How To Finish College Early: 7 Awesome Tips That Colleges Don’t Want You to Read

(Ok, that’s a little tongue in cheek. But I’ve never seen one of these lists from a university.) college graduate

College takes a long time. Most bachelor’s degrees run 4-5 years, and if you want a master’s or doctorate, plan for 6-10 years. That’s a huge chunk of time. (I realize there are shorter degrees and special programs, but these are fairly normal numbers.) In that time, a college student is likely not settled into a permanent dwelling (most live in dorms or shared apartments), probably isn’t working a career job, and may have relationships on hold (depending on distance, money, and the possibility of distraction from studies.) Of course, I am generalizing here, but bear with me.

What are the benefits of finishing early?

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Summer in the Trenches

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “Self, where has lyseofllyr been this summer? She hasn’t posted anything.” So glad you asked!
Black Balsam
That’s where I spent the summer. Well, not literally at Black Balsam Knob, but in the Blue Ridge mountains. I was counseling at a Christian camp for 10 of the most fantastic weeks of my life.

I’ve grown up attending this camp pretty much every summer since 6th grade. My dad worked there back in the 70’s. My sister worked here. You could say it’s a special place to my family. It has been life-changing for all of us.

You may wonder what’s different about Christian camp. Honestly, I don’t know, because I’ve never attended a secular camp. I can describe it to you though. We play games (intense, energetic, highly competitive ones) every day. We have lake days and hike days (to 3 major waterfalls) and tubing in a creek. We have a water slide, a zipline, rock climbing, a giant swing, archery, rifle, and slingshot ranges, soccer, basketball, volleyball, mini golf, obstacle courses, a craft shop, a game room, a coffee shop, a snack shop, and a camp store. We have skits and competitions and goofiness. We have flag raising and pledges every morning. We eat a lot.
Oh. And we have daily chapels, devotions, services, and cabin devotions. We have a Scripture memory contest. We have counselors, not just cabin leaders. Everything else we do is to enhance the Christian aspect of camp.

Why, you ask? Well, I didn’t understand it until this summer either. But now I do. Because I counseled approximately 100 girls this summer. Many of them come from broken homes, broken relationships, and otherwise unhappy lives. They cut themselves, drink, smoke, have sex, and are miserable. They don’t understand why “blank” happened to them. And I saw the peace that resulted from understanding that there is an all-powerful, loving God Who has a plan for their lives and knows their pain. I’ve seen the joy when they realize that they can have peace through circumstances they can’t control. I’ve seen change.

I understand that many people see Christianity as a hoax, a fairytale, or worse, a horrible conspiracy. I could argue with that, but, honestly, I don’t like arguing very much. I know the truth of my life and the lives of my girls this summer. I know the comfort and healing that I’ve seen come through truth.

I spent my summer loving others, giving truth, and watching girls come to peace. What did you do?

Why Read Children’s Lit? or Why “Palace of Stone” is Written for College Students

Also, long titles have a long and glorious history, so don’t judge.

Seriously though, why read children’s literature? Why does a college student check books out of the children’s section of her local library? Is this something like 30 year old men still playing video games in their parents’ basement? (No offense to that segment of my reading population, should you exist. That’s a debate for another day.)

I read children’s lit because of books like Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale. Hale is the author of many fantastic books like Princess AcademyEnna Burning, and the graphic novel Rapunzel’s RevengeI’ve been reading her stuff for ages. First off, I’m a sucker for fairy tales, particularly retold ones. Second, I’m hooked on the way she’s essentially writing her own fairy tales. I love the way she weaves stories into her books, illustrating the place of myth in humanity.

I liked Princess Academy, but Palace of Stone, the sequel, swept me away. Miri and some of her friends move to the capital city for a year, representing their province and supporting Britta, the soon-to-be princess. Miri goes to university and falls in with revolutionaries who want to overthrow the monarchy. The plot is fascinating…sort of a version of the French Revolution, mixed with romance. But what really struck a chord with me were Miri’s inner struggles. Between education and home, between revolution and her friend (the princess), and between her hometown love, a stonemason, and the revolutionary scholar she meets. The themes smacked of college, felt like deja vu. I suppose not for everyone. But choosing between my small Southern hometown and the bustling university town, between my (wonderful) blue collar boyfriend and the shiny, smooth-talking, suited college boys…well, thankfully no revolutions, yet!

Miri’s turmoil felt like mine. How do you hold onto both things that you love? *Spoilers ahead*


In the end, Miri and her friends forge a charter to appease the revolutionaries and support the monarchy. She chooses Peder over the revolutionary, and she decides that she will somehow enjoy both home and her education. I wish Shannon Hale had better explained how Miri was going to do that. I’m not so different. I have chosen the man I love, because I decided that there were so many things more important than wearing a well-cut suit. I chose to move (semi-permanently) to the university town that I’m coming to love. I’m still thankful the revolution hasn’t yet appeared. But Hale well captured those feelings of confusion and uncertainty. Of learning so many things out of books, but not knowing how to apply them in real life. What good is literature and philosophy and history if it doesn’t help me live today? There’s no point in studying logic and rhetoric if it doesn’t help you craft a charter that will end a revolution. And there’s no point in me learning how to understand other people’s points of view if I refuse to apply that knowledge to understanding and loving my family.

That’s why I read children’s literature. Because sometimes it’s not written to the 5th grader who can get 10 AR points for that book (the spine tells me this is the case). Sometimes it’s written to a confused college student who comes to the children’s section of the library for wisdom in fairy tales.

Missing Poetry in the Sun

Today, if I were home, I would have coaxed my little sister outside. We would have toted food and books onto the sunny grass, sternly warned our puppy dog away from our lunch, and laid out in the sun as long as it took our parents to realize we should be doing school. For the two springs that we knew about national poetry month, we used it as a good excuse to spend our lunch breaks outside, leisurely eating, talking, and reading poems. We sampled from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems and selections of Frost and Keats. Just last week I read “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams for a class – Mr. Keillor introduced me to that one. In my Creative Writing class, we’re finishing up a unit on poetry. Our reading included two chapters of poems….it was a joy to immerse myself the images, sounds, and deep thoughts. In the course of the last few weeks I’ve read authors from T. S Eliot to Langston Hughes and back again (yes, even some Tolkien). But I didn’t get to read them outside, on the grass, soaking up the sun, laughing at my little sister, and throwing food to my dog. College has its drawbacks.

What you should take from my rambling is that I’m happy for spring, I miss my little sister, and I appreciate poetry. There, I rolled all the relevant holidays into one incoherently college-fogged post. Aren’t you impressed?



Lyse Likes

First full week of the semester = finished! However, it also means I don’t have the endurance for a long, coherent post. Instead, I’m just going to share a myriad of things I have enjoyed recently.

The Iliad ~ The Frozen soundtrack (particularly applicable in below freezing weather here in the South!) ~ French ~ extra credit ~ surprise raccoons ~ quirky professors ~ chocolate ~ Thomas (his posts make me think and always strike some cord of connection) ~ yoga ~ friends who aren’t afraid to challenge me ~ short stories ~ my bed ~ scholastic bowl :D ~ jobs ~ overachievers ~ Wikipedia ~ packages (even if they’re just text books) ~ Orion

Drive-Thru for Dummies

Through a rigorous process of scientific research, I have concluded that the majority of Americans have no idea how to appropriately place an order in a fast-food drive-thru. For your convenience and education, here are some fool-proof tips.

1. If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant’s menu or you don’t know what you want, go inside. Do not sit at the drive-thru sign for 5 minutes asking the employee about every option. While working drive-thru this summer, I calculated that taking longer than 1 minute to order during rush hour will slow us down.

2. Do not leave 3 car lengths between your car and the next. Don’t even leave 3 feet. The drive-thru I worked in was easily congested and often backed up traffic on the street. Those few feet are important.

3. Speak rapidly. I can take your order literally faster than you speak. I’m not suggesting that you go auctioneer on me, but don’t make me pull teeth for your order. A particularly annoying example:

Me: Welcome to blah blah how may I serve you?

Customer: I’d like a #1.


Me: Ok, what would you like to drink with that?

Customer: A coke.


Me: Is there anything else I can get for you?

Customer: A #5.


Me: Would you like the #5 8 or 12 count?

Customer: 8.


Me: And what would you like to drink with that?

Customer: Sweet tea.


Me: Ok, will that be all for you?

Customer: Kid’s meal, nuggets.

And so on…..(scientific, I’m telling you. I don’t make these things up.)

4. Don’t be rude. Honestly, why is this so difficult? I’m not being rude. I’m paid to be nice to you, yes, but minimum wage is a pretty low incentive for not spitting in your food. A lot of fast food workers are hard-working high school or college students. There is no reason to take your stress out on them.

5. Stop talking on your cell phone. Put it down. Turn it off. You are being incredibly rude, slowing down the line, and generally making me want to hit you. Your conversation is likely not so important that you can’t ask them for a moment to order your food and talk to the cashier.

6. Tell your passengers to be quiet. I understand that if your passenger is a screaming two year old, there is little you can do. But if you’re driving a car full of teens and you are all too busy laughing at each other to reasonably converse with me, I will also want to punch you in the face.

7. Don’t make fun of the order taker or cashier, especially if they’re trying to be nice. I try to be particularly upbeat and friendly on headset, and I have had people mock my voice. Bad idea. Also, see #4. 

8. Listen when we repeat your order. If your order was read back to you twice and then you get it and complain that you wanted the large, not the small, I will have no sympathy. We will give it to you, of course, because you’re always right, but we will complain about it as soon as you leave.

9. Don’t ask for unreasonable things and then complain about waiting. It’s fast food, not instant food. We don’t keep gallons of sweet tea on hand, so we’ll have to pour that for you by hand. We also don’t keep hundreds of nuggets on hand, so that tray will be a few minutes. Or call ahead…and it will be ready when you show up.

10. Turn off your diesel truck. It’s too loud for me to hear your order, and it’s probably making me deaf. Turn it off.

All of those are common drive-thru problems. If you are guilty, we forgive. Just get it right next time, and tell all your friends. Other drive-thru workers, feel free to add to these tips in the comments or share war stories. I genuinely love working all drive-thru positions, but it has its fair share of frustrating moments.

Unexpected Bliss

In 3rd grade, my family moved to a new homeschool group. It wasn’t very big, but there was one family with two boys who were close to my age. One was a year and a half older than me, the other a year younger. Slowly but surely, our families became closer and closer. We went on field trips together. Had art classes together. Played tennis together. They joined our church. At some point, inevitably, I developed a crush on the older boy.

That was pointless. He was always too nice for me to get a clue, but he was oblivious to my interest (obligatory aside about boys being oblivious…). Until I was about 16, I held onto my crush, even through other boyfriends. Then he got his first girlfriend. I was devastated. For two years, I barely spoke to him. I dated other people. He dated other people. Life went on.

Eventually, I grew up. I moved past my crushed adolescent heart. I missed his friendship and I regretted letting it slip. One day, out of the blue, I started talking to him. It began with Facebook chats every once in awhile. In the beginning, I initiated and carried the conversations. He was friendly enough, but not pursuing. I was not impressed with where he was in his life at that point, so I was completely uninterested in dating, but I did think he needed a friend. We both did. Over a period of 3-4 months, we began chatting on a daily basis. We exchanged opinions on books, music, politics, religion, news, society, anything we could think of. And we agreed on everything. Literally. Everything we could think of, we agreed about. Our chats turned into daily, multi-hour events. Finally, we acknowledged that we should probably at least consider dating.

That was the summer before I left for college. From any view, that is a horrible time to begin a dating relationship, especially since I attend college 6 hours away from home. But we did it anyway. Eyes open to the potential difficulties, we started dating that summer, but didn’t make it official with our families until mid-fall.

Years removed from my childhood crush, I’ve now spent a year and a half dating the man I idolized as a teenager. I am now a woman and an equal with him, more than capable of holding my own intellectually and emotionally. In a surreal twist, I am blissfully happy with a guy I wrote off years ago.

My friends are almost all single, so I hear my fair share of dating angst. I never mind listening to them, but I don’t have advice for them. I didn’t go through the normal awkwardness at the beginning of a relationship – it was one smooth step from friends to dating. We talk about everything and always have. There is no uncertainty, no confusion, no nerves over making a good impression. We are, and always have been, completely ourselves with each other, mostly because we had no reason to impress each other.

In two days, I am leaving him again, living 6 hours away for the next 4 months. I try to call him every night, but he is sadly used to me texting him that I am working late, I have homework, can I call him the next day, etc. He is infinitely patient with my schedule and incredibly supportive of my education. I find myself absolutely blown away – that I am so blessed, that I found such an amazing man, that our relationship developed so smoothly.

There are million love stories in the world, so why am I sharing mine? Because my heart is full of it. Because it amazes me. This is the closest I can come to shouting my love from the rooftops. So that people know there are still happy endings. Because it is a story to share. What is your story? Stories are to share…they connect everyone across the world, across history.