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Back to College: Regrets

I believe in regrets. I enjoy revisiting my own personal history on occasion and asking myself what ifs. Here are a few things I would change if I could go back to college and do it all over again:

  1. I would take a year off before college. It never occurred to me that this was an option. I was not as physically or socially mature as my peers and that year away would have helped me catch up a bit. Equally as important, it would have made me a better student and person by exposing me to more “real life” before college. I favor a year or two of post-high school national service for all teenagers. I know how much it would have benefited me and I think it would be good for the country.
  2. Sometimes I wish I had gone to a smaller school with more of an undergraduate focus. But Stanford is a great school and I can’t say I regret going there.
  3. I would join the newspaper staff. I did go to an orientation meeting or two but it didn’t grab me. I wish it had. The newspaper would have been a great way to get involved in the campus community.
  4. I would go to San Francisco more often.
  5. I would visit my friends at other colleges more than I did.
  6. Less daydreaming in the library and more studying.

Certainly there are also some smaller things I would do differently. For instance, I would focus more on girl X instead of girl Y. I would never take class Z. But the above are the big things.

One sunny California day toward the end of my senior year, my friends Manny, Mike and I were out in the park behind the dorm. It was 2pm on a Tuesday or something like that. Most of the rest of the country was toiling away in its workaday existence. Manny had set up his stereo on his windowsill and The Doors shared their mellow with us as we threw a football back and forth. We were about to graduate, about to leave our sheltered lives at Stanford and step out into the real world — but for that moment in time we luxuriated in our charmed lives. I remember thinking at the time, “Man, college is great.” And it was.

7 Comments

  1. Weird how our college experiences were so phenominally different, all the way from expectation to execution to regrets, despite having come from the same high school and going to the same college. Probably a lot of that is because I had no particular expectations going in. I guess I thought it would be like high school all over again and I don’t think I figured I would do anything but excel. I never thought about to what end I wanted to excel or what I wanted to get out of my classes, except a grade I guess. This deserves it’s own blog on my site so I will just name my top regrets:
    1. Did not make any real attempt to pursue women. Not that I even really knew how.
    2. Did not try to get into sportswriting/sports broadcasting. It was all there and would have been so easy to get into, at a D1 school no less, and everything would have been queued up for a career that just makes so much sense for me, it’s almost like space aliens took over my brain and got me stuck in a state of torpor where I didn’t want to do anything above the bare minimum. What a missed opportunity.
    3. Majored in engineering. Massive mistake. Three problems: 1) Every class was taught to the 10% smartest people in the class, which meant the rest of us were scrambling on our own and with TAs to make sense of the subject matter. This is not what you pay $20k plus for. 2) This led to me actually enjoying about 3 classes in 5 years, and none of them were engineering classes. 3) The work load was way harder, which did not particular suit the party lifestyle I was living a lot of the time I was there.
    4. Should have played rugby freshman and sophomore years. By far the best part of my college experience, and unfortunately I didn’t get started until junior year. I would have been a lot better by the end had I started sooner.
    5. I probably would have gone to a cheaper college. I used to blame a lot on Stanford itself, but eventually I realized that was just a coming of age period where I was going to be miserable no matter what. That being said, it would have been awful nice not to have been in the massive debt I was coming out of school.

    In 5 years I don’t think I EVER said, “Man, college is great.” But again, I think that had more to do with me than it did with college.

  2. Hey Will really good last few posts, btw.

    I have alot of regrets from college as well some the same as yours.

    1. I often think I too should have taken a year off, if the AmeriCorps would have been around then I would have done that. But I entered college early (dumber start) and that ended up being my best undergraduate college experience so I am not sure I would want to trade that.

    2. I wish in addition to going to Washington DC I would have gone overseas for a semester – like Kahn.

    3. Should have visited friends in Cali during school

    4. Should not have joined a fraternity – thought it would get me girls – partially true – but I felt like I lost some of the friends I made as a summer start and perhaps missed out on making other friends.

    5. She have ditched the Canadian chick my last year and just had fun – I made my senior yr miserable for myself.

    6. Should never have changed a History of the Vietnam War class at the last minute to Science and the Supernatural – ugh.

    Luckily I felt I made up alot of what I missed or was lacking as an undergrad in graduate school – that was an amazing experience for me.

  3. As I’m sure Ev, and maybe GM, will agree, heading East was not necessarily the best choice. Hate the eastern time zone – screws with all football watching.

    I probably should have chosen a bigger school, or at least one within a semi-major metropolitan area. When someone buys land in the town 5 miles away to build a taco bell, and it gets it’s own front page story with picture in the local paper, you know you’re in small town america. Had it been a grand opening I could have lived with the picture. Of course it took until my senior year for the TB to open, so that was depressing in and of itself. Nothing like a $.49 taco when you’ve been drinking.

    Other regrets
    1) I really should have taken a year off since my mom and sis spent nine months in Florence, Italy my freshman year. I was at least able to make it for 3 weeks over xmas, but missed my dad and bro who took a sabatical and graduated from HS early respectively so they could spend 3+ months there.
    2) Should not have thought about a double major in econ and poli sci. Just silly. I don’t work that hard and it was hard enough for me to get up for classes that started at 9am.
    3) I really should have read more of the assigned books – I think I made it through about 75 pages of Plato’s republic. I think I should have gotten a D in that course but may have squeeked out a C-
    4) should have dropped Calculus in HS. Getting an F with a terrible teacher in HS, and then an A in college in the same subject just annoyed the hell out of me. Not sure if I would have gotten into any better colleges but I’m sure they pretty much crossed me of lists early.
    5) my freshman roommate was a bit of a dick – not much I could do about that though.
    6) tried out for water polo instead of rugby freshman year – what was I thinking. The first of two separated shoulders in college.

    Things I’m glad I did:
    1) not commit suicide my sophmore year – Ohio really does suck the life out of you
    2) left my junior year for London and DC – even London had a Taco Bell, though the tacos were probably closer to $1.50 with the exchange rate.
    3) did a rap radio show my senior year – even if it was from 8-10am on a tuesday I still had fun, as I’m sure my 6 listeners did too.
    4) drove to notre dame twice senior year – wish I would have had a car earlier.
    5) knew I wanted to be a ski bum for a season after college – probably made up for not taking the year off at the start
    4) took an astronomy course – I should have taken more (so is that a regret?)
    5) made a different set of friends senior year, though I don’t keep in touch with anyone really

  4. I always felt sorry for the techies in terms of how little wiggle room there was in those “tracks” in the course catalogue. That’s one reason I didn’t get into physics or computers in college despite my interest in those subjects. I think I realized early on in college that I’m a fuzzy who dabbles in the techie world, a book here or class there. It would have been a struggle to become a full-time techie. Even if I could succeed at it, I imagined myself in the end alone in a basement lab at Acme U. in Windsweptsville fiddling with a metallic contraption and probably talking to myself.

    I wouldn’t have minded spending the year after high school in Florence. After Ryan told us about his supermarket immersion in Switzerland or whatever I looked into that program and almost signed up for a German factory immersion. Might have been cool. But I am happy with the way I did my overseas/D.C. stints — Junior year spring quarter Berlin plus summer travel across Eastern Europe and the Middle East and then D.C. after graduation. I always describe D.C. as the perfect post-college decompression chamber.

  5. Yes, DC really requires one to be of legal drinking age to fully appreciate it.

  6. I swore to myself that I would forget this so I wouldn’t influence my son on making a very poor college decision, but I made a list of “must haves” for a college/university around my Junior year at the Hop…

    1) Go to a place with a big football program… not a big Lacrosse program
    2) Go to a place that has a least more than 6 months of *good* weather. A light rain/30% humidity doesn’t constitute *good*
    3) Go to a place that has a high percentage of hotties or at least close to one that does (U of Md was just to far to drive no matter how drunk you were or how desparate)

    My list of pro’s?
    1) Go to a place in a relatively big city to get good/alternative radio stations. I still love WHFS and the Weasel

  7. Couple more. I wish I’d had a car. Never had one during college or while I was in DC. That would have made visiting SF and friends at other colleges a little easier, not to mention just getting to know the immediate area better. Also, one of my favorite classes at Stanford was blacksmithing. Sometimes I think I should have been a mechanical engineer.

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