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Dear College Senior: You Don't Have to Have Everything Figured OutElizabeth Spencer
Pretty soon you are going to be off to college. I know you're excited to “live on your own,” as you put it. I also know that means going to bed, getting up and eating whatever and whenever you want without my comment or interference.
I get it. I'm excited for you, too. It will be an amazing experience, one that you'll cherish the rest of your life.
Yes, high school was cool, fun — well, except for all those assignments and tests. But college? It’s cool on a whole other level. Like “figuring out what you want to do with your life” cool. You have to take advantage of the experience, though. That’s why I decided to share some advice. I won’t promise it's the only advice I'll give you (I teach first-year college students, so you will get lots of it), but it's what I want to share with you before the fall semester gets started.
So, here it goes.
I know you'll want to find the easiest courses with the most laid-back professors. Sure, take a few if you must. But also look for classes that actually help you learn and push you beyond your comfort zone. Those are the classes you will remember.
I'll be thrilled if you earn good grades, but I'm more interested in you looking beyond the grades to what they can tell you about what to do next time. Low grade on the first assignment? Use it to make changes to what you do next time.
Whatever you decide to major in, be sure you take classes in how the world works. I want you to have a working knowledge of history, government, society and critical thinking.
You will meet and work with people from all backgrounds and experiences. Stretch yourself to get to know them and learn from their perspectives.
People are going to give you all kinds of advice about what you should major in and what career path is best for you. Some will just tell you that you're making a mistake or that you “need to” do this or that. Ignore anything that doesn’t seem right for you.
Don’t ride it out. I won’t be there to put my hand on your forehead or listen to your cough. This is always important, not just during a pandemic. Take charge of your health.
You'll be living in close proximity to strangers. Think about the noise you make and the smells you emit. No one enjoys asking someone to be quieter or smell better, so don’t make them do that to you.
No one likes a slob. You know how to wash your clothes and push a mop. You can continue to do those things even when you don’t live at home.
It doesn’t matter your intent if the impact of your words or actions hurt others.
These are the hard-working individuals who clean your residence hall, cook and serve you food, keep your campus safe. Get to know them; greet them by name. There a lot of people taking care of you now. Respect them by making their jobs easier, not harder. And show some gratitude.
Or more by the time you graduate. Your professors will be important teachers, allies and friends.
Or sound like you, act like you, think like you.
Preferably more than one book, but start with at least one. Reading on your phone doesn’t count.
Preferably a large wall calendar so you can see the whole semester at once. You may know how to manage your time each week, but you have not yet learned how to view a semester at a glance.
As hard as it sounds, be upfront and honest in your communications with others. If your roommate’s dirty underwear on the floor bothers you, tell him.
You won’t get this opportunity to save money based on age until you're retired. There's an advantage to being a poor college student!
Truly listen to what their heart is saying. Also listen if they are giving you directions or help with something.
Question authority, rules and policies when necessary. There may be a better way and your inquisitiveness may help spark positive change.
That goes for anything. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Don’t drink too many energy drinks.
You know right from wrong and you know when something doesn’t feel right.
The syllabus is the roadmap of the course and contains everything you need and want to know about a course. Consult it frequently.
Get out of your comfort zone (also known as your dorm room) and visit a new place, even if that place is down the block from the university. When you get the opportunities, travel beyond campus.
You will read, hear, see and learn about all kinds of values and beliefs. Start forging your own convictions.
A lot of life is adopting a confidence (not arrogance) about our abilities. Believing you can do something is the first step.
No one gets through college without it.
Don’t be one of those people who disappears when there is group work to be done. And don’t “out” or get angry at others who don’t pull their weight.
Go to class even if you are bored or if you have “something better to do.” Don’t fool yourself that there is something more important than class and steal class time for a task or activity you should have made time to do.
It is the foundation of health.
Your university will provide all kinds of events and experiences for you. Take advantage of them and try new things.
This goes for everything in life. When you know how to study better for your biology class, then do it. When you realize your friend doesn’t like it when you ignore his invitations, then do something about it.
They are going to need it.
You may discover a strength or an interest you didn’t know you had.
Look for opportunities to learn something, anything, about yourself and the world around you. Any job, event or course could give you invaluable information.
No one likes a flake. Be consistent. And if you can’t deliver on a promise, communicate immediately.
Let someone know if you feel you can’t work something out on your own. When we tell you to be an adult and learn to take care of yourself, we don't mean that you have to do it all.
College is not made for sitting on the sidelines. Or in your bed playing video games.
It is your right, and a rite of passage, to believe the world could be better. Explore crazy ideas such as reversing climate change. You are far too young — and will live way too long — to be cynical and feel hopeless at 18 years old.
Be a good steward of others. Always do the right thing.
Now's the time to figure out if you truly like leading a group or contributing to the community.
I know what you're thinking: "I don’t have any money." That may be true, but the little that you have from working all summer needs to last the whole year.
I have made lots of apologies to people whom I judged too quickly. I have never regretted being kind to someone.
Maybe I should have started with that one.
It’s time to celebrate with the perfect gift for your new grad!