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10 Things Learned In College Outside of the Classroom

Last week, I wrote a post about how I refuse to feel guilty about being a working mom. It’s gained a bit of attention (um, the front page of Yahoo! but I refused to read the comments) and a ton of feedback. I’m a staunch believer in the power of women in the workforce and I love my job – I’m happy with my decision. But I wanted to tip the scales a bit in the other direction, to acknowledge that I think staying at home is a wonderful, beautiful opportunity and worthy work in society. I never want my writing to reflect an opinion of anything other than complete support of what career path a mother chooses. My mother stayed home and I cherish those days and memories just as I know she does.

So it’s no surprise that I tend to get angry feelings when I see people insulting stay-at-home-moms  because it feels like they’re insulting the choices that my wise, beautiful, strong mother made thirty-six years ago.

The biggest offense-worthy argument I see is that staying home is a waste of education. That it is a waste of money and time, resources and gosh, didn’t you know there are girls fighting to go to school?!

I get shaking-angry with that accusation because there is no such thing as wasted education. Whether a mother takes one class at a community college or completes her PhD, she has not wasted a moment in the classroom by staying home. And technically, you can say that I’m wasting my pre-law/Human Resource degree by working in social media marketing, but I would guess that nobody would accuse me of wasting my education.

Education goes beyond the classroom and the college experience extends far past course credits. To prove my point, here are 10 things learned in college that had nothing to do with classes:

  • That I am not an island. 1 of 10
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    There is a lot more to this big world than the city I grew up in and college was where I learned that first-hand. College introduced me to people of different races, religious beliefs, politics, and dreams. It was an eye-opening experience that I am a small portion of this big world and it is my job to find my place and make a difference while respecting others.

  • How to manage my time. 2 of 10
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    Between a full course load, studying, my sorority, and work, I had a full plate. I learned quickly to use a planner and responsibly manage my time, even if that meant logging in extra hours at the library while my friends went to a party. As an adult, I'm juggling even more so college was a great warm-up for the real world responsibilities.

  • That I have to work for what I want. 3 of 10
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    There were moments in high school that were easy to fake - Cliffs Notes instead of reading the novel, the "oops, my dog ate my homework!" excuses and faking a stomach ache to skip a test I hadn't studied for. But in college, those excuses are gone. If I wanted something, I had to work for it - the A on the test, the research paper, the sorority presidency, the internship, keeping my scholarship. It was a great lesson for the workforce and the rest of life. Hard work pays off.

  • How to live with someone else. 4 of 10
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    Before college, I had a room all to myself for my entire life. A place where I could shut the door and be alone, escape with my thoughts, dance like a fool in my pajamas with very little fear of anyone walking in on me. I decorated how I wanted, kept the light on when I wanted, and cleaned when I wanted. (Okay, there were a few rules instilled by my parents but for the most part, my room was my haven.)  Then I went to college and had to share a 15x15 cement box with a girl I'd never met before. We had extremely different interests, lifestyles, but we had to make it work. Then I lived in an apartment with 3 other girls, then a sorority dorm floor with 50 friends. Needless to say, by the time I got married I was used to giving a little when it came to making a happy home.

  • How to fix things myself 5 of 10
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    My tire went flat on the side of the road when all of my friends were in class and my dad was over 100 miles away. Guess who learned how to change a tire? ME. I also learned how to hang curtains, clean grout, and muscle a mattress up three flights of stairs all by myself. It all paid off because this weekend, I built and hung picture ledges by myself. 

  • How to pay bills. 6 of 10
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    Before college, I never paid a bill in my life. My parents covered the mortgage, food, cable, electricity, etc. My car insurance was bundled to theirs and my car was a gift. When I went to college and started paying my own rent and utilities, it was a fast lesson in adulthood to make sure the money was there on time and also that it was budgeted in my (rather slim) bank account.

  • How to find a good deal. 7 of 10
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    Speaking of that slim bank account, I no longer had my mother's wallet when I went shopping. Instead, I budgeted wisely with the little money I earned hostessing at a restaurant called "Jack Astor's" and running the summer camp desk at the university. I traded in old clothes to Plato's Closet so I could buy a new skirt and learned to head straight for the sale racks in order to stretch my dollars further. I also learned that filet would not be on my college menu and that the Dollar Menu was my friend. Now I have a bit more cash thanks to a full time job, but I still look for sales and ways to save on utilities and food.

  • How to use social media. 8 of 10
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    Sometimes it's weird to think that my class, not just my generation, as the first on Facebook. You know, back when it was The Facebook and you had to have a .edu email address to even sign up. We're the generation that entered the workforce with a Twitter account but having social media in college made me an early-adopter of the technology. Regardless of the work you do, social media is a strong point in today's culture and college is a sure-fire way to immerse quickly into it.

  • How to take care of my body. 9 of 10
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    I was determined not to gain the "Freshman Fifteen" and I didn't...I actually lost about 25 lbs my first year of college thanks to a deep depression. But when I started anti-depressants and moved in with my friends and discovered beer, I quickly gained that weight back. Plus, I didn't have my mom leaning over me, watching what I ate and when I went to bed.  I learned fast that late nights partying weren't good for my spirit or my body, so I started working out regularly at the gym, grabbing a deli sandwich instead of a cheeseburger in between classes, and getting to sleep before midnight. 

  • That I really can do anything. 10 of 10
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    College was a wonderful experience for me - I learned a lot inside the classroom that helped me become a success in the work force, but I also learned a lot about myself as a person. It taught me responsibility and goal-setting as it prepared me for adulthood, but mostly it taught me that I can do whatever I set out to do. Be president of the sorority? Done. Graduate in four years? Done. Get a job doing something I love? Done.

More from BA:

Why I refuse to feel guilty about being a working mom.

Preschoolers are just tiny sorority girls.

DIY Truck Costumes for Halloween

My first post here on Babble Kid.

Should my son (possibly unnecessary) have surgery?

Beth Anne writes words and takes pictures at Okay, BA! You can also find her on the Twitters and Facebook.

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