Tag Archives: college

A Lesson You Won’t Find In College Textbooks

A wise person once told me that college is as much a social test as it is an intelligence one. 

Being a recent graduate from high school, I didn’t truly understand what this meant at the time. I went in with the expectation that the college workload would be so overbearing I wouldn’t even have enough time to login to Facebook, much less engage in this so-called social test. 

I started off strong, still carrying with me the momentum of being a competitive, high-achiever from high school and expected the trajectory to continue that way. However, as freshman year progressed, it became too hard to ignore the call of the social world. It was like a dull roar in the background, waiting to be exposed and possibly distract me from my studies.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic…but still, at some point, it became inevitable to foster new friendships and tap into the social opportunities that surrounded every freshman. I started to focus just as much on building friendships with at least a few close friends, yet I was nowhere near as gregarious as I could be.

Come sophomore year, I moved out of the dorms and still maintained the same group of close-knit friends. While I did venture out more and go to house parties and kickbacks, something still didn’t feel quite right. Perhaps I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself yet or hadn’t found the right niche.

The summer before junior year, everything suddenly changed. By this point, I grew frustrated and knew I needed to be bold if I wanted to see any serious change in my social life. So what did I do? 

I started going to parties and other gatherings by myself.

I’m not going to lie, this was scary at first, but I knew it would force me to talk to other people and give others a better chance of approaching me. Before I knew it, I was extremely comfortable showing up to events alone, without a wing-woman or squad. In fact, I preferred it that way. 

At the same time, I started meeting the right kind of people: people who were outgoing, who forced me to come out of my shell, and who introduced me to even more people. I felt my confidence, social skills, and ability to read others improving tremendously. Gone were the nights of staying in my apartment watching movies, curious about the exciting opportunities I was missing out on. 

Eventually, I found my niche, or at least a group of people I enjoyed hanging out with regularly. Beyond that, I started to realize the importance of belonging to multiple social groups. There is nothing wrong with having friends who fulfill different roles in your life. Some friends are good for dining or studying with, while others are better for going to parties and bars with. 

The ultimate point is this: what I went in thinking would be a “distraction” turned out to be one of the most important opportunities of my life. Engaging in your social life during college is not just about making a whole bunch of friends. It’s about conducting your own study of the human interaction, building your social confidence and figuring out how to read people, how to network, and who is worth your time. Not to mention, you end up learning a lot about yourself too.  Here are just a few of the lessons I learned throughout this process:

  1. Some friends are only meant to be transient

You will come across a lot of people, even ones you’d consider a potential lifelong friend. Things seem to be going well, but then over time, something happens to suggest otherwise. Maybe you see their true colors and realize you’re not as compatible as you thought. Maybe you notice a lack of effort in the friendship from the other person. Or, maybe you just drifted apart. Whatever the reason, it’s okay to cut the cord, especially if this person added no value to your life. Even if their intentions were not bad, maybe their friendship was only meant to teach you something. Simply learn from it and move on in as cordial (yet assertive) a manner as possible.

  1. There will be people who try to use you

Sometimes, people who seem inviting and promising as friends can turn out to be cunning tricksters in disguise. When first branching out in your social life, the newness of everything can make you a bit naïve (hence, the importance of learning how to read people). You act super nice to everyone you meet, grab on to the first sign of friendliness and attention you receive, all the while not realizing that your “niceness” is making you prone to manipulation. You see, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Niceness implies a level of underlying insecurity and going out of your way to gain others’ approval. Kindness connotes that you are willing to help others, but still uphold your own standards and value yourself as much as anyone else. Others can immediately pick up on these traits, and if you fall under “nice”, prepare to be asked for favors constantly with an uneven degree of reciprocation. Don’t let yourself bend over backwards to please others. There is a Persian proverb that translates to: “Die for those who at least have a fever for you”. This means that you should put effort in those that at least put in a sizeable amount of effort as well. If they don’t even give that modicum of effort, don’t bother wasting time on them.

  1. You are not limited by your Myers-Briggs label 

Even if you haven’t taken this extensive psychological test that reduces your personality to four letters, I’m sure you at least know whether you associate more with being an introvert or an extrovert. It’s okay if you associate more with one or the other. What’s not okay is if you let this label define you and serve as an excuse. For instance, if someone asks you to go to a networking event with them, you may cringe and say, “Oh, I don’t do those, I’m an introvert.”  You may say this because you consider yourself shy and fear all the other extroverts there will overshadow you. Even if this is true, being shy or an “introvert” (which are different, by the way) does not have to be a fixed thing. You can still go out and adopt the qualities of an extrovert and then come home to re-energize in your alone time. Allow your social label to be dynamic and never let it be an excuse for not doing something.  

  1. It’s okay to be picky about your friends

The older you grow, the pickier you will become about selecting friends. This is because your tolerance for drama and nonsense from others starts to decrease and you more quickly figure out who people are. In the adolescent stages of life, we all wanted to be the “popular” kid, immersed in a sea of friends, most of whom were probably just social climbers. But this vision gets old fast, and what becomes more precious is having fewer, closer friends you can actually rely on. Who you choose to associate with is also important because it often reflects who you are too. Whether you like it or not, your closest friends inevitably rub off on you, and people will often make judgments about you through these friends. So take great care in choosing who you surround yourself with.   

  1. Don’t be afraid to try new activities

Lastly, don’t be afraid to try new hobbies and activities in college, particularly ones that take you out of your comfort zone. This is a time when you are exposed to the greatest number of people and activities in one place, so take advantage of the unique opportunities available to you. As one who seldom ever danced, I randomly jumped into Latin dancing my freshman year of college and continued to do so the successive years. This opened the door to a whole culture of social dance, filled with amazing and talented people. Therefore, not only do you learn a new skill, but you also get to meet many interesting souls in the process. I also took a stab at learning Mixed Martial Arts, out of a desire to get fitter, learn self-defense, and become empowered. So all those people who keep telling you to try new things in college are wise, listen to them! 

I hope this was helpful and drove the point home that your social life in college is just as important as your academic life. Even if you’re the smartest person in the class and can memorize a molecular biology textbook, you’ll still be way behind those that know how to talk, how to network, and how to sell themselves. Because what you’ll soon find is that those latter skills are what often land you a job. It’s all about being balanced!