Featured Image

5 College Lessons Learned Outside the Classroom

There are no college classes for character and self-respect. Those things can only be learned with experience, like these five life lessons.

While college prepares us for our degrees, it doesn’t teach us everything there is to know about life—especially about what it’s like outside the classroom. There are no classes for character, self-respect, and learning how to value others. Those things can only be learned with experience and trial and error.

The following are five lessons that can only be learned outside the classroom.

Looking insecurities in the face

Being self-aware is a skill you develop throughout the course of your life and could always use some practice. However, it’s necessary for personal growth. Life will always be full of adversity, but you determine whether or not to overcome it and strengthen your emotional resilience.

Taking action breeds success

Time is precious, and a moment wasted is one you’ll never get back. Waiting for life to give you a sign to start living or hoping that one day everything will be perfect are failures in themselves. With that kind of mindset, you can never move forward and will become self-entitled to success. The only way your goals will be accomplished is if you take action to accomplish them. You either find a way or make an excuse.

Sustaining friendships is not easy

Friendships were effortless to sustain in elementary and high school because you were able to see those friends every day. When college and adulthood come into the picture, people begin to focus on achieving their goals, taking responsibility for themselves, and prioritizing their success and happiness. It’s common for friendships in adulthood to fade because it’s easy to neglect important actions such as catching up in person for an hour, telling them how much you appreciate them, or simply calling to ask how they’re doing. This neglect is especially common when friends move to a different city. Don’t assume your friends will always be by your side. You need to make the effort to keep them there.

Open-mindedness is crucial to developing empathy

As you get older, you begin to realize that your life is not the only one that matters. Every single person around you has a story worth telling, wants to be respected and understood, and wants to be treated like a human being. They have also experienced pain, love, disappointment, and heartbreak—just like you. Getting to know a person and listening to their stories will enrich your life with a brand-new perspective and prevent you from automatically making assumptions about other people in the future.

Setting unrealistic expectations will disappoint you

No one knows what the future holds, nor can anyone predict every action of another person. Looking at the people and things in your life and accepting them for what they are is crucial for your well-being. Having realistic expectations helps you be honest with yourself and others, as well as healthily cope with life and people when they disappoint. 

Related: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Went to College

College will be an incredible time in your life if you try to make it one. Yes, there will be difficult classes and stressful moments, but there are also wonderful people to meet, fun parties to attend, and moments of rewarding self-discovery. Through these experiences, you eventually come to understand that meeting tight deadlines is a necessary life skill, the dearest friends are individuals who appeared out of the blue, and you always need to give yourself more credit.

Ultimately, life is the teacher outside the classroom. It’s up to us to be a willing student.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned outside the classroom? Let us know in the comments or tweet them @CollegeXpress.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college life friendships growing up learning outside the classroom life life lessons relationships

About Trevor McDonald

Trevor McDonald

Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer for JourneyPure Emerald Coast. He's written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him playing his guitar or outside enjoying any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Check out JourneyPure's new health-tracking app here.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Mataya Mann

Mataya Mann

High School Class of 2022

To say that CollegeXpress is a helpful tool would be an understatement as it is much more than that. Before finding CollegeXpress, all I knew was that I wanted to go to college, it was going to be insanely expensive, and I felt lost. CollegeXpress has given me access to resources such as helpful tips for applications and scholarship [opportunities], and helped guide me in a direction where I feel confident moving forward and pursuing a career. CollegeXpress has helped instill a spark in me that makes me want to continue and supports me in doing so.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

College Matches