Advice to My Younger Self (From a Recent College Grad)
People say that hindsight is 20/20, and there is never a more appropriate time for that cliché than your college graduation.
As I donned my cap and gown on commencement day just a few weeks back, it felt like my four years had ended abruptly. Up until the day of my graduation, it had never occurred to me that my time on campus was coming to a close, that there was no more time, that everything that would happen during my “college years” had happened. There were so many things I felt I had done right, things I was certain I had done wrong, and only when faced with my inevitable graduation, did I realize what had gone right, and what I had done strikingly, horribly “wrong”.
Here I offer your some words of wisdom, I would have given myself before starting freshman year:
1. College is the best time to find out who you are, what you like, and what you want to do. But it’s also the time in which you are most impressionable. So be careful.
I am not going to say the college is the best four years of your life. Partly, because I haven’t experienced much else, but mostly because I would personally be very scared of the real world if that were true. But college is unique. And it is special. You have so few responsibilities, you get to choose your classes, choose your extracurriculars, choose your friends (who all live like…100 yards away from you). You can study abroad, learn a language, try intramurals, volunteer. The whole world is your goddamn oyster, and when I was a freshman I was entirely too preoccupied with what other people were doing, what classes they were taking, where they would go on Saturday nights. I wore the clothes my roommates were wearing even if I didn’t like them. Eventually I found my vibe, my scene, and some semblance of self. I’m not sure this period of confusion and transition is entirely avoidable, but be aware it’s happening. Maybe it’ll help you find your path sooner. If I had been as sure of myself freshman year as I am right now, I could have experienced so much more. But maybe it’s an essential part of the process.
2. FOMO is real….to a certain extent.
When I was a freshman I had this weird fear that if I missed a night out, I would be missing the GREATEST night out of the school year. This is NOT TRUE. As negative as this sounds, going out is fun, but a given night out is not all too different from all your other nights out. And if you didn’t want to go out in the first place, you probably won’t have as much fun as you hope. Everyone needs a Netflix night every once in a while (or even more often). So don’t miss the big things (if they matter to you), but veg if you want to veg, rage if you want to rage. That is your prerogative. I did not understand that this was my decision until halfway through junior year.
3. You’ll do some things you wish you hadn’t. That’s totally fine.
Every decision seems like a good decision at the time. Like that last drink. Or that last text. Or that last slice of pizza. And then immediately after you admit that you were wrong. That’s totally okay. Every decision you made, made you into the human you are on graduation day. If college was easy, if it wasn’t a land-mine of potentially amazing and regrettable decisions alike, then it wouldn’t be so formative. You would walk out of college exactly the same as you had entered. So embrace it, and live a bit recklessly. It’s so fun, so exciting, and sometimes scary and often stressful. But on commencement day, you will feel strong, and your mistakes will feel small.