I graduate from college two weeks from tomorrow. GRADUATE. FROM COLLEGE. It feels like I blinked and suddenly four years went by. I can’t believe it’s almost over.
An Open Letter to the Graduating Class of 2018
It is with great pride that I am writing to you today. Like you, I am also a member of the Class of 2014 — the college class, that is. I graduated from high school and stood in your very shoes just four short years ago. Since then, I have learned some things, and I would like to instill in you some of those life lessons. Please learn from my mistakes and read on for advice.
- Save your money. Better yet, get a job AND save your money. For the love of God, just SAVE YOUR MONEY. Work as much as you can and save it all. I have been gainfully employed since the day I moved into my dorm freshman year, and I truly don’t know what I would have done without that source of income. There will be days in college where your checking account balance is painfully, frighteningly low. “Low,” as in $1.38 until next Friday… and it’s Monday. I have worked multiple jobs throughout college, only to find myself in that situation more than once. If you have a meal plan, don’t go out to eat three times a week. If you have perfectly good clothes, don’t go out and buy more (they won’t fit into your dorm room closet anyway).
- Don’t skip class. Seriously. Don’t do it. You might think you can make it three weeks without attending your twice-weekly lecture on North American geography. “Oh, I’ll just read the lecture slides,” you say. Nope. You won’t do it. And then you’ll fail the test. The fact that professors [usually] don’t take attendance makes college seem like a glorious land of freedom, but the only person you’re hurting by skipping class is yourself. I ended up failing an entire semester because I never went to class, never learned the material, never turned in homework, and never passed the tests. Sleeping in is a slippery slope.
- Be careful about “risky behaviors.” Sleeping with every guy in the dorm next door is not only dangerous (STDs and unplanned pregnancies, hello!), and it also won’t make you many friends. If drugs are your thing, you should be careful about carrying them on your person, buying from people you don’t know, smoking/doing drugs in/around the dorms, or displaying paraphernalia in your residence. Getting wasted on booze is fun in theory, but there will be many mornings filled with regret when you remember what you did the night before. Here are some things that happen when you black out: you pee your pants, you throw up in places you shouldn’t be (beds, on shoes, etc.), you start fights and/or arguments, you get lost, you get abducted, you lose your phone, you lose your wallet, you get arrested. Be careful and be smart.
- Do what you love! Join a club, continue playing a sport that you’re good at, go Greek, do service work! Getting involved on campus is an excellent way to make friends, especially if you attend a very large school. It will also look great on your resume. (Everything you do in college should be something that pads your resume.) Be warned: when you attend the student life fair and put your email on every club’s email list, you will get messages from them for the next four years… regardless of the number of times you respond with “please take me off this list.”
- Remember that high school (sadly) is over. Don’t wear your letter jacket to class (people WILL make fun of you), don’t try to brag about your high school accomplishments (state football champs! debate team captain!), and don’t socialize solely with people you know from high school. I had an amazing time in high school and still wish I could go back. But you have to live in the present, and keep your memories to yourself. Sometimes things work out in funny ways: senior year, I ended up living with someone I had known since middle school, even though we didn’t socialize together in college.
- Don’t be afraid to change. You might take a job or internship that leads you down a different path than the one you started on. But be smart about it: make sure you have enough time to complete the major requirements. (Switching majors as a junior is generally not advised!) As a high schooler, I had excelled in honors and AP classes and told people for years that I wanted to be a doctor. Freshman year of college, I failed two chemistry courses and two math classes and was devastated, realizing that my doctor dream had died. I took an internship with a marketing firm at the end of freshman year and ended up officially changing my major to advertising a year later.
- Make the most of it. As a freshman, it seems like the next four years will last an entire lifetime. I promise that they won’t. By the time your Senior Spring rolls around, you’ll have more memories than you know what to do with. You also will be very focused on surviving until graduation… so take the first seven semesters to do as much as you can and soak it all up. These are the days you’ll be telling your kids about in 30 years — act accordingly.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and I hope you don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Let me know if you have any questions.