College: The Rights and Wrongs

This time of the year many of my old students tend to touch bases with me, letting me know what college classes they’re enrolled in, what they’ve changed their major to, what they’re struggling with, and what they’re excelling at. I love it. Not only is it validating that we’ve done something right at the high school level, it’s also genuinely exciting to see the kids that I’ve cared about so much grow as individuals. I also become quite reflective about my own undergraduate career at UCLA, pondering the good along with the bad. If I could go back in time and have a do-over I’d change many, many things, although I also have to give myself credit for not completely screwing up.

Can I Get a Re-Do

Going Abroad- I really, really wish I would have taken a quarter or two and went to Europe. Truth be told, I was worried about my finances and boyfriend issues to make the jump, which was ridiculous. This is hands down my biggest regret. 

Joining More Student Organizations- I was very involved in high school and then hit the brakes on all extracurricular activities in college. It’s such a shame! I almost wish I would have even joined a sorority, just to get me out there more. 

Taking Advantage of Cultural Opportunities- UCLA and the surrounding areas are teeming with museums, readings, exhibits, lectures, etc… and while I got much better about being out-and-about my last year or two, I wish I would have taken advantage of my proximity to so much culture.

Going to More Sporting Events- The Bruins excel at so many NCAA sports and I totally failed at going to watch them. I think I’ve gone to more as an alumnus!

Working Less- I worked a lot as an assistant to the research coordinator at the vascular center at the UCLA Medical Center. It was an awesome job that started as a work study position and extended because we were such a good fit. I worked constantly, though, walking to campus for class, walking back to work, walking back to class, etc… and then working full time for three of my summers. I am so thankful for the opportunity, but I should have worked a little less and played (and studied) a little more.

Ditching the High School Boyfriend Sooner- We were not happy or a good match, and I spent a lot of time commuting from LA to Irvine to see him, as opposed to improving my own life on campus. The relationship made my insecurities so much worse and I wasted a lot of time stressing about it (sorry D if you read this... luckily we are both well-adjusted, married adults now). 

Taking “Random” Classes- I loved most of my English classes, but I wish I would have taken a few off-the-wall courses or ones to enrich my other interests (architecture or nutrition, for example).

But, Seriously. Good Job on This Stuff:

Fiscally Responsible- I left college with less than $1,000 in credit card debt, a reasonable amount of student loans, and a few thousand dollars in savings for an emergency. I was frugal, but I recognized the importance of shelling out the cash for a good haircut, the occasional dinner out, and taking care of my car.

Efficiency- Because I was working a lot and commuting from Orange County to LA for two of the four years, I had to use my time wisely. I was young and my to-do list game was pretty basic, but I learned a lot about prioritizing and multi-tasking (this is something that has it’s pros and cons, but reading for class on the elliptical was always a good idea).

Gym Rat- Because of issues with stress and anxiety that are so common with college students (and humans in general), I took to the gym to get a handle on things during freshman year. I took advantage of the free student membership when I lived on campus and then bought one to LA Fitness later. I will be forever thankful that this habit has stuck with my fifteen years later.

Learning to Cope/Staying- I had a really hard time after moving over five hours away from my family and at one point I started researching how dropping out/transferring would affect my student loans and status. Luckily I sort of woke up and realized that there was no way I’d trade UCLA for Cal State Stanislaus and decided to stay. It was hard and I spent a lot of time feeling lonely, but I am proud of myself for forcing myself to deal with the rough stuff.

No matter what, I'm proud of the fact that I got into a great school and graduated from it, on my own. I figured out how to financially get myself through school and how to manage life in general. My experiences there made me stronger, smarter, and ready for the "real" world. 


  1. Your college pictures are so totally cute!! :) Back-to-school time is a great opportunity to reflect on university experiences, I think... and it's so great that your past students consider you as a touchstone of sorts, to communicate with and acknowledge how instrumental their high school years were in shaping their advanced education!

  2. Interesting post, Christine! I was thinking a bit about my undergrad days recently, probably because I started school again and was reflecting on my experiences then. The number one thing for me was that I wished I had relaxed a bit more (I've always been quite hard on myself as a student...even now) but I was surprised how some things came along despite being buried in the books most of the time (#1 and #2 on your list). But glad to hear you had such a great experience at uni! :)

  3. Great post. I have some significant regrets from my college days as well...the biggest one is that I chose a commuter school vs. going away. I wish I had mustered up the courage to go away, it would have been such a different experience...and maybe I would have done "walk-on" softball tryouts instead of not playing at all during my college years. :(

  4. Great post. My daughter is a senior in high school this year, heading to college next year. I've been thinking about what I wish I had done, too, and encouraging her to take advantage of all the opportunities.

  5. Great list. One I wish I'd read or been able to read the many, many moons ago I was in college.

    I do wish I'd taken more advantage of time to workout as well. Becoming a runner in later years, I realize that my campus would have been fun to run.

    I attended a LOT of sporting events at UT, so I'm good there. Never have too much orange and white for this guy. And I was fortunate that while I took my core classes, I had some that were for just my own enrichment. Included in this were History of Rock, Intro to Film Studies and some PE courses.