Over the last few days I’ve been watching the show Community on Netflix. The show takes place on campus of a community college where a diverse cast of characters come together as a study group and eventually become friends. My favorite character is Abed (played by Danny Pudi). Though he lacks extensive life experience he often plays the insightful voice of reason to the group. Abed draws on his extensive television and movie knowledge for perspective more than anything else. It’s no surprise when, in one episode, Abed decides he wants to fulfill his college “bucket list”. On his list are all the common tropes associated with movies from Animal House to Van Wilder. This includes “pantsing” his friend Troy, getting pantsed by Troy, making out with the hottest girl on campus, having a food fight, and attempting to join a fraternity in which he has no hope of being accepted. This, in Abed’s mind, will give him the “college experience”.
And he’s all wrong.
I was never pantsed, though I did run through campus wearing nothing but an adult diaper, a superman cape, and a phantom of the opera mask.
I never had a food fight, but there were plenty of nights spent with friends at a 24-hour diner where we would talk about girls, faith, life, girls and our futures…and girls.
I never tried to join a fraternity, but I did try to make life-long friendships. Some have lasted. Some haven’t.
Occasionally I went to class.
It’s funny that neither Abed nor I look at the college experience as a time of learning…at least in the traditional sense of the word. Class isn’t what it’s about, but rather college is a time to collect experiences and memories with new friends that will hopefully become old friends someday.
I’m at a stage in life now, 10 years out of college, where I what I recall resembles a photo album – highlighted scenes from a great time in my life. Some of those scenes are a bit painful to look back on, but all of them are significant. The ones I remember now are the ones I will remember the rest of my life.
My only regret is that I didn’t make more of them.
Life after college is undeniably better. I have a hot wife (who I made out with on campus…so I fulfilled one of Abed’s tropes), two amazing children, and a great church family. It would be insane to look back and long for college over what I have now.
Still, college students who aren’t here yet let me give you a couple of pieces of advice:
1. Don’t ever sleep! The best moments and conversations never happen at 8 in the morning. They are midnight trips to IHOP and late night walks around campus with good friends.
2. Never say no. Within reason obviously! When an opportunity to go on a summer mission trip building houses or digging wells presents itself, you say YES! When someone invites you to get in the car and go to the beach you say YES (as long as you know the person)! If someone suggests studying abroad…YES YES YES!
3. Join a club or organization. Perhaps you should avoid the causes you don’t believe in, but joining an on campus organization is a great way to make new friends and perhaps make a difference.
4. Live on campus as long as possible. I know. The dorms are small and the food in the cafeteria is terrible. Sharing a bathroom isn’t ideal. However, once you move off campus everything changes. Your ability to make new friends takes a hit and the spontaneity of college is gone forever. From that point on, your college experience is much more “scheduled”.
5. Work out. Your school has a gym. It’s probably a great one. Use it. Take an elective to learn how to play racquetball or do weight training. Again, it’s a great way to meet people and it builds good habits. Create a habit that you can graduate with.
6. Work. Get a job. Why?
7. Save your $! You are on campus, with room/board provided for you. Most likely you dont have monthly bills. Someday you will. Getting a job in college will give you a great headstart. The biggest mistake I made in college was not learning about saving and investing money when I had so few expenses. Seriously. Read this or ask Google the advantages of investing just a little bit when you are young.
8. Travel. Everyone wants to travel. It doesn’t get easier once you graduate. Few jobs will give you all the time you want to go and see the world. You can’t leave a 2 year old behind with mom and dad for 2 months while you backpack across Europe. There are countless websites that can help you travel relatively cheap. If nothing else, get in your car with 3 friends and road trip our amazing country. US travel is significantly underrated! We have everything: Beaches, mountains, big cities, the Grand Canyon, all of Texas!
9. Find a church. If you are a Christian it can be really easy to let church go when you get to college. Many students will make an on campus ministry their church or abandon Christian community altogether. Either one is a terrible mistake. Not only will the abandonment of church harm your ability to follow Jesus, but when you graduate you will not go back. You may think you will go back, but you won’t. Also, while you are in college you have the ability to really contribute at a church. You have time, passion, and youthful energy! You are robbing the church of your talents. Find one that wants to connect with college students and involve yourself.
10. Remember your family. Perhaps this is the dad in me saying this, but keep in touch with your parents. For the first time in your life you are out from their house. Maybe you think they are glad to get their time back to themselves. They aren’t. They miss you terribly. They want to hear about your adventures. Don’t ever ignore their calls or shortchange them when you do talk. Give them time and attention. Your success is the greatest joy in their lives. Don’t rob them of hearing about it. Also, after you graduate, get married and have kids, there is a good chance that your parents are going to suddenly be #1 on your speed dial again. They have all the experience. They also have the desire to babysit their grandkids and you will learn how valuable that is. Don’t piss them off because you were too busy watching Community.
Remember, it’s your college experience. One day all of this will be a memory. Make it a great one.
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