7 free things that are worlds better than college.

This week I will probably have hand cramps. When you work in high school, there are students who you have been pouring your life into for years. I’m going to write notes to many of those students who graduated this past weekend.

As I was thinking about the advice that I want to give, I realized that I don’t have much advice for college itself. My college experience was different than most people’s.

I took a gap year after high school to do missionary work. Then I went to a traditional college for one year. After trying traditional school and hating it, I moved to Mexico. Then I did two more years at two different universities in Mexico. Finally, while working two jobs and being a brand new dad, I finished up my schooling online.

I have found that years later I have the diploma but don’t remember much of what I learned in college. I guess I was rushing through it so frantically, that it all seems like a blur.

Although, I don’t have much advice for college itself, there are 7 things that have served me better than any college education ever could. Without these, I would simply have a diploma, but not a real education.

7 things that are worlds better than a college education.

1. Books

More than any class I took in college, books have completely changed my life. Think of it this way: There is a particular topic that you want to learn more about. You decide to invite an expert in that field to coffee so that you can learn more about the topic. The expert agrees to meet you for 30 minutes every day for the next few weeks. He pours out his best advice and research personally to you. That is what reading a book is like.

My advice: Set a time aside time every day, pour a cup of coffee, open a book, and learn from the experts.

2. Friendships

Friendships have a stronger influence on your life than any college class could. Friends can be your safety net when life gets hard. They pick you up when you feel down. They can make you laugh when you need medicine for the soul. Equally, by choosing your friends poorly, you can be lulled into a path of self-destruction. You will typically follow their lead.

Many times relationships happen organically, or naturally. However, you should also be intentionally analyzing how your friends are influencing your life. Do your friends inspire you? Do you want to become like them? You take the shape of the people who you hang around.

My advice: To have friends you have to be a friend. Start reaching out to people now. Choose your friends intentionally.

3. Experts

College is a time where you want to figure out what you are going to do with your life. At the beginning of your major, your idea of a career is hypothetical. If you really want to learn what a career looks like, you need to speak to the people who are already in the field.

My advice: During college, work in internships and job shadow. Get to know the experts. Reach out and build relationships with people in the field you want to study. Don’t just make your major theoretical. Make it real for you.

4. Journaling

You will experience all kinds of changes in your life. You need to pay attention to your feelings and thoughts during those changes. Emotions are not good or bad. They are your soul’s dashboard, warning you about areas that need attention in your life. You need to intentionally notice your emotions and try to understand why you feel the way that you do.

My advice: Take 5 minutes a day and journal. Dump everything that you feel onto a piece of paper. Take note of patterns. When you are able to put words to those patterns, share them with a trusted counselor or friend.

5. Health

Without your health, you will not be able to achieve the dreams that you have for your life. I know because there have been times in my life where I have been so sick that my time and energy where completely consumed with getting well again. A good start to health begins with the two basics: Nutrition and Exercise.

My advice: Start eating healthy today. Choose one healthy food a week that you can add to your diet and one that you can take away. Start with something easy like drinking less soda. Also, start exercising now. Find an accountability partner for your exercise. Start setting up those habits now so that you carried them on into adulthood.

6. Creative Work

You are wired to be creative. It is built into your DNA. Creativity is similar to a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows. You can only perfect your craft through producing, receiving feedback, and adjusting your approach. Creative work for you may be writing, cooking, drawing, or working on cars. Do something that expresses your passions and interests.

My advice: Start intentionally expressing yourself through creativity. Show it to different people. Receive their feedback and adjust your approach the next time.

7. Service

Serving is a way for you to use your knowledge and creativity to be connected to others. By serving others, you are offering authentic help. You are noticing where people are hurting and using your God given gifts to show hope. You will find that service and connection are some of the most fulfilling things in life.

My advice: Connect deeply to others through service. See where they are hurting. Use your creativity to sincerely help them and better their lives. Serve often and enhance your efforts and connection by serving in a group.


College is a privilege that not everyone experiences, but it is not the most powerful educational force. Everyone has access to the concepts listed above. Use them to enhance your college education. If you are not in college, use them as professional development or continuing education. You will find they will help you far more than any college course or professor ever could.

What would you add to the list?

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Originally published at medium.com