What should you learn from college?

For many of you, the time during college signifies the apex of your school life. It is when you start to live your life as a real adult, making important decisions about your future and taking responsibility for those decisions. It is also when you start to build up expertise, moving forward in becoming a real professional. However, after being gone from college for years, you may (or better not) be surprised to find that knowledge only takes up a tiny part of your college memory. The crueler fact is that knowledge can “fade away” anytime, especially when your occupation does not have a 100% match with your major.

Therefore, if knowledge is not the most long-lasting acquirement, what should you actually learn from college?

The first lesson is that delayed deadlines do not exist—at all. Skimming through a syllabus of any course, you will easily find delay policies. Of course, anything can happen during a semester/quarter, such as becoming ill, having urgent issues, etc., which is why professors are usually flexible and tolerant towards delayed deadlines. These policies do provide a great relief, but still today, we want to push you to resist the temptation to delay any deadline.

In college, you just need to sacrifice your scores for a delayed deadline and then make up for it with a high-rated final essay. However, it is not so easy to reconcile that type of situation after you enter “real life.” Imagine you are a product manager, and your team has a detailed timeline for the product. Your company has invested a large sum of money, the board carries high expectations, and the PR team has done whatever it can to preheat the market. Do you think it is even possible to pause the R&D and make everyone wait for you to recover from sickness, or solve your personal issues?

The answer is a huge NO. Delayed policies would never come to your rescue in the above occasion, which is why you should not use delayed policies as your solution, no matter what happens. Although it is impossible to predict when you are going to get sick or have urgencies, you can always plan ahead and execute your plan ASAP. In this way, you will be the owner of the unpredictable issues and prevent them from turning your agenda into chaos.

Now, talking about planning and execution, some of you may feel reluctant to take the first step. Well, instead of setting out like this from the start, we would recommend the “countdown” method, using some help from the Elisi app.

Let’s say you have a paper due in 30 days. You will first create a List just like a new project. Under the List, you may directly add on tasks. Or to make it more systematical, you can add tasks on Planner. The due date is in 30 days, but you’d better set your own deadline at least five days ahead. Therefore from the very beginning, you’ve already left some flexibility for the unexpected issues. With a clear ending, you can move backward or forward and add more subdeadlines for different sections of your paper. Don’t forget to add them all as tasks under specific dates, and then add them to your List. In this way, you build a clear, detailed, and practical timeline with “bonus time” to deal with things out of your plan. And believe me, having everything under control will provide you a bigger relief compared with a delayed deadline.

Now it’s time to move on to the second lesson, which is teamwork, team first. Actually, you already have participated in teamwork since you are young, but college will be your best opportunity to learn what “teamwork” really means and how to make it work. Admit it or not, the process of working in and as a team is much more important and valuable than the final achievement. And if you care too much about the results, you will miss the opportunity to build one of the most appreciated capabilities in the workforce, being a team player.

Putting “team” in the top position will lead you to find which role you are best at and which part of the work you can successfully accomplish. Just imagine how powerful and strong a team can be when all the members bring their full potential into play. That kind of team is unstoppable, and who would have any doubt about their achievement?

Besides, team first also forces you to embrace disagreement. For some teams, figuring out solutions towards agreement can take up more than 50% of their teamwork time. In real life, it is impossible for you to listen to the person who quarrels with you, and you may not even want to see him or her anymore. However, teamwork pushes you to learn and think about different or even contradictory ideas. You will experience a lot of “aha” moments when you find sparkling ideas from other people. You will also relive moments with a sense of accomplishment when your team together finds a solution that works for all of you and accomplishes the goal. The essence of teamwork is to reverse the formula 1+1=2, because you will find in the world of teamwork “1+1” is far bigger than 2.

The two lessons above cannot cover all the things you need learn from college, but they are indeed what you have to take in and bring along with you in your life. Either at school or in the workforce, you always have the opportunity to learn these lessons and put them into daily practice.