average in everything. Getting a good GPA is a time optimization problem. To have enough time to allocate to all courses, we do the minimum effort for each and pick the subjects we seem to be already good at. It’s the wrong problem. What matters isn’t getting Ss only. You also need to do justice to the subject.
This Quora answer by Aaron Yip beautifully explains the concept (MUST READ): https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-advantages-of-having-a-low-GPA
8. Be independently dependent: Surround yourself with people, people you genuinely care about, as much as possible. However, spend time with yourselves. Enjoy thinking, enjoy contemplating over an insignificant problem and enjoy talking to yourself mentally. I make it a point to be alone at least an hour or two everyday, when I can think without any outside influence. All the best thoughts I have had came to me at this magical time. Most importantly, it is because I made it a point to ruminate alone every day that I understood what my career goal at least for the next few years should be.
9. It is NEVER the end: In first year, you will feel that not getting into clubs and organizations is the worst thing to happen to you; but it’s not. In second year, you will feel that there is a lot of pressure from both academic and extra-curricular front and you just cannot get that intern everyone is going after, and you end up thinking, ‘This is it.’; but it’s not. In third year, everyone around you will have already applied for internships and scholarships while you are yet to begin to understand your passion. The word ‘internship’ becomes a chant, and people start searching for it like it is the Philosopher’s Stone. You will feel like you are lost in a sea of sending mails, rejections and doing things you don’t want to. But it’s not the end. Fourth year will hit you in the face with placements, graduate school applications and other important entrance exams. This is when most of you might buckle under pressure, and also when you shouldn’t. The same cycle of rejections, interviews and essays will happen repeatedly, and I myself fell into depression at times. However, you have to move on. There is never an end, and at times like these is when your degree of perseverance is shown. This is when I would suggest you go for a trip alone, meet new people, learn more about yourself and come back with a sense of new beginning. But you should not give up your responsibilities towards a club or organization at any cost. Maybe this story of a girl will help you a little (?). Read any of the answers written by her: https://www.quora.com/profile/Bhanupriya-Jayaraj
10. Learn to be extraordinary: Yes, I mean it! An average of 7/10 people tend to do the following: snooze off an alarm and sleep an extra hour, submit things after deadline, constantly keep checking Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites, tend to put off things for a later date, keep binge watching TV serials and movies, follow the same routine everyday without complaining and don’t think about issues apart from what is happening in their life.
Now let’s look at the other 3 out of 10 people. Are they having a better life than us? Are they having special skill which we don’t? In fact, they are just like us. But they do things a bit differently: wake up before the alarm goes off, put effort into everything they do and submit things well before deadline, utilize their time by learning something new every day, try to schedule their days well in advance and finish off works at the earliest as much as possible, do not waste time binge watching but rather watch selected movies rarely, think of something new every day and constantly keep thinking about ways in which they can improve themselves as well as the environment around them.
Average is that small temptation stopping you from doing what you should do. Genius is that little badass inside you stopping you from becoming average. Invoke that badass.
I was an average person when I entered College. I am not extraordinary now, but I have inculcated some of the qualities of how to be extraordinary, how to go the extra mile and how to stand out.
There are a lot more things that NIT Trichy or any college for that matter will teach you; all you have to do is listen, learn and hopefully write more such articles. I had a college life where the learning curve only kept going up, and I will forever be grateful for that. Like any phase in life, there were ups and downs, and I am glad I got to meet some people who will be irreplaceable. Although nostalgia hits me, I am excited for the next phase in my life abroad: to learn much more, have an exponential growth, make bonds that last forever and never forget the simple pleasures in life.
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