Top 5 Things I Got Out of My Time In College

I didn’t have the typical journey through school, it took me 11 years from start to finish to get my business degree.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the extra circulars being the reason you showed up, for me those were sports and music.  The classroom was a distant 3rd in high school and it continued in college.  I left pursue building a business and learning by being hands on.  While the conversation about college vs. work is louder than ever, it was my personal decision and I ended up back in the classroom 7 years later.
My traditional learning path was broken, but it made the second go at college even more valuable for me.  Having experience made theories and lectures very easy to absorb because I could see where it could be applied.  I feel like I refined my skills by getting back into the classroom. The top things I got out of my degree wouldn’t have happened if I stuck around at the beginning.  I had purpose.  I had goals.  I wanted to accomplish something by being on campus.


I heard about the preferential treatment given to classmates or other alumni during hiring and I see why now.  There is a bond that I have with friends from my BBA that I know will automatically be on the same page when we get on the phone or meet up. We just get it.  I should be clear on this, its not buddies from hanging out between classes, these are connections that have been developed from class projects, competitions, and it goes beyond just other students. Its being connected with your professors, teaching assistants, etc.  They are connections that I can call on for anything.

Refined knowledge base

Being hands on gives you experience that is unmatched.  Many people need to learn by being hands on and cannot absorb skills or knowledge any other way.  Having that action to go and do something is a skill in itself.  However, doing things gives you bias to the environment that you are working in.  For me, there were too many things that I could not have marketed or pitched prior to going to back to school.  I didn’t know how to use the information outside of the way we did it in our business.
For example, SWOT and Porter’s Five Forces were eye opening for me.  I was aware of frameworks and standards, but I didn’t know how to use them.  I would make the same mistake over and over again; blending strengths and opportunities (thinking opportunities were only internal), weaknesses and threats while being overly optimistic.  My professors explained that its natural to do that, but its wrong.  It doesn’t give a full perspective.
Leaving school, I can use these and many other frameworks to create a balanced, logical and universal strategy for my clients.  Without school, I would still be pitching completely incorrectly and probably get laughed out of a room.  I’m not saying you need to go to university to learn these things, but I did.

Understanding my strengths

As adults we have more freedom and choice than ever before in our lives.  This typically leads people to find their own identity and independence.  But it also allows for avoidance of things that we don’t want to do.  Your mom isn’t around asking you to clean up your room or reminding you to do the dishes.  You have choices.  Being in school forced me to come back and do things that I was uncomfortable with.  I couldn’t avoid completing an assignment or project.  I was forced to put time into studying what can be some awfully dry reading.
This helped me find appreciate my strengths even more.  Focusing on the things that I can do well, and better than my peers is where my value is greatest.  I know I am great with business strategy.  I enjoy speaking and presenting, and am asked to speak to groups about marketing and business. I love to coach and learned it can be applied outside of sports.  Coaching case competitions teams was extremely rewarding.  To simply put it, I like to absorb, analyze and share.

Remove Excuses and Doubt

Sure, I’m a confident person, but prior to arriving back in the classroom I didn’t know what was holding me back in certain situations.  I could have done a quick comparison with colleagues and see that the university folks were getting ahead.  Going back to school removed that doubt and squashed all excuses that I was being overlooked or was missing opportunities.  I don’t think this is a very positive point, but it is the truth.  I needed school as a confidence boost to remove all excuses possible about succeeding.  Finishing school gave me realistic confidence in my abilities after testing them in the collegiate environment.

Reignited my Competitive Spirit

The best extra curricular activity for me was the Competition Club. I was able to compete in case competitions and business simulations that brought me back to my basketball days.  Being in the environment was awesome.  Sure, winning helps, but as an athlete, seeing how you can utilize your brain to win was amazing to me.  I couldn’t have experienced this without having the opportunity to represent my school across Canada.
Secondly, in my final year, coaching three teams and sharing my experience was very rewarding.  One of those teams won their competition, the other two placed extremely well.  These were moments away with friends, team mates, fellow competitors and coaches that will forever be a cherished memory from college.

Competition Brings Out Our Very Best.

Going back to school gave me an edge.  I’m glad that I took the time to get my degree.  It was music to the ears of my family members who cried when I left in the first place.  But it was for me.  I was there because I wanted to be.  I wanted to succeed and prove to myself that there was a better version of Chris after graduation.

Comments 10

  1. Tabitha

    Wonderful post! I absolutely agree that hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn. My best experience from college was gaining a strong sense of independence. I’ve always been timid and shy, but going back to college encouraged me to do things for myself and by myself.

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  2. Stephanie Lowry

    I really enjoyed reading this. I, myself went down a non-traditional educational path as well. I truly feel as if it led to a stronger self-awareness and confidence boost when I needed it most, though. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  3. Bekah

    Hi Chris, great post! I’m a business major too 🙂 I like what you said about the SWOT analysis. I agree, its easy to blend those, but they are so different! Experience is best you are right 🙂 I learned more in the workforce than in college, but I found the tools from college to help a bit. One of the tools I have from college that I still use, is what I learned about core competencies and target marketing. Why you need to focus and not try to make everyone happy, or else you’re good at nothing 🙂

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