Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Advice for the College-Bound

When we first moved to Illinois, I was assigned to work with the 14-15-year-old girls in our church congregation.  (Mormon speak: I was called to the YW presidency, and worked with the Mia Maids.)  We had this amazing group of girls that I had the pleasure of teaching each week, which in all honesty, probably taught me way more than it taught them.  Flash forward to this week, and these girls are all grown up and heading to college!  Having them embark on this exciting new adventure has made me all kinds of reminiscent, remembering what it felt like to leave home for the first time, meet new people, and settle in to adulthood.  And through all the reminiscing I've come up with a bit of advice for how to survive and thrive those few short years at an institution of higher learning.

  1. The first week is going to be rough.  You're in a new place, far from home, and chances are you know almost no one.  If you are an introvert, this is especially draining, as every interaction involves meeting new people.  You will probably feel overwhelmed, and you may even want to quit, move back home, and go to the Jr College down the road from your parents' house (I may have verbally expressed this desire 10 minutes before my mom dropped me off in the fall of 1999).  But after that first week, you will feel like you've got a slew of new best friends, your routine will fall into place, and you'll feel adjusted.  I promise, it only takes about a week.  Tough it out.
  2. You are an adult now, so you can eat ice cream for breakfast!  But you are an adult now, so don't eat ice cream for breakfast.  Or at least not every day.  The Freshman 15 is real.  You've been warned.
  3. College courses are a whole lot different than high school (read: harder), and obviously studying is important, but don't get so caught up in school that you miss out on the social aspect of college.  You are only young once, and someday you'll think it's absurd to stay up until 4am, eating muffins and talking to your roommates.  When you are 19, you can pull an all-nighter.  When you are 35, you just can't.  Don't go overboard, but be young and dumb.
  4. Don't be in such a rush to graduate.  I felt like college was a giant countdown to graduation.  Everyone knows exactly how many semesters it will take them to graduate, and crams classes in to make it happen.  I know I was so ready to be done with homework and studying, and move on to a real job.  But once you graduate, you're done.  That time is over.  And it was one of the best times of my life, so I'm not sure why I was in such a rush.  Give yourself that ninth semester.  Or even tenth.  College lasts only a few years; careers last 30.
  5. Take advantage of all your college has to offer.  Go to dances.  Go to plays (student productions are cheaper - plus you get student admission prices).  Go to concerts.  Go to foreign films.  Take extra classes, just for fun.  I took Intro to Film, which had absolutely nothing to do with my major, nor did it fill any general requirements, but I learned so much, and so enjoyed the class.  
  6. You are going to meet a lot of new people.  You will have friends in your classes, friends in your dorm, friends you meet through other friends.  If you don't feel like you belong in a certain group, keep looking.  Your tribe is out there.  Even if you are a punk rock-loving democrat at BYU, your tribe is out there.  If you are a super-nerd who loves chemistry and Star Trek?  Your tribe is out there.  Find those people who get you, and stick with them.
  7. You'll probably change your major at least once.  Most people don't know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at 18.  Don't stress it.  You'll figure it out in the end.
  8. While we're on the subject of stress, DON'T STRESS.  College is hard.  Dating is hard.   Life is hard.  You are going to make it through, even if you don't always know how.  Sometimes you get bad grades.  It happens.  Do not base your self worth on that C.  C's get degrees, my friends.  Your heart might feel like it's broken beyond repair, but I promise, it will mend.  Time really does heal wounds.  Which leads nicely to may last point,
  9. Be kind.  Give other people the benefit of the doubt.  You really don't know what people are going through, so assume their life is hard, which is likely true.  Always choose kindness.

So there you have it, my advise, for whatever it's worth.  And if you only choose to listen to one of these things?  Let it be the last one.  The world needs more kindness.