As the first half of my senior year comes to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting quite a bit on my college experience. I can’t deny that there is a panic that’s setting in. With only one semester standing between me and the rest of my life, I find myself holding on to what’s familiar. There’s a part of me that’s ready to graduate, of course. I know that no matter what I choose to go on to next will be a crazy and wonderful adventure. But there’s a part of me that is admittedly so sad to graduate. I love being a university student. The people I’ve met, the classes I take, being a part of this incredible community… I don’t want to leave it behind.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that college are the best years of your life. I don’t want to fully accept this as a mantra, because I think there’s still some really great years to come. But college has been a whirlwind if nothing else. There have been a lot of incredible highs, and with those have come some lows. And as the end nears, I find myself looking back at what I would change. What I would do differently. What it all meant.
Though it was a roller coaster, I don’t know if I could say I’d change any of it. I do think that certain things happen for a reason, even if that reason is simply to teach you a lesson, or help you understand yourself better over time. But even if I wouldn’t change anything, there are things I’ve learned – inside the classroom and out – that I would pass on to my younger self.
Work hard, play hard.
Your education is always a priority. Never neglect your classes or let your focus slip, because ultimately, this is why you’re here. Take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given. Immerse yourself in classes that you find interesting and apply yourself, and with an open mind, you realize that possessing the opportunity to learn and being surrounded by so much wisdom is a really humbling and exciting experience.
But don’t forget to enjoy your time as well. For the work that you put in, make sure to spend time taking in the experience. Years from now, you may not remember that one homework assignment you missed or the test you didn’t do as well as you hoped on, but you will remember your best friends. You will remember that guy or that girl that you met at the party you went to that night who became someone special. You’ll look back on the nights you don’t remember fondly. Cherish these moments. Embrace your youth while you have the chance to run wild and free.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Don’t waste your time on people who don’t make an effort for you. Don’t look back on these years to feel you lost time fighting for people who didn’t fight for you. Surround yourself with people who make you want to be a better person. People who you want to support, and support you. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you realize your self-worth. You don’t have time for people who make you feel bad about yourself. College is a time of self-discovery. Learn to stand on your own feet, be who you are, and spend your time on people who you want to share that with.
Take advantage of every opportunity you are given. Don’t miss out on things you enjoy. Audition for a play. Go abroad. Interview to be an executive officer for whatever organization you love. Find a philanthropy you’re passionate about and dedicate some time to it. Build your resume at any chance you get. You’re surrounded by so many chances to get involved, you have no excuse not to. For a lot of people, the best work is done when they keep themselves busy. If you don’t give yourself time to be lazy, you’re less likely to procrastinate and more likely to be focused and have energy. And you’ll learn just as much from these opportunities as you do in the classroom.
Plans change. Things change. People change. You change. It’s a completely natural part of college. The best you can do is learn to adapt. Find the best in situations. Find the best in yourself.
Trust your gut.
There are times you’ll have to make really difficult decisions throughout college. Someone will ask you what you want to do with the rest of your life and you’ll have to answer. Someone you trust will let you down. No matter what happens, there will be times when you want to take the easy way out. Learn to trust your gut. When something feels wrong, don’t force it. What something excites you, follow it. Instinct is key. You’ll learn that it will take you where you need to go, even if it isn’t always where you think you want.
There’s a lot to learn in college. There’s a lot to learn about yourself. Three and a half years in and only in reflecting am I realizing how some of these lessons are things I should have learned earlier on, things I should learn to take to heart. They said these years are some of the best of your life, but no one said that they’re easy. Take these years to really focus on who you want to be and develop that. Only in finding yourself will you learn to enjoy these years the most.