Enrolling in a college or university means more than simply taking classes and graduating with a degree. Yes, flipping that tassel from one side of your cap to the other and strolling off campus, diploma in hand, is certainly one of the goals (and highlights) of your college career—but there’s so much more that you can take with you.

While college is most certainly a place of growing academically, it’s also a place where you can develop emotionally, spiritually, and socially. If you’re on the front end of choosing a place to attend school or even if you’re already partway through your college years, consider the following elements you can gain from college and what they could mean for the rest of your life.

1. Lifelong friendships

When you head off to college, something spectacular happens…you’re able to start fresh! Whatever your mode of operation was in high school, you can wipe the slate clean. Not only do you have an increased sense of independence now that you’re living on your own at school, but many college students find a renewed sense of living life as, well, themselves!

By pursuing your own truest passions, you might find that meeting like-minded friends comes a little bit easier than it did in high school. It helps that you probably have a wider pool of individuals to choose from as well! Coupled with that your increased independence, you might find yourself depending more on friendships, which can, in turn, increase how close you are with your companions.

A unique element to attending a Christian college or getting involved with a faith-based group at a university is that your friendships will more than likely be taken to even deeper level. When you’re wading through the tough parts of life together and studying and seeking Christ in a community, it’s hard not to be bonded more deeply with your friends. That sort of foundation can set the stage for lifelong friendships.

2. Emotional and spiritual maturity

Depending on the school you choose, emotional and spiritual maturity are two areas you might find blossoming in college. The people you surround yourself with can really make an impact on how you view life and how you mature over the course of those four years in school.

Consider finding a mentor while you’re in college. This could look like meeting with a professor, a student-life staff member, or even a fellow college student who is several years ahead of you. Think about getting involved with a Bible study through your church or a campus group, or pursue joining some sort of ministry through your college. As you consider where you want to attend college while in high school, take into account the ways you want to grow in your faith and who you want to be as an adult. Look at the people you know who have graduated from the colleges you are thinking of attending. Do you hope to have a life that looks like theirs? Do you appreciate their maturity and wise choices they make?

While choosing a school based on academics is certainly important, it’s a good idea to consider these elements as well.

3. Connections

Once you’ve got that degree in hand, it’s time to get a job! Knowing the right people can be an extremely helpful aspect of securing the right position. Even though you may not be aware of it at the time, the people you meet while in college count as connections even after you’ve graduated. College contacts can help you land the job of your dreams, and you might make a lot of great associations with people you meet through college-based programs, like an internship or even your campus job.

Even if you’re convinced that you’ve made all the friends you’re ever going to have in college, don’t shy away from meeting new people. The Lord might have a new friendship in mind for you, and even if you don’t necessarily click on a personal level, there’s nothing saying that relationship might not be beneficial in the future as you reach out to your network for job leads, recommendations, or connections. Be willing to reach out and try and keep in contact with your network, even as graduate.