Look. I don’t have this whole “life” thing figured out. I don’t really even have this “college” thing figured out. But if there was anything I wish someone had told me about my first two years away at school, it would be this:
- Change your major to whatever makes you happy. Seriously. (Warning: This is harder than they tell you.)
- Don’t treat college as a “career prep” program, where you need to network 24/7. Learn how to think here. Learn how to learn here, because those skills will be immensely valuable.
- Find out if a boy’s brain is just as attractive as his face/arms/smile/eyes/muscles. (If you’re into girls, find out the same things.)
- Know that you can reserve the right at any time to say “no.” No to plans, no to drinking, no to sex, no to kissing, no to a sketchy walk home. No to healthy eating habits, no to exercise, no to positivity. Your “no” holds more power now.
- Spending a Friday night watching Netflix doesn’t make you a loser.
- Spending a Thursday night out at frat houses doesn’t make you a skank, either.
- Discuss life and art and beauty and science and poetry. Find friends who talk about things and ideas and events and places, not people. Talk. Debate. Think!
- You will bring your laptop to class. And you will be on Facebook. You don’t even like Facebook. But you’ll do it. Because you haven’t learned the art of *ignoring the Internet* yet while in lecture.
- Dress to make yourself feel comfortable. If you hate sweatpants in public, don’t wear them. If you love them, throw ’em on.
- Seek people who are different from you because you will learn something from them; something that cannot be learned in a classroom.
- GO TO OFFICE HOURS. You’ll make their day just by stopping to say hello.
- You can disagree with professors. They’re not gods. They actually like being argued with (the good ones, anyway).
- Take one class that happens to count for a gen-ed, or a minor, or towards your major requirement that seems totally interesting and “I can’t believe this actually counts, sweet” because those classes are very important to your holistic development.
- If someone disagrees with you, shut up and listen. Maybe you’ll learn something. And if you don’t? You have more time to formulate your argument.
- If you don’t like the hook-up culture, don’t buy into it. Make a guy take you on a real, decent, dinner-and-a-movie date. Keep your standards as high as Mount Everest. You’ll find someone who reaches them.
- You may meet your soulmate in college. But your soulmate is still only one half of you. Don’t forget about yourself. A relationship you’ve spend hours agonizing over will mean nothing if it leaves you empty at the end. Learn from every person to whom you give your heart.
- If you act like a child, you will be treated like a child.
- Send handwritten letters to your friends from home. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox to see a letter from a familiar name. Send care packages if you can, too.
- Try to get paid for what you love doing. Lots of people will take jobs as waitresses and camp counselors but if you can find a job that will actually count for your major (not an internship but a job job) it will teach you about your potential career early, and what you do/don’t want in a real job.
- Be grateful for every single class, every lecture, every hour spent in a library. Higher education is still a luxury in America with a high price tag, as I’m sure you’ll find out. Be ever so grateful. Use it wisely.
- Everyone else feels like they’re pretending at being a grown-up, too. We’re all a bit scared.
- Don’t let the haters bring you down.
- Find the people who love what you love.
- Get help early. Ask questions. Be annoying to your TAs. Ask, ask, ask because they will not be checking up on you to make sure you understand. Email. Send a carrier pigeon. Act desperately. It’s better than flunking a class you’ll have to pay to take again.
- There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist because of stress or friends or family issues. It feels good. Trust me.
- It’s okay to have only two or so close friends. It’s better than having thirty kind-of-sort-of-maybe friends.
- Take care of yourself. Get as much sleep as you’re able. Feed yourself wholesome food. Love yourself. It’s so much harder than it looks, and everyone else seems to be better at it, but when you start, it’ll be like you can’t stop. Give yourself rest, give yourself a break. Take a mental health day if you need to. Always take care of yourself. You are so, so important.
- These won’t be the “best four years of your life.” If they are, you have this whole adulthood thing figured out wrong. This is just the beginning.
I know it seems scary right now. And overwhelming, and exciting, and terrifying. You’re caught between wanting to hide in your dorm room all the time because it’s the first familiar place on campus, and being out there in the thrill of it all, doing things, counting down the days until you don’t feel so shiny and new.
It’ll come. It’ll happen. And soon you’ll be a junior in college, a former RA, who taught a class and worked at a tech startup, got crazy drunk on mango-flavored rum once and drunk-texted her boyfriend, met a great boy, cried on the phone to her best friend at 2AM and screamed “vagina” in the middle of campus in winter to raise money to end domestic violence and rape. I finally learned what “feminism” really was, lost friends, gained friends, gained weight, lost weight. I have been both badass and had anxiety attacks, stayed up all night exactly (and only) once; I miss my graduated friends dearly and am currently doing informal research on a topic I didn’t think I’d fall in love with…
And you realize how quickly time flies.
You’re going to figure this out. I promise.
So I’m leaving every new college freshman with this:
“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.”
― Tyler Knott Gregson