I met up with a few buddies of mine from college recently and we took a trip down memory lane. It got me thinking about all the things I wish I would have done differently in college. I came up with 40 ‘regrets’. I say regrets that way because all these missed opportunities have shaped who I am today, and I am very happy with where I am in life. Looking back though, these are things I wish I would have done it differently.
1. Joined ROTC – I ended up joining the Air Force 2 years after graduation. Serving is one of the things I have done in my life that I am most proud of. I wish I would have done it earlier and got Uncle Sam to pay for my school as a bonus.
2. Study abroad – I wish I would have had this experience. Post-graduation I have spent extended time in foreign countries, but it is different when you have post-school responsibilities. This is one of the easiest things you can do to make yourself more interesting to others.
3. Cancun – For four years my best friends and I talked about going to spring break in Cancun for senior year. We talked about it every day when we worked out. This was going to be our celebration after 4 years of a grueling engineering curriculum. When the time came to do it, we decided to go on an ‘investment’ trip to Atlantic City instead. I cheaped out on a great memory.
4. Double majored – I majored in Electrical Engineering. It took exactly 5 more classes to get my double major in Computer Engineering. Why I didn’t do it I’ll never know.
5. Road trip to ECU – The first weekend of school my sophomore year most of the chapter road tripped to our chapter at ECU and had a fantastic time. For some reason I punked out and had
to suffer from hearing stories about it the rest of college.
6. Broke up better – I dated my high school girlfriend through much of college. It was an ugly breakup that I’m not proud of. She was too good to me for me to break up with her the way I did. I still feel bad about this.
7. Not drank too much at KKG formal – The night started out great. I was on a blind date with an amazing girl. We were having a great time. Then I realized that I was out of control and it was time for me to go home. I didn’t embarrass myself that night (much), but I’m still embarrassed about what happened.
8. Not borrowed the pledge stick – We were visiting our chapter and UNC-Chapel Hill, and they had a tradition where their pledge class had to be in control of a stick the entire semester. I ‘acquired it’ with the intention of giving it back the next weekend during a big event we had planned with them. They were so pissed they never showed up.
9. Road tripped more, one epic trip wasn’t enough – We took a road trip to visit our chapter at Illinois (which is a hell of a long way from NC State). This was the highlight of college even though it probably took a few years off my life. It was worth it though. Should have done it more.
10. Had a bed — my fold out couch was great for room but not for sleep. I focused on entertaining in my dorm room. So I had two couches, but no bed. One of the couches was a fold out which gave me 3 years of awful sleep. Should have placed a higher importance on a good night’s rest.
11. Started a house fund – My chapter was chartered in 1997. I was initiated that fall semester. We have rented our chapter house since then. In those 16 years, if we would have put $25 per brother in a house fund per semester, we would have had around $50,000 saved.
12. Had Mom and Dad help me move in – I am from Raleigh, the same place NC State is located. Since I was so close, I moved myself into the dorm my freshman year not realizing the significance of my parent’s having their oldest kid moving out. I should have been more aware and included my parent’s in this experience. Don’t forget your parents when you go off to school.
13. Tried out for State’s football team – I was good enough to walk-on to State’s football team. At worst, I would have made a good tackling dummy. At best, I could have been catching bombs from Philip Rivers and playing next to Torry Holt. This is a great regret I have. When I sit on my couch watching football all weekend, I always wonder if I was good enough to play. I guess I’ll never know.
14. Tried out for State’s golf team — I am a good golfer. I have been near scratch at points of my life and have a career low round of 67. I called State’s golf coach every day before I arrived on campus asking for a tryout. When he finally called me back, he said to wait until sophomore year to try out. I wish I would have, even though I know I wasn’t good enough. That team had 3 guys who ended up on Tour (including Tim Clark and Carl Petterson). Those guys are in a completely different league than me, but I wish I would have had that experience.
15. Started a website – I love the thought of having a website and being able to reach so many people. This site has a reach of several hundred thousand people a year. That is huge and humbling. I wish I would have started blogging sooner.
16. Read more – People who read are more interesting and are smarter. I wish I was more interesting and smarter.
17. Worked smarter – I worked to put myself through school. This is something I am very proud of. However, most of my jobs sucked. There are fun jobs out there. If you have to work, you should work doing something fun.
18. Asked professors for help more – I sat in the second row, showed up to class every day, rarely asked questions and then left. Very few of my professors ever knew my name. I should have made more of an effort to engage in class and develop a relationship with my instructors. It would have helped me learn the material and get better grades.
19. Taken Dr. Smith’s class – Our faculty advisor was an alumnus brother who taught history. He made sure brothers succeeded in his classes. I had a great relationship with this instructor, but was so consumed with my engineering curriculum I never made the effort to take his class. I deeply regret it. I respect the hell out of this man, and I would have enjoyed being a student of his.
20. Written a thank you letter to the people at school who helped me – I had a lot of people looking out for me. There were a lot of people who put me in a position to succeed. Our Greek Life Director, Mindy Sopher, was an incredible mentor to me. Dave, our chapter advisor, became a trusted resource and great friend. Vinny and Andy taught me how to truly love fraternity. I could go on and on, but the point is there were people out there who helped me succeed and I probably didn’t do a good enough job letting them know how much I appreciated it.
21. Answered my door when the brother from App State visited – A brother from our App State chapter knocked on my door early one Saturday morning. I got up, looked in my peep hole, and decided that I’d catch up with him later in the day. I went back to sleep. A few years later I found out he committed suicide. I still feel bad about blowing him off that morning.
22. Covered for my vice president – My vice president broke a rule, and I was the one impacted by his actions. The chapter decided to have a judicial board hearing to drag the guy through the mud. I could have put a stop to the witch hunt but I didn’t. The brother ended up quitting and the chapter was worse for it. I still feel responsible.
23. Not talked people into joining who shouldn’t have joined. I had a gift. I loved my fraternity, and I could talk others into believing that they loved it too. The problem is, in my quest to increase our numbers, there were times when I’d look around and think that some of these guys had no business being in a fraternity. Ultimately, this practice weakened our chapter.
24. Asked Erin out – I sat next to Erin in my first class of college. She was the first friend I met, and I am pretty sure I was hers. We hit it off, but I never asked her out. I was too scared of being rejected so early in college. She ended up transferring a few semesters later to never be heard from again… My loss.
25. Asked Stephanie’s sister out – I was Stephanie’s sister’s partner in the first class of a Thursday night class. Stephanie is another girl I chickened out on asking out my freshman year. Her sister was smarter, cooler and prettier. I had a golden opportunity to ask her out, but decided to wait until next week’s class. I didn’t want to be too forward too soon. She ended up dropping the class, and I never saw her again. Lesson learned – don’t wait or it may be too late.
26. Done a better job helping guys not flunk out – Too many of the brothers in my chapter flunked out. NC State is an engineering school, and half of the general body flunks out anyway. We didn’t do much to make sure our brothers kept their grades up and lost a ton of quality guys as a result.
27. Taken more fluff classes to improve GPA – Your college GPA will only matter if you want to go to grad school or when you get your first job. However, those are hurdles all of us face. My junior year, I started taking freshman electives to boost my GPA. I took a freshman architecture class, a freshman psychology class, a freshman speech class, a couple PEs, an intro to writing class and a few other gems. These did nothing to help me graduate, but provided me with an easy A or two a semester. This dramatically helped boost my GPA.
28. Left college with less debt – I discovered credit cards about half way through school. I was a poor student, and didn’t have money to buy a lot of the things I wanted. That all changed when I received my first credit card. I spent a ton more money my last couple years, but probably didn’t have as much fun as when I was living poor. Remember that money doesn’t equal more fun and graduating with a several grand in credit card debt is definitely no fun.
29. Sold all my textbooks back – I have 20 electrical engineering books that I have moved 8 times since college. Not once have I ever opened a single one of them. They were worth $100 each if I would have sold them back after the semester ended. They are collecting dust in my attic now.
30. Invested in the dot-com boom – I went to school in the late 90s. I was an engineering student. I knew how the world was changing, but I was too dumb to not profit off it.
31. Profited off the dot-com bust – My senior design project was with a dot-com company. This was the most awesome work environment I have ever seen. These guys had an awesome game room, all the food and drinks you could want, TVs everywhere, ect… My partners and I would go there to hang out. Not much work was ever done by us or the employees. One Friday afternoon, our mentor told us that the bubble had burst, and they were shutting the doors forever at 5pm. Hundreds of other companies did the same thing a few months later. I knew what was happening, and could have made a mint off it if I only reacted to what I was seeing.
32. Been a little more careful about drinking and driving – I never drove belligerently drunk. However, I would drive after having four or five beers over a couple hour span. If I was pulled over, I probably would have blew over the legal limit. I was probably on the edge. This is a dangerous edge to be on. I wish I hadn’t flirted with it and am thankful these decisions didn’t dramatically impact my life.
33. Thanked Grandma more – My grandmother is better than yours. I’m sorry if the truth hurts. She lived 10 minutes away from campus. I would take her my dirty clothes, and she would wash and iron them for me. She would feed me and all my friends whenever I invited us over. She was always slipping me money, junk food and Cokes (my weak spot). I thought everyone had a Grandma like that. I didn’t appreciate it at the time that my Grandma was exceptionally special. I now realize how blessed I am.
34. Learned the material better – I was an RA, on the judicial board, the president of my chapter, the president of IFC, intern at IBM and whipping boy for numerous girlfriends. I didn’t have time to learn the material in my classes as well as I should. As such, I learned it good enough to get me through the next test. I passed all my classes, but looking back I wish I remembered and knew the material better. It almost makes me feel like a fraud since I don’t know as much as I think I should.
35. Let Moo shoot the FTs – We had an intramural game. There was a technical foul, and my brother Moo wanted to shoot the free throws. I was the captain and I decided to shoot them. I don’t remember anything about that entire season and especially that game outside this memory. I will always remember when I was a dick and didn’t let the Mooster shoot those FTs. Don’t forget the big picture when you are in the heat of the moment. I wish I would have been a bigger man in that situation.
36. Written a book earlier – Everyone is an expert at something. I believe everyone should share that knowledge with others. I know a lot about fraternity leadership. What I know, I have shared in my books The Fraternity Leader and The Chapter President. I am extremely proud of the books, and I love getting a small check from the royalties once a month. I don’t know why I waited so many years after school to write.
37. Attended more fraternity conventions – I attended two conventions as an undergraduate. Both were experiences that I treasure and will never forget. I met great guys who shared the same interests and values that I do. I learned from these guys, and it made me a better leader. I wish I would have attended more conventions.
38. Done more for Devarshi and Jonboy. The three of us were joined at the hip in school. We took classes together, lived together, studied together, ate together and partied together. These two guys were and are brilliant, but were even better people. I am a better person and was better prepared to enter the real world because of the time I spent with them. I hope they realize it.
39. Not been chapter president for the second year. I was IFC president and chapter president at the same time. I couldn’t and didn’t give either job the attention they deserve. I should have chosen one and poured my heart into it.
40. Thanked my big brother more for always helping me with my piece of crap car. My big brother was a car genius, and would spend half his free time fixing my car. He never expected anything in return. He was the best big brother a fraternity guy could have.
If you are reading this far – you know me a hell of a lot better than you did a few minutes ago. It seems all my regrets stem from missing an opportunity or not letting others know how much I appreciated them. Trust me, when you are 10+ years out of school like I am, you will have wished you had stuck your neck out there a little more and taken time to thank the people that helped you.
So in summary, ask the pretty girl in your Calc class out on a date. Go to Europe. Write a book. Get in really good shape. Have epic spring breaks. Thank your folks. You want these to be the memories you treasure from college.