Life lessons beyond the classroom


The Appalachian Online

Dewey Mullis

Enrolling in a college or university comes with the assumption that a useful or at least interesting topic will become a degree path. But it’s the lessons learned outside of the college classroom that best prepare students for life beyond an undergraduate degree.

The newly discovered independence has a few lessons to teach as well.

Self-expression and identity development are crucial aspects of one’s personal journey, and college is the perfect place to hone them. The chances of finding friends, a club, major or organization that share similar values are incredibly high. At the first sight of that similarity, run with it.

The experience may enhance, moderate or completely reverse pre-existing feelings or beliefs, but it’s all about learning how to really put yourself to use for an audience more representative of the real world. Regardless of where the experience leads, it will have long-lasting effects on a resume, social life or a shift in a better, new direction.

During this trial-and-error expression phase, an understanding of limitations – physical, mental and emotional – comes into play. How many balanced tasks, stresses battled or tough decisions made does it take to reach a breaking point?

How much can one consume before it becomes too much? College will put all of those limits to the test.

Throughout the navigation process, we learn how to take responsibility, creative problem solving beyond the math workbook, how to advocate for ourselves, and the power of relationships.

Once limitations have been found, we learn to take responsibility for whatever form of overflow is the result. Parents don’t sign forms for absences, mistakes or reports anymore. It’s something the student must face head on.

And so comes into play, the art of creative problem solving. This kind isn’t math-related but it will actually be useful later in life. Here is where time and stress management come to life and the things that didn’t work are tossed so new methods can be explored.

At last, success. After a period of time, there now exists a resume, a declared major, an understanding of how limits operate, and the ways in which to keep those limits in check.

But before walking across the stage at graduation, there is that moment of reflection on what it took to get to here. You had to assert yourself, experiment and fail, experiment and succeed and make it your story. Now you have to tell it.

Advocating one’s self can be challenging for an introvert or long-winded for others, but college should have provided the tools to set you apart.

Finally, after walking across the stage, there will be that moment that of reflection where all of the peers and professionals who had a major role in that final moment are front and center. The power of those relationships comes bundled with that degree.

So, there is much to be had outside of the classroom. It’s not in a textbook, but is instead within the student, the people and the experiences. Take advantage of them, and take notes.

Mullis, a senior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.