An Open Letter To My “First Year Of College” Self

This week I’ve seen a lot of first day of school photos on Facebook. Even more photos from my friends who work in higher education, posting the move-in day photos from their college. It’s always so fun to see other beginning a new chapter in their lives. It gives me a chance to look back and think about my first year.

An article published this week, gave me some perspective: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/48736648/ns/today-back_to_school/#.UDad7aOD-Sp

It got me thinking about my first year of college, the day I moved into the dorms and how I felt that day. If only I could have read a letter from my future self. If I did, it would sound something like this:

Dear 18-year-old self,
Welcome to the next chapter in your life. Welcome to freedom. Welcome to living in a community. Welcome to learning independence. And welcome to the beginning of a wonderful 4 years.

I know you’re probably really excited about the freedom. No curfew or anyone to check in on. But I want to let you in on a little tip. All those house parties your about to attend, aren’t really all they are cracked up to be. Be careful when you’re out there. Never go alone and don’t leave alone. Watch who is there and what pictures are being taken.  In a few years Facebook will be developed and you may regret what’s out there if you aren’t careful.

Regarding drinking in general, let’s be honest here. It happens in college and there are plenty of opportunities. Have fun but be safe. And remember that some of your deepest friendship will not be the ones you go build when you’re out with all the time. In other words, friendships aren’t built around drinking booze. They are much deeper and you’ll find that you don’t have to drink to meet friends. On that note, don’t overlook someone because they aren’t a “partier”.  In  a few years they’ll be some of your best friends, they’ll help you through even more life moments and they’ll be a part of your wedding day.  Trust me on this one.

In the category of love: stop trying to find someone. College is a time for you to be selfish and enjoy YOUR life. Yes, people around you will “fall in love” or at least that’s how it looks. It will probably be “cool” to have a guy around.  And you’ll probably date someone who you think you “love.”  You may even have your heart broken. But it won’t matter in a few years. I know you’ve always wanted to find “the one” but let me tell you…STOP LOOKING. Even more important, stop looking for “the one” at house parties and bars. Speaking of bars, you’re not old enough to get in, so be careful. I know you’re probably laughing at me but it’s illegal and you best be safe about it. Don’t act like you’re 18.

Back to love, you’ll find the man of your dreams when you’re ready. In the mean time, stand by the values you came to college with. Don’t give in to peer pressure or pressure from the guys you date. I promise you, everything will be worth the wait. EVERYTHING! That being said, don’t be afraid to date.  You’ll probably make a few mistakes but they’ll teach you something in the process.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about classes and career. Don’t fret too much about specific classes. Try your best to get good grades but don’t freak out about the little things. I can tell you first hand that in 10 years that grade you’ll get in economics will not matter. What will matter is the experiences you had in those classes and the way you use them outside the classroom.  Some of your favorite classes will not be required under your major , take them anyway. And you’ll probably hear a lot of jokes about experiential learning but it’s not joke. It’s really the best way to learn and you’ll find that you thrive once you embrace that.

Study abroad, even though it seems impossible to leave campus for a semester, I promise it will be worth it. And I promise it will change you perspective of the world. While you’re at it, make time to take a service trip. It’s good to spend a week giving back and learning about another community. Spend one of your school breaks giving back and you’ll get much more in return.

Don’t worry about saying “no” to activities. Both college sponsored and extra-curricular. You tend to get overloaded because you don’t want to say no. You’ll regret it later if you don’t. That being said…GET INVOLVED! I have no doubt you’re already signed up for something. And I’m proud of you for that. Try something new and make friends in the process. Just don’t get so over involved that you can’t truly commit to all your activities.

FINALLY, keep your faith. Yes, I’m talking about God. You came to college with a strong faith base. Don’t loose site of that. The first few months of college you’ll probably go through a rebellion stage. I bet you’ll miss mass a few times. Maybe even make excuses about why you aren’t going. That’s okay, everyone goes through these stages but don’t forget how much your faith means to you. Don’t forget that God is always there, you aren’t alone in this journey and even if you abandon him for awhile, he’ll welcome you back with open arms.  Go to church, take time for God and make sure to invest in that relationship too.

All in all, it’s gonna be a great 4 years. So go out, have fun, be safe and don’t worry about the future. It’s all going to turn out fine (even if it doesn’t turn out how you expect).

Love,
Your future self.

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