Like Youth, College is wasted on the young.
Pretty early on in my teenage years I decided to prioritize partying, sports, and making money over academics.
As a high school senior I had the most amount of absences you could have without being banned from graduation. The night before taking my SATs I seem to remember going out with a few friends and getting hammered. I took the test cold with no studying and a moderate hang over, and still managed to get decent score and graduate 13th in my class.
I only applied to one college, SUNY Albany. I chose this renowned institution for the following compelling statistic: SUNY Albany was the #1 ranked party school in the nation at the time, ahead of Arizona State and Florida State. I hung my acceptance letter on my bedroom door.
My parents helped me move into my dorm in the Fall of 2000. Before their car left the parking lot, my roommate Matt and I had cracked open the bottle of Crown Royal we had smuggled into our suite. And thus began a four year bender that would make Animal House look like Full House.
Yes, college was awesome. And if I could go back, I’d gleefully chug that bottle of Crown and run up and down Ontario St with my shirt off and a 2×4 in my hand a la Hacksaw Jim Doggan all effin’ over again.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I’m not sure. Maybe this is an advice letter to kids heading to school this fall. Maybe it’s because as a grown up I’m little bothered by the fact that I left some academic potential on the table. Maybe because if I could go back I’d try to do a few things differently. Or maybe not. Anyway, here are…
My Top 5 Regrets From College
- Getting a low GPA. I still wonder what I would have been capable of academically if I had applied myself. I got straight As in high school without even trying a little bit. But then I screwed around so much my freshman year that I didn’t qualify to get into business school, so I checked out even more, and it was a downward spiral from there. I did get some good grades, but in the end I graduated with a 2.3 GPA and a major in “Communication,” whatever the hell that is.
- Not going to class. I’m sure I skipped more classes than I attended. I remember at least two courses, I think Human Sexuality and Urban Planning, that I showed up for only 3 sessions – syllabus, midterm and final (I got a D in one and a B- in the other, not telling you which was which). I paid for those classes and some of those electives I took actually sound interesting to me today, so I wish I showed up a bit more often.
- Not building any relationships with my professors or tapping into our alumni network. Networks are what really grow careers and create opportunities, but I realized this way after college.
- Not interning. I’ve had some college kids spend time with me at work for spring break internships. They always get way more out of the time than just a bullet on their resume. Interning creates connections that open doors and it balances the philosophical nature of academia with real world practical application.
- Not studying/traveling abroad. I hope to give my kids this opportunity someday. I think I left school with a slightly narrow and sheltered world view that I’ve since remedied with life experience. I think some time in a foreign country would have accelerated the process.
5 Things I Wish I Could Do All Over Again
- Partying. Partying on a scale that would be impractical, undesirable, and probably illegal for me to describe on this blog. I got it out of my system, as they say, and it was glorious. And as it turns out, learning to party was not a completely useless endeavor. Partying, or as adults call it, “socializing,” is a big part of business. People like working with people who are fun to be around, and a lot of business is done outside of the workplace in restaurants and bars.
- Working full time in restaurants and bars. I worked full time all four years of college, and made enough money to support myself and pay my way through school (with the help of student loans and the occasional bail out from mom and dad). Working full time fortified a good work ethic, and by the time I graduated, I had figured out how to dress and talk like a real business person, which was enough to land me my first job.
- Working out a lot. There may have been an off year in there, but for the most part my friends and I kept in good shape in college. I always liked exercising. Keeping the habit in college helped me continue the habit as an adult after school.
- Pledging a fraternity. Frat boys and sorority girls don’t have a great reputation today. That doesn’t change the fact that being in a fraternity multiplied the awesomeness of my college experience by 1000, and I formed some of the best lifelong friendships I could ask for.
- Graduating on time and getting my first real job before I graduated. I started looking for a job in February for May graduation. Some recruiter found me and sent me to interview at the Marriott in Hartford, CT. They offered me the job on the spot, and gave me 5 minutes to make a decision (which I now realize was not cool). I accepted, and 10 days after graduation I packed all of my belongings in my 1996 Pontiac Grand Prix, and headed to Connecticut.
For some unknown reason, a switch flipped inside of me immediately after graduation. It was like I turned 40 on my 22nd birthday. I applied myself 100% at work, started studying business, and I caught a couple lucky breaks.
5 years out of school I realized I could make a pretty good run up the corporate ladder, but I felt like I needed to fortify my growing skill set with a real education. So in 2007 I enrolled in the on-camps MBA program at the University of Hartford. This time I went to almost every class. Four years later I graduated with a 3.89 GPA, feeling somewhat vindicated.
What’s the lesson here? Maybe UHart could have been Kellogg and maybe SUNY Albany could have been NYU. Or maybe I am who I am today because of the experiences I had. I’ll never know, but I don’t really care that much, if I’m being honest. Things worked out pretty well for me anyway.
This is a pretty terrible advice letter for anyone college bound, but what can I tell ya. College was awesome (did I say that already?). Try to enjoy it.
Welcome to my blog. I have been a manager for fifteen years, and for the past five years I have been leading teams of 500 people or more as a director and VP for large growth companies. I share my leadership journey and thoughts here with the hopes of helping and inspiring other leaders.