Anyone who's ever watched Parks and Recreation knows that there are many lessons to be learned from its endlessly entertaining and lovable cast of "casual work acquaintances" turned best friends. Many of these lessons can be applied directly to college students, and I can thank Leslie, Ron, and the rest of the gang for helping me live my best life at school.
1. Don't Accept Failure
The first two semesters of college have proven to be stressful, and hard for sure. I'm sure there have been times when everyone has a particularly rough day and thinks, "there's no way I'm going to be able to pass this class", or "theres's no way that I'm good enough to be in this organization/sports team/show/etc." But take it from Tom Haverford, one failed test or botched audition or tryout doesn't mean anything. Over the course of the series, Tom had many failed business ventures, from "Entertainment 720" to "Rent-A-Swag" and many schemes in between. But he took them all as learning experiences, and by the series finale, was a successful businessman and motivational speaker. If that's not motivation to keep trying until you succeed, I don't know what is!
2. Don't Change what You Like for Anyone Else
College is intimidating. I'll be the first one to admit that. There's a lot of pressure to find a group of friends as soon as you get there, for fear of being socially ostracized entirely if you don't do so. This may lead some people to lie about themselves to find a group to fit into. Trust me: this is a bad idea. Even if you are a "nerd", there's definitely a group of friends out there that like the same things you do, and it's much better to put yourself out there and meet new people until you find the friends that are really right for you, than to change who you are to fit in with "cool kids". You'll find people who put up with and love your quirks just as much as everyone loves Ben Wyatt and his endless math jokes and Star Wars references.
3. STAY CALM
Leslie Knope is one of the most highly motivated, but also one of the most high strung and stressed characters to ever be on TV. And even she knows that the best thing to do in the midst of a life filled with chaotic and stressful days is to take a step back to refocus and destress. When things feel overwhelming, try to look at the big picture. The things stressing you out in the moment are probably not that important in the grand scheme of things. When this happens, the best thing to do is refocus on your long term goals, and take a deep breath to calm yourself down.
4. Make Sure You Give Yourself Time To Have Fun
Making sure you keep your grades up should always be one of your top priorities, but that doesn't mean that you should focus on just work and nothing else. If your college experience is nothing but stressful, then you're probably doing something wrong, to be honest. Find time during the week or put aside a day to study and do homework, so that you can save Friday and Saturday night for dressing up and going out to a party with your friends. Or, "balling", as Tom Haverford would put it.
5. Give 110%
Overall, this is just one of the best pieces of advice you could give or take. Whether you're talking about classwork, clubs, jobs, or relationships, as long as you know you're putting as much effort into them as you possibly can, there's nothing for you to ever feel like you could have done differently. This advice feels especially effective when coming from Andy Dwyer, because even though he didn't always have the most to give, he gave everything he worked on all that he could, and that allowed him to build a life that he loved for himself and his friends and family.
6. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously
Whenever Ron Swanson or Leslie Knope gave April Ludgate a task to complete, they could be totally confident that April would come through and do exactly what they wanted, but they also knew that it wouldn't get done without at least a few jokes made on April's part. She always knew what she needed to do, but was never worried about making a fool of herself or letting her weird personality shine through when interacting with other people professionally. Sometimes you just have to joke your way through things, because that's how you find the fun in your life and work.
7. TREAT YO' SELF
"Treat yo Self", has undoubtably become the most recognizable reference from Parks and Recreation, and with good reason. It seems as if people had become a little to invested in self discipline, and many people feel as if they don't deserve to buy themselves new clothes or eat what they want to. This mentality can sometimes be prevalent in college, because everyone is trying to become "good adults", and sometimes it seems like that can't happen if we spend money on thing we don't necessarily need. But as long as there isn't any reckless spending going on, it's definitely a good thing to take a page out of Donna and Tom's book and take a trip to the mall every once in a while and not care about what's on the price tag, or give yourself a spa day to relax and make your body and mind a little happier.
8. Tell Your Friends You Love Them
Sometimes it's really hard to tell people how you feel, but let's be honest, there's probably nothing better than getting a random text from one of your best friends just letting you know they love and appreciate you. Friends made in college tend to become really close, really fast, because you spend so much time together, and are going through many of the same experiences at the same time. If you ever notice one of your friends having a tough day, just make sure they know that you "like them and love them". Believe me, they'll thank you for it.
9. Stand Up for What you Believe In
If there's one thing to be learned from Ron Swanson, it's how to not let other people push you around. Ron is nothing if not dead set in his beliefs, and no matter how much things may change around him over the years, he will never let another person sway him on his belief system, be it regarding politics, technology, or breakfast foods. College is a time where everyone is trying to solidify their own system of beliefs, and it's important to not let anyone else get in the way of those things.
10. Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams
Leslie Knope is the picture perfect example of a hopeless romantic, a reckless optimist, and an all around dreamer. She believed that some day she would find someone who would love her for her, even after many failed relationships, and then she found Ben Wyatt. She believed that she could win the City Council position even after being in last place for a majority of the campaign, and then she won by 21 votes. She knew that she could be successful even after being recalled from the City Council seat that she had worked towards holding for her whole career, and then went on to run a branch of the National Parks Service, become governor of her great state of Indiana, and potentially the President of the United States. Even though faced with innumerable challenges, Leslie never lost sight of that dream of someday being a strong, kickass woman, who just happened to work in the Oval Office. All throughout college, but especially in the first year, you will doubt yourself. You will fear that the dreams you're chasing from your campus are way too big to ever come close to being achieved. But just like Leslie, close your eyes, and see what you're really dreaming of. And don't stop until you can open your eyes and see the same thing.
lead image credit: eonline.com