Senior column by Caroline Brand | 14 Things I Learned at Penn (GIFs not included)

· May 20, 2014, 12:20 pm   ·  Updated May 20, 2014, 12:21 pm

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College is kind of like kindergarten in the sense that personal growth is just as important as the academic stuff you learn.

This isn’t my advice to you. This is my advice to myself. My advice to you is to not take other people’s advice, and instead make a list like this by you, for you.

1. Time is the most valuable resource, because it is the one thing you can never create more of. Always be mindful of where you are investing your time, and pay attention to how other people are spending theirs – it conveys so much about who they are and what they value.

2. Treat yourself. I am convinced that Honest Tom’s burritos and Capogiro gelato cookie sandwiches are truly panaceas.

3. Unreliable and flaky people will always be unreliable and flaky. The 9th time you try to schedule lunch together will end the exact same way the 8th time did: canceled.

4. Pay attention when people introduce themselves, because chances are good they won’t be saying their name again. It will be extremely embarrassing when you don’t remember it four minutes later.

5. Spending time alone is not weird. In fact, it can be incredibly rewarding, enlightening, and yes – fun. Introspection is underrated, and if you constantly surround yourself with other people, you will never be able to unearth your own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.

6. For the most part, we are in control of our own happiness. No job, class, person, or experience can make you miserable unless you let it.

7. Stop and question what you’re doing as often as possible – especially when what you’re doing is exactly what everyone else is doing too. If you don’t want to go into finance, don’t go into finance. If you don’t want to move to New York after graduation, don’t move to New York. And if you don’t want to spend your Saturday evening at Smoke’s, remember that by forcing yourself to go anyway, you will a) not have fun, b) get beer spilled on you, and c) be infinitely better off at home with a pint of Chubby Hubby.

8. You will always forget to buy toilet paper until you are sitting there staring at an empty cardboard roll. Buy two packages the next time you’re at CVS.

9. This is one I actually learned from my dad, but continue to see for myself time and time again at Penn: Relentlessly pursue self-improvement. Stasis is the single greatest disservice we can do to ourselves. Even when you think you have accomplished it all and are at the pinnacle of your success, run a half marathon or learn how to cook a soufflé.

10. And this one, from my mom: Value the people and experiences that are in front of you over whatever is popping up on your iPhone screen. Although you might be convinced that it is acceptable to text your way through any lunch date, class, or meeting, that is a mere myth.

11. Train yourself to be a giver. If you are naturally what Wharton professor and author Adam Grant calls a matcher or a taker, do everything you can to override these tendencies. Give to those who you will never see again and will never benefit from, and if someone gives to you, pay it forward. One of the most moving experiences for me at Penn was when a student I barely knew spent a full hour on a Friday night coaching me through impossible computer science homework.

12. Smile, and the world smiles back at you. If you don’t feel like smiling, go to the gym for half an hour.

13. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. In other words, it is never too late to make new friends, take up a new hobby or activity, or even completely change your trajectory.

14. Even though we sometimes take it for granted – and complain about it a lot – going to Penn truly is an honor, and a reason to be thankful every single day.

Caroline Brand is a College senior from from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Email her at cbrand@sas.upenn.edu or follow her @CBrand19.

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