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Things I’ve Gotten Better at Since Coming to College

From using Excel to the speed at which I wash dishes.

From using Excel to the speed at which I wash dishes.

The transition from living at your parent’s house to becoming an adult is a tough one. I was (and often still am) so worried about my ability to do things, and I know a lot of others also struggle with this. Like, how should you know how to talk to professors if you’ve never done it before?

So, here’s a list of things I’ve learned how to do (or just gotten better at) since coming to Carleton. I hope it’s a helpful reminder that you’ll be able to thrive away from home, too.


Taking constructive (and sometimes, not so constructive) criticism and feedback.

Professors want you to improve, and they let you know what you need to do to get there. Sometimes, this means notes on your paper that say “rewrite this, because I could not follow it, and here’s why…” Disappointing, but helpful. While feedback like this used to make me spiral (if I didn’t get an A I was upset for weeks), now I understand that college is a place to learn, not a place to reaffirm that you already know everything.

Working Google (Docs, Sheets, Drive… you name it).

I am many things, but tech-savvy is not one of them. But the past three years have taught me how to do Google, yay! I used to think I had to actively work on learning how to use things like this (and get stressed because I didn’t have the time or interest to read an article about keyboard shortcuts), but turns out experience is the best teacher!

Being organized in ways that are actually helpful for me.

I have probably tried every single “get your life together” planner, and not one of them has worked! What has helped is writing down my to-do list every day on a sticky note, then throwing it away at the end of the day as long as I finished all of my to-do items. If I don’t do the things, I don’t get to remove that annoying piece of extra paper from my desk. Writing down a to-do list at the beginning of each day is also super helpful because it makes me more likely to remember what has to get done. Whatever works!

to do
Test: can you read my handwriting? (I can’t)


Washing the dishes.

The custodial staff comes to my house at 2:00 pm every Wednesday to clean, and there can’t be dishes in the sink when they come. I cannot tell you how many dishes I have speed-cleaned at 1:55… I’ve perfected the system!

Asking for help.

This is a hard one, and I’m still not great at it. I used to think I didn’t need to go to office hours because I could just figure it out on my own. As it turns out, it’s way more efficient to just ask— who woulda thought? And, even if you can figure out a problem by yourself or just don’t have any questions, getting support anyway is a great way to connect with professors and learn life lessons you didn’t think you needed.

Operating Zoom.

I entered college in 2020. Need I say more?

Not agreeing with every scholarly article I read.

The older I get, and the more that I learn at Carleton, the more I trust what I think. If an essay seems confusing, it probably is!

Walking through the snow!

I’m from the South. Needless to say, the blizzard we had last week caught me a little off guard!



There are so many other things I couldn’t include in this post! I hope you can look forward to these things, too, or maybe you already know them. Whatever it may be, I wish you well in your own “getting better at things” journey.



Ren (they/them) grew up catching salamanders, recklessly climbing trees, and running around barefoot in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town in North Carolina. They are a junior double major in Art History and Studio Art, and love spending time in the arb, Sayles Hill Campus Center, and the Weitz Center for Creativity. Ren is the co-president of Carleton’s QuestBridge chapter and works with other equity programs on campus.