The 5 Best Habits You Picked Up in College (and the Single Worst)

The 5 Best Habits You Picked Up in College (and the Single Worst)

Whether it’s been six years or a mere four months since graduation, most of us remember our college days fondly. Regardless of how you spent them, what your major was, or how you put that degree to use (if at all), we can all agree that we developed some beneficial traits during our stints in academia.

During your first days on campus, you’re consumed with finding classes, making friends, buying the right books, and avoiding the cafeteria food. You give little thought to practical matters until, suddenly, you realize you’ve got to make it on your own without parents to hassle you or do your laundry. College forced you to form essential habits, the approaches you needed to thrive in school and the world at large.

Here’s a refresher on some of those foolproof habits and ways to nail them in your post-collegiate life.


Ever notice that some people seem to have more hours in their day? Well, they don’t. But they are better at accounting for their time than most. Remember that planner you carried in college? It’s a simple solution to navigating the time crunch, and it still works. Invest in one now…and use it.

Block off time for your projects, classes, research, breaks, and of course, sleep. When you can see your to-do list in front of you and physically check off completed tasks, you create a visual map that holds you more accountable for your time. Mastering this skill early will help you reap the benefits later when you tackle senior-level jobs with more responsibilities.


Think those twenty-page research papers were just an annoying waste of time? Think again. Research skills come in handy in countless ways. Consider job hunting. Once you land an interview, potential employers expect you’ve done your homework and you’ll be able to discuss the company and role based on what you’ve found. Developing good research skills takes time, but you’ll get better at it as you go along so stick with it.


College was all about meeting strangers, getting to know them, and converting them into friends. You may find the idea of networking foreign, but remind yourself you’ve already mastered it. Get back to the basics. A smile goes a long way! Take advantage of events, get involved with organizations that interest you (remember joining the radio station?), and introduce yourself to anyone you meet. Joining professional organizations like Levo League and Talentedly can also help you make connections.


We all remember those dreaded oral projects our professors assigned (tell me I’m wasn’t alone in feeling anxious?). There’s even a term for the fear of public speaking: glossophobia. But conquering your fear of public speaking is one of the single best achievements you can reach in your career. If you aren’t comfortable standing in front of a crowd—practice…practice…practice. Or if you need more guidance, consider joining your local Toastmasters chapter. This will help you if you need to present work to your team or boss, but also when you’re on the job hunt. Whether you’re interviewing with one person directly or sitting down for a group interview, confidence and eloquence are some of the skills employers value most.


College teaches you to hold yourself accountable. For most of your formative years, you were under your parents’ roof and they kept you in check. When you go away to school, it’s the first time you’re responsible for things like doing laundry, grocery shopping, and meal planning (on top of all those reading assignments). Learning accountability serves you well as you embark on a career and assume responsibility for projects or clients with competing deadlines.


You know all these wonderful attributes we’ve just discussed like accountability and time management? They go out the window when you procrastinate. For many of us, pulling late- or all-nighters is our go to solution. Try as you might, procrastination is an easy habit to fall into and an infuriatingly hard one to break.

So how do you escape procrastination’s grip? For starters, tackle priority items at the beginning of the day while your mind is fresh. If you wait until you are tired and bombarded with other assignments you will never get around to them. For big projects, the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed (and thus more likely to put it off) is to break them down into smaller tasks. Check off each task as you go to remind yourself how much progress you’re making.


College was a crucial time for your professional development. Whether you learned these habits during your four years or are still trying to perfect them, remember that there’s no time limit. They’re skills you can hone as you progress in your career.

What’s the worst habit you picked up in college? How did you break it?

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This post was written by me and originally published on Career Contessa.
Photography by Tonhya Kae



  1. This is so spot on! Public speaking is the bane of my existence…and I majored in Communications :/ So no you’re not the only one that got anxious for oral projects!

    And what you said about lists….yes yes yes. I love lists. Sometimes I don’t think I would ever get big projects done if I didn’t break it down into a list of smaller tasks. There’s just something about crossing a thing off my list that empowers me and pushes me to keep going!

    1. I still struggle with procrastination, Rachel! Even though I’m more conscious of it now, I still have those days where scrolling through social media when I have a million things to do just seems like a better idea.

  2. Good tips! The worst habit I picked up in college was procrastinating, unfortunately. I always felt like there was somehting more fun going on than writing a paper! Still working on it 😉

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