A few weeks ago, I heard about an interesting project the folks over at Earnest were working on: They are encouraging bloggers to write letters to their college selves. Not necessarily about what’s to come, but about what we wish we knew then and to spend some time reflecting on our college years. I had a fantastic time in college. It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns, it was a lot of hard work. I was very involved on campus, I worked nearly full-time for 2 of my college years (outside of my year as a co-op at Northeastern, so I suppose…3 years), and I was extremely hard on myself when I got anything but As. I transferred schools half way through to a new city (hey, Boston!) where I knew only one person and was placed in a single with freshmen (I was a third-year). To say the transition wasn’t easy wouldn’t suffice. I’m so thankful for my college experience and am SO thrilled to share some of it today. Here goes nothing, y’all.
A Letter to my College Self
I’m writing to you from 2017 – the future, in your case. I know you probably think that if you were to receive a letter from the future, it most likely wouldn’t be on a blog (what even is that in 2008, right?) and that it would probably be about something awesome, like that we’re all eating gourmet astronaut food or that we have one of those s w e e t microwaves that those darn Spy Kids had that could cook up a double cheeseburger from what was essentially a two-pack of Pop-Tarts. Alas, we STILL don’t have one of those microwaves, but I have picked up some insight on the whole college thing and thought it was high time I shared it with you.
You’re a first-generation college student and that’s pretty significant. You’re navigating unchartered waters (at least….for your family), and doing it blindly. It’s scary, because right now everything is so uncertain. You don’t know what lies ahead…but I do. You’re going to do some things right, while royally messing up a few times along the way. That’s all part of the experience. It wouldn’t be college if everything was perfect, right? I know you don’t think like that in 2008, don’t fret, it’s STILL hard for me to think that way now.
A few tips:
- Give yourself some credit. You managed to pay to apply to college, to work hard enough in school to get yourself a 4.0 most semesters and graduate magna cum laude, and you busted your behind at work to pay for your own apartment and bills at 18. GO YOU! Through my years of observations in the field, what you did seems to be quite uncommon. You worked hard, and you should give yourself some credit. You might want to reconsider ‘celebrating’ each month with new clothing, but you did it.
- Spend more time researching grants & financial aid. You gave it your all…..for a bit. Ultimately, you stopped trying to obtain additional financial aid after putting in about 85% effort. From there, it all snowballed and well….we now owe quite a bit my friend. Sure, there weren’t as many resources out there at the time and they were tough to find, though you could have done a little more digging. Once you graduate and those loans kick in, it’s going to feel surreal. You’re going to think there no possible way you can pay that sky-high monthly bill. It’s okay. Take a breath, you’ll figure it out.
- Those late nights are worth it. I’m not talking about those nights you were up doing homework, or those late nights out on the town – though, those were super fun, too. Rather, I’m talking about the late nights you spent being involved on campus. The evenings you pushed yourself to go to those scary networking events. The connections you make are EVERYTHING, and you’ll learn that soon enough. Who knew that in 2017 you’d be leading a community of women in Boston through The Lady Project?
Overall, you’re going to have highs and lows in college just like everyone else. But work hard, don’t give up, and find your differentiator. Find what sets you apart. Don’t worry, it’s not impossible, I promise.
If you could write a letter to your college self, what would it say? What would your BIGGEST tip be?