Dear Class of 2014,
Many of you will be graduating [high school] next month and I want to share with you some of the things I have learned as a first year college student.
First things first, do not wish this next month away. Cherish it. Cherish the free time you currently have because next fall you will not have any. Cherish the friendships you have now because some of them (not all) will last a lifetime. Cherish the money you have now because that too will soon be gone. Cherish your last summer before you move off (or not) to college. Cherish the lack of responsibility you have now because you will soon be loaded with more than you ever wanted. Cherish everything in your life now because the next year will be tough.
As the summer comes to a close and you are getting more and more excited about heading off remember to not bring EVERYTHING you own to college. I made this mistake and barely had room to store everything, and it will take me two truckloads to take everything back. Plus you will receive so much free stuff the first year you will automatically double everything you bring.
The first week of classes is easy (Syllabus week!) so use this time wisely, read your syllabus and record all the dates of tests and major assignments in an agenda. Do this for every class, even your physical education classes. If you do not have an agenda, buy one. It is the definition of a life saver when you are balancing school work, jobs, and student organizations. When midterms roll around and your brain is going at speeds unknown of by the rest of the world, it is nice to have everything planned out. You may thing your Pre-Lab quiz is not something worthy of writing down, but when you have 3 tests and 2 papers that same week you will easily forget it. (and Hey, that's 5 additional points)
After the first week you will notice that people have friends already. If you are one of those people who already has a big group of besties then you are doing it right. However if not, you may want to look into joining a student organization. Actually, get up and go join a student organization. They need members and you need friends so it's a win win. For me, it was Greek Life. I rushed in the fall and found my group. I was one of the lucky ones who found a place where I clicked and met some really awesome people. However, if Greek Life is not for you there are many religious, service, recreational, and special interest clubs out there for you. I promise.
Speaking of religious organizations, if you are religious find a group that shares the same values as you and join. This was my number one shortcoming of my first year. I chose not to join a religious organization on the assumption that since I was coming in with a strong faith, I did not need others to keep my faith alive. Boy was I wrong. I found myself unhappy and angry for a good portion of my first semester, which continued into the beginning of my second semester. When I found peace was when I started tuning back into my religion and I realize much of the bad moments of my first year could have easily been avoided had I joined a religious organization and continued to study my religion and keep up my faith and values.
I mentioned being unhappy in the above paragraph. The number one thing NOT to do in college is be unhappy. Think about it this way, you are at a completely new place with new people. If you do not like a certain person, don't spend time with them. If you do not like an organization you joined the first week, you are not obliged to stay in it. If you are hating all of your classes, you can change your major. You do not have to do anything that will make you unhappy.
Changing majors is a big issue with many college students. I will have you know, I have changed my major three times in the span of one year and I am happy with that decision. College is a time where you will explore and be exposed to a multitude of new things. You will see the world in new ways and your view will change. Maybe you wanted to be a psychologist but you have now realized being a teacher is more your style. That is okay! I promise that too! If your choice makes you happy, then make it without regret. Many students are afraid of what their parents will say about them changing majors but ultimately it is your life, and your decision to make. This is not me saying disobey your parents, but kindly let them know that you are now an adult who has to make your own decisions.
Sometimes there comes a point where you realize that you may have chosen the wrong college or that college in general is just not right for you. Once again, this is okay. Transfer students exist for a reason. There are so many colleges in the world and choosing the right one is hard to do. I thought I had chosen the right college, but as it turns out I did not and will be transferring in the fall to a different college. My brother began college but was given a great job offer so he did not graduate. Both of these situations are in no way the wrong thing to do.
So Dear Class of 2014,
Make big plans but don't make yourself believe that you have to follow them out exactly as planned. That will not happen. You are young. You are just starting out. Your possibilities are endless.
Enjoy the ride!