1. You Learn About Yourself
College is a learning experience, not only for your formal education, but for your personality outside of the classroom. What’s important to you—you really figure out what your priorities are. There will be some times when you have to choose: Do you save up for food, go out with friends, or get this really cool Darth Vader T-shirt!?
You grow in ways that you haven’t before. Or perhaps hadn’t noticed. You start to see how you act when there is nothing to lose. The future is bright ahead and you know it is there, but what will you do right now to reach it?
I used to play Zombie Apocalypse with this boy whom I was babysitting and thought, “Wow, this is really fun!” Now that I’m in college, it is like playing that game on Hard Mode. I don’t have enough money for gas until next week, and I only have a bit of peanut butter, tortillas, cereal, and trail mix left to last the week. At first, it’s fun, enjoyable; a new experience.
When it is your day-to-day life, you will think about the world, and yourself, differently.
2. You work your creative side
If you’re low on cash, don’t be afraid to try something new! Take what you know about ordinary food, and throw it out the window. Create a “gourmet” meal out of popcorn and leftovers; create a peanut-butter-trail-mix-wrapped-in-a-tortilla (my personal favorite); just step outside of the box. You’ll have to figure out new solutions to new problems. You want to make a hole punch, but don’t have a hole puncher? Figure it out. You will look at things from a new point of view. You will learn how to solve a problem with limited material, resources, and knowledge.
3. You Find Out What’s Really Important
In the process of being broke, you learn that some things you thought important, really aren’t (or they’re things you knew weren’t important but you liked anyway).
I told so many people, including close friends and family, “I can’t wait until college. I’m going to work and get the truck fixed 100%. Brakes, engine light, and some upgrades.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. Yes, I worked, and yes, I did do some work on it, but that’s not what I found important. I discovered the difference between desire and necessity. “I’ll save my money for when it needs it or when I need it.” You learn to put things off, so you can have a safety net.
4. …and what’s not
Different people reach this revelation at different points. I’ve seen people go out and eat out every night (even though they have a meal plan) and don’t have enough gas money to go home. Some people buy clothes and shoes and then break down because they don’t have any money for anything else. Then there’s some people who deny it and are “okay” not doing anything to improve.
Whenever you reach this point, think about this: when does need outweigh temptation? Is that new shirt really worth the 10 hours of work it took to pay it off? Is that new phone case worth replacing the one that is already on instead of getting your car fixed? College makes you weigh things differently than you had to do before.
5. You Find Your Real Friends
Your true friends are those who will stick with you even if you don’t have anything to offer. They will be understanding. They will call you out on things. Your true friends will stick by you and support you even when you can’t do anything in return; and frankly, they shouldn’t care. When you have an old truck, little food in the fridge, and a thin wallet, there will not be any fake friends. They don’t care that you don’t have a new phone or new car or anything; they are friends with you because you are rich in things other than money. They are your friends because of what’s inside your head, not the clothes on your body or the wallet in your pocket. You will make your best friends in your broke college years—100% money back guarantee (and a money guarantee means a lot more too).
6. You Get to Enjoy the Simple Things in Life
Before I got to college, I was so excited to go out and be on my own and be able to show everyone what I was capable of. At a point, I forgot to slow down. I forgot to relax.
You will get overwhelmed at times.
I would love to go drive all-night and eat at restaurants, but I can’t, and that’s not a bad thing.
You get to enjoy sitting around with your friends or by yourself and doing something you love, even when it’s the only option.
There are nights where I get off work, I sit down, and I play guitar for hours on end.
Find something you enjoy doing, whether it is reading, writing, playing music, singing, or anything else. As long as you make it yours, it’s the best gift you could give yourself.
7. You Become Self-Sufficient
You take everything you learned in high school (not the book stuff) and in your life, and apply it. You learn to save. You learn to work. You learn to survive. You learn to thrive. Maybe not financially, but emotionally. Being able to look back and say, “I only survived with three napkins, half-a-loaf of bread, three shirts, and a pot of coffee” will give you pride. Yes it seems silly now, but give it a try. You will learn to go chase after what you want. You want a job? Chase for it. You want good grades so you don’t have to pay more for college? Go chase it. It’s as simple as that. You will find your motivation and work hard when the times get tough.
8. You Find Your Passion
When you have nothing, it’s hard to indulge. Being a broke college student gave me more motivation than I ever had. If you aren’t happy with the situation you are in, work to change it; you are only going to get out as much as you put in. If you put in a “pretty good” effort, you will only get a “pretty good” return.
For me, my passions are my guitar, friends, and family (in no particular order). I take my guitar wherever I go because it’s something that I love improving on. Learning new songs develops your musical ear, the dexterity of your fingers, and can broaden your creative mind.
Keep those whom you love close and if they are true, they will be there for you no matter what. When life pulls you back, see it as a slingshot. Once you get pulled back far enough, you will see yourself getting shot forward into better things. Be patient, and take your passions with you on your journey.
9. And Through It All, You Know You’re Working Towards a Brighter Future
You say to yourself, “this will get better.” It will. You are working through the most stressful, chaotic, and most enjoyable times you have had in your life so far. You will look back and see what you have been through and when an obstacle comes in your life and your family or friends or wife or husband turn to you, you can say, “it’s okay honey, I survived college, this is nothing.”
You will find your life-long friends who knew you when you were nothing more than a ramen-eating, coffee-guzzling hermit sitting at your desk with a half-finished Microsoft Word Document at two in the morning. These people have seen you at your lowest. They have seen how you act when you have nothing left to lose. These people will have lifted you up when you had nothing to stand on. Take your experiences, your friends, your loved ones, your passions, your creativity, your values, and your true self all the way to the top.
Photo 1: Wikimedia Commons—Public Domain
Photo 2: TaxCredits.net—Some Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Tyler Appleby: I’m a college student who enjoys writing about life and its experiences in the hope of reaching out to others like me.