What I wish I knew when I started college | Collab with Behind the Schmile

Blogger @Dafrastar shares her college experience and learnings

Hello #FashionableHumans!

How are you guys doing on this fine Sunday? Stellar, I hope!

Today, our post will be a little different. It is a collab with the awesome Tisha from BehindtheSchmile, and it is kind of a questions/answers mixed up with a dash of “What I wish I could tell my younger self”. Makes sense? No? Read on.

You guys mostly know me as Dafrastar. While this is who I am on this blog, there is obviously a plethora of real-life things that I never mentioned on here. Let’s pick one of those up today and peel off a few layers— almost a decade later: my college/university experience. Time fucking flies.

How did I end up in the US for college? 

I immigrated to the United States when I was 19, in the quest for a well-rounded college education— like many others. Amidst many a struggle, I completed my undergraduate degree in the middle of the financial crisis (of course, I had to have a major in FINANCE ). Obviously, at that point, finding a job in my field sucked major ass, so I ended up working in marketing (which I had been dabbling in for a while, and found significantly more rewarding.) That worked out for about a year, so I bit the bullet and headed back to grad school to get an MBA— with hopes of switching careers for good. After that, I moved to the West Coast and I have been here ever since, pursuing a career in digital marketing. Best decision ever.

If the paragraph above is any indication, one’s career seems to rarely work as planned; mine surely didn’t. Most bright eyed and bushy tailed freshmen don’t know shit (and yes, there are amazing exceptions, but I am talking about gen-pop here, myself included). Students often have to rely on what their parents told them to do.  I sure was; who do you think wanted me to become a banker? Mommy dearest.

As a result, I experienced my fair share of panic attacks when life’s twists and turns hit me— squarely in the jaw. I watched in horror as the stock market (and my hopes of an entry-level job on Wall Street) plummeted beyond recognition, months shy of my graduation. I despaired after receiving rejection email after rejection email, for internships and jobs alike. I freaked out when awakening to who I really was and what I really wanted, and struggled to reconcile that persona with what I thought a finance professional was like. I could go on, but you get the gist.

However, somehow, in the midst of all that chaos, shit worked out. Looking back, I still believe there had to be some magical force guiding me to be where I am today, even if that meant failing at what I thought I wanted THEN. Therefore, the gist of my answers to Tisha is:

“It will be okay; if not, you will learn from it. No need to be scared.”

(By the way, my experience may not be the same as yours, and you may disagree with me. I would love to hear about it in the comments!)

Thoughts on Tisha’s points

 

Grades:

Will not matter in 5 years– but the way you get them will.

Grades are not important in themselves. School really is NOT about you having good grades, but instead about teaching you a set of skills that generally leads you to have good grades: time management, discipline, resourcefulness. Unfortunately, there is no degree in hustling, so that A in Biology will have to do.

What I wish someone would  have taught me

Aim for good grades, but cramming your way there defeats the purpose- you are learning nothing AND are failing to invest in yourself.

Develop good habits through your college career, and good grades will come. (Good habits are also way more useful on the job than the ability to cram.) Moreover— grades really do not really matter after your first job. Even better: nail a couple of good internships, and your 1st employer may even overlook a crappy GPA (A 1.8 is NOT overlook-able though, so please don’t use that excuse to dick around.)

Blogger @Dafrastar shares her college experience and learnings
Undergrad graduation, with mom
Work:

Will matter in 5 years— no way around this one.

This one is hard, and I agree with Tisha– I was secretly hyperventilating while walking across the stage because I graduated (both times) with no offers in hand. TBH, I was also a bit of a fatalist and heavily leaned on my immigration status to justify me not getting through interviews. While there was definitely some truth to that point, I see things a little differently today. I love to believe that I was a hard worker, but I can see now that lost sight of what was important and focused on just making it through. I indeed put myself through my last 2 years of college and worked 80 hours per week in addition to school. I had no friends outside of a very small group, experienced nothing new and just put my head down and tried to survive. When I “awoke” to try to find a job in my last semester, I was waaaay behind people who had been networking and interning for 4 years.

 

What I wish someone would have told me

It is never too early to start looking.

It is important to go to networking events, contact people/alumni killing it in their careers, start putting together a polished resume, connect with your parents’ friends and then with their friends; leave no stone unturned! In addition to this, getting close to professors is always a good idea– they have industry knowledge AND industry friends! Keeping your head down is admirable, but not smart.

To keep the confusion and panic away, I would also remind myself that college is made to get exposure to as many different experiences as possible. If you are bored with your major, pick a minor that sparks more interest (but please do not lose sight of your goals.) Request an independent study in an area of your major that may not be taught in school (you are paying top dollar for that education, so it better provide you with what you need.). Start a blog about something fun.

While these things seem random, they are all ways to 1) discover what you really want to do and 2) build up your resume with interesting projects that may help you stand out of the crowd.

I’m not just BS-ing you either: I personally requested an independent study in Digital Marketing during my MBA, because it was not taught in class. I started a fashion blog (yep, it was also called Dafrastar), I used Google Adwords credits to learn how to create search ads for my blog and just hustled my way into understanding online marketing through a hands-on approach. Based on feedback from my interviewers, I can stand here today and tell you FOR SURE that those extra-curricular activities ARE what I owe my first job in online marketing to. Real talk.

Blogger @Dafrastar shares her college experience and learnings
Master’s graduation
Reputation/ Social status/ Relationships

COULD matter in 5 years (mostly won’t), but the way you navigate them can determine your standards in the future;  don’t let yourself down.

School is a micro-ecosystem in which everyone has to survive and hopefully flourish. Some of that flourishing will be through new friends/ relationships. For most, this is the first time away from home, the first time away from family, and the first time they can hang out with whomever they want without parental supervision. While this can be a heady feeling, the truth is that very few of these seemingly intense relationships will pass the test of time— and that’s okay!

What I wish someone would have told me

There is a whole world ahead of you after college.

 

I broke up with my long-term boo (we are talking nine years of dating here) 2 weeks after graduating from undergrad, so I really wish someone was there to remind me of that then. I wasn’t especially sad because it was not the greatest union, but I was still in my feelings a bit.

Today, I know that there is fun, laughter, throbbing hearts, nasty backstabbing, heartbreak and sometimes even loss throughout those 4 college years. However, guess what: even the shitty experiences are needed, because they forge character. Keep one thing in mind: you are forging your adult personality, so do not accept anything you would not want your future self to tolerate. College is a large enough environment to distance yourself from bullies, make friends with people from different backgrounds and expand your horizons beyond what your parents taught you. Mingle with the computer whiz kids, the musicians, the pre-med majors, anyone who will talk to you. I am not saying be desperate, I am saying be OPEN. Also, be nice, have integrity and do not let anyone treat you like dirt (friends or romantic interests). Aaaaand if you’re gonna be a hoe, use condoms. Please, for the love of baby Jesus in a manger.

Blogger @Dafrastar shares her college experience and learnings
Then boyfriend, now husband. Met him a year after breakup mentioned above.
Mental Health

Will matter in 5 years and forever, really

People do not realize that depression and overwork/ burnout are very real in the student community. Just because we make fun of it does not make it okay; we are supposed to take care of ourselves.

My college career was like a like a Formula 1 race: super fast, with a ton of work happening behind the wheel. I never gave myself the right to rest, because I was poor and HAD to work to eat and go to school. I worked myself to the bone because I assumed that diligence was the only thing that would get me places. While true, overwork also landed me in the school infirmary, haggard (and then sobbing uncontrollably) on a Monday afternoon in my senior year. I was prescribed anti-depressants and sent to an emergency appointment at the hospital. I ended up refusing the medication and forcing myself back to health by traveling and cutting hours at work (I do not recommend neglecting medical advice, by the way). I did fail a class for the first time ever that semester (saw my Summa Cum Laude slip right away from my grasp), but I survived.

What I wish someone would have told me

It is okay to rest. Vacations are not only for other people. Sleep is a thing, you know? You cannot work three jobs and maintain a 4.0. Heartbreak sucks, but it will pass. You need to take care of your health, it’s the most precious thing you have. 

This last point is likely the most important. Without it, everything crumbles to dust.

A couple of final points:
  • Learn professionalism
    • Show up on time, give your best, overdeliver and make sure you are always a valuable asset. That is a lifelong battle. You do not become hardworking all of a sudden because you land a job. You have to work at being hardworking.
  • Study abroad!!!!!
    • If you can, pack that suitcase and go! Just… go. The world awaits! Also, never stop traveling if you can.

Soooo- dassit for this post! Do you have any college advice for your younger self? Drop it in the comments! Also make sure to read Tisha’s post– our POVs are really complimentary, and her post is so much fun! Thanks again Tisha, for allowing me to collborate with you on this!

Thanks so much for stopping by today guys!

Until Next time,

D

 

12 thoughts on “What I wish I knew when I started college | Collab with Behind the Schmile”

  1. We are the same person in so many ways. I too failed a class my senior year. Thankfully, I had AP credit tucked in my back pocket to replace the elective. I read this and kept saying, “Yes. Yep. That’s right. OMFG YAASSSS!!” A few things to add:
    1. Try out for something you’ve never done before and get rejected. Learning how to deal with NO when you’re young is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I tried out for multiple dance groups at school and was summarily denied. Yes it stung to be told, “thanks for trying, but ummm…NO,” while my friends were readily accepted. However, it made me resilient, and forced me to seek out activities that I was good at. My talents wound up not being in performing but in selling, organizing, and promoting. Ultimately, rejection made me more resilient and resourceful. As I’ve gotten older I’ve met way too many adults who never failed at anything before. Seeing them not get what they want for the first time in their 30 years of life is NOT pretty. Don’t be that person.

    2. Develop good health habits. Those fried chicken sandwiches in the dining hall may have been delicious but they will set you on a lifelong struggle with your weight. Feed yourself well and make exercise a priority. Developing good habits at 18 will make them much more likely to stick through life.

    3. Office hours are your friend. I hated microeconomics but got a B+ in the class because the weekly problem sets (25% of our grade) were always completed during office hours. I was getting a better grasp on the material while guaranteeing 100s on all of my assignments.

    Absolutely love this post and you looked fabulous in your cap and gown.

    1. Omg YES to everything you said!
      Dining room Hall food is not your friend. Those healthy habits are so hard to develop, starting them early is Paramount!
      And yes to hearing no! I feel like there are so many people who walk around never having had to build that muscle… They turn into the #byefelipes of the world.
      Thanks so much for your always thoughtful and fun comments, really appreciate you stopping by!

  2. What a great article. I went through some of this myself as a college student. Struggled to get into my car after graduation (undergrad and graduate school). What I would do if I had known to research my career path, study to understand (in classes I didn’t care for) not just to pass. Very enlightening article! Hopefully if will help a young college student make better decisions!

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback and the kind comment! Hindsight is 20/20 😊 we all made so many mistakes along the way. You’re right- my goal is to help anyone going through the same thing!

  3. This is such a great post, Dafra! I think the biggest thing that I learned from my undergrad is that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that no one is perfect. It’s so easy to be hard on yourself and to compare yourself to others in college!!

    xo Kayla
    http://www.aclassicambition.com

  4. I’m going to make my daughter read this – she’s in the opposite cycle of “C’s get degrees” which doesn’t fare well in a competitive work force. Everything you said is SPOT ON and I would tell my freshman self the exact same things. And here, edging into my 52nd year of life, I’m still finding who I am and really want to be. I’ll end with what my father taught me from the first day of high school: “The best steel has to go through fire”. I still want to be like you when I grow up, Sis! Love you! ❤️

    1. I love hearing from you so much; thanks so very much for the kind words D, they mean so much to me. And I hope I can bring any value at all to your daughter! <3 always.

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