Just as running a marathon is a long, drawn out experience, with multiple facets, so is college. It's so much more than the four years spent in classes, and here's how.
1. You prepare for college for years.
Think about it: growing up you went to school, learned a little about every different subject, all to figure out what it is you care to actually learn about for the rest of your life. When you're younger, you're learning testing and studying skills that will help you to get to college, and then social skills that will help you actually survive in college. In middle school, grades don't quite count yet, but they set the stage for what classes you can take in high school. Then, in high school, everything is in preparation for college. You're working toward a GPA and ACT or SAT score that will get you into college, you're doing extracurriculars because they'll look good on an application (and hopefully because you love them also!), you might volunteer at a nursing home to write on your college application, you're going on college visits, applying for colleges—there's an entire list of "must do's" before you actually get to the end goal: college.
2. Once at college, you have to stand out.
In a marathon, there's an abundance of people involved, so each runner has to figure out how they will stand out. Let's be honest, the first two months of college before Fall Break are all about "reinventing" yourself. Who am I going to be in college? What am I going to be involved in? Who should I be friends with? Am I going to be known as rebelling against the rules or following them? And maybe, if you're lucky, you'll have time to give some thought into what degree you want to pursue, because you know, that's what you're actually in college for, right? Unless you're like me and you went to college more for the experience than the education, but don't tell my parents that.
3. You have to learn how to pace yourself.
I'm the absolute master of overcommitting myself. I think I signed up to get information from just about every single student group on campus and I was literally in agony trying to figure out which ones I should do—and I probably committed to too many but that's okay. The important thing is, after you have your time of being excited about all of the opportunities of college, you have to slow down and learn to pace yourself. You'll wear yourself out way quicker than you'd think if you don't take the time to actually pace yourself.
4. You can't give up.
Let's be honest, no matter how much we try to pace ourselves, college really is a mad dash of just trying to survive. When balancing classes, part-time jobs, student groups, volunteer groups, sports, friends and hopefully your family too, life can get really crazy really fast. Almost all the time, it feels like there's a never-ending list of things to do, places to be, homework assignments to finish, friends to catch up with—it can really make your head spin. Learn to embrace it, though. This might be the only time in your life that you get to live this way, and it really is fun once you learn to make the most of all the craziness around you.
5. The end goal is always in sight.
At the end of the day, the true purpose of college is to eventually receive a degree, so we all have to keep that in mind. All of the classes we're taking all build up and at the end of it all, we'll have something that's worth being proud of. Once all of the long nights of studying, endless tests and presentations, meetings with your advisor, internships and maybe even some tears are over, all your hard work will be 100% worth it.
Once it's all said and done, the accomplishment of running a marathon and finishing college is said to bring a sense of pride unlike any other. It's by far worth the time, effort and determination to finish well.