From Our Readers
September 15, 2015 9:39 am

College is a time where you learn a lot, and much of it isn’t even in the classroom. From picking a major to, for many people, learning how to live away from home for the first time, it can be a real whirlwind. Below, one reader shares with us all the tiny, unexpected lessons she learned during her time at college. 

  • By heart, the microwave cooking instructions for every canned, cupped, or otherwise packaged carbohydrate under the sun.
  • That microwaves (and toilets and shower drains and the inside of vacuum cleaners) occasionally need to be cleaned out.
  • How to avoid cleaning out the microwave (lay down a napkin, lay down another napkin, blame my roommate, lay down a third napkin, and so on…).
  • Man, what about all cleaning my parents must have been doing back home when I wasn’t looking?
  • To appreciate the gift of a washer and dryer set that doesn’t operate on quarters.
  • How to smuggle a toaster past the RA.
  • How to be considerate of other people. And, seriously, it was an adjustment. I feel pretty bad for my first roommate ‘cause I was probably a real pain to live with until like Christmas break. For real, Kelsey, my deepest apologies.
  • NEVER burn your popcorn in the middle of the night. It’ll smell like death, set off the fire alarm (triggering mandatory evacuation), and make your whole building hate you with the white hot power of a thousand suns.
  • But everyone makes mistakes, so don’t sweat it too much if you do
  • There’s an art to getting ready for the day in fifteen minutes or less.
  • You can go a couple of days without washing you hair. Or using a new towel.
  • Thumbtacks and a light blanket make an OK window curtain.
  • It’s important to keeping track of your insurance card.
  • Yes, you have an insurance card. Again, thanks mom and dad for all that behind-the-scenes stuff you must have been doing all these years.
  • How to shop online.
  • That I should never shop online.
  • That it’s really hard to quit shopping online at 2 AM on a Tuesday morning after six cups of coffee and eight chapters on the French Revolution.

  • How to transfer money from my savings account to my checking account and exactly how many times I can do that per quarter.
  • The importance of a sturdy backpack and comfortable shoes. Don’t underestimate how much a broken zipper or set of heel blisters can ruin your day
  • And in that backpack, always carry a snack, an extra hair tie, and a bandaid. Seriously always.
  • Extra super long phone chargers are a real thing and a wise investment.
  • Sometimes you need to buck up and call customer service.
  • How and when to use the map on my iPhone. (Hint: it’s not thirty minutes after you’ve started walking in the wrong direction.)
  • The compositions of a latte, a cappucino, and an americano. Shout out to Kyle the Cute Coffee Guy who was patient enough to walk me through that particular hot mess of inquiry and indecision.
  • That buying one of those family packs of Ramen noodles isn’t a substitute for actually eating meals dumb.
  • That it’s embarrassing to buy alcohol at the self-check out.
  • That it really isn’t embarrassing to buy condoms. Make good decisions about your own sexual health
  • How to turn up my nose at the system of patriarchy.
  • That Beyoncé is queen.
  • Never pass up an opportunity to pee, a good parking space, a short line at the campus café, or a nap.
  • How to go to the bathroom when you know your suite mates can hear you. Just gotta be a grown up. Or play some music from your phone to drown it all out.
  • How to dress business casual and only hate it a little bit.
  • How long I can keep an uncarved pumpkin in a dorm room before it starts to rot.(Three weeks)
  • How to dig my car out of the snow with the lid of a storage box and two kind friends.
  • How to pretend to like people for the sake of civility.
  • How to politely ignore a faux pas for the sake of civility.
  • What tofu tastes like.
  • That tofus is not for me.
  • The magnificent and life-saving importance of leftovers.
  • That Thursdays are for being thirsty. Or not. To each his own.
  • That you can identify collegiate athletes by the ice taped to their body parts.
  • That sororities sing songs, and fraternities sometimes pass out free candy. That those organizations aren’t for everyone, but are important to some people, and that’s great.
  • That most of the answers to your questions are on the syllabus.
  • How to capitalize on the synonym-finder and dictionary features of Microsoft Word.
  • That professors are real people, too. They aren’t perfect or scary – they’re just academics who really want to talk about DNA replication and Marxism and stuff.
  • 156,739 uses for a plastic bag. Save those suckers like they’re gold.
  • That although playing Grand Theft Auto may or may not be worth staying up all hours for, it’s fun as absolute heck.
  • Cards Against Humanity is even more fun. Probably neither game is really meant for the faint-hearted, though.
  • That it’s OK to call your parents when you need help
  • That everyone needs help sometimes.


Josie Lupardus is an aspiring writer, poet, and cat lady out of Southern West Virginia with a penchant for doodling and a passion for napping. She enjoys making people laugh, reading fanfiction, and performing an ongoing longitudinal study of her dog to see if there’s anything she won’t eat. Her biggest goals in life are to be published and to be happy.

[Image via Universal Pictures]

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