A Letter to My First-Year Self
I take great pride in saying I have finally mastered the art of college. I know the shortcuts to my classes, exactly how much I can sleep in so I still have enough time to finesse my eyeliner before class, and I know exactly what times to avoid the Student Center to miss the afternoon “rush hour.”
All that being said, I understand hindsight is 20/20 and not a day goes by when I wish I could go back to my first year and redo ALMOST everything. If I could, I would write a detailed letter to myself giving critical advice that would definitely help me through my first semester at St. Lawrence and it would go something like this.
I know you’re excited but PUT DOWN THE GLITTER PENCIL CASE AND LISTEN! Calm down. It’s only the first day of the rest of your life, right? You’re ready for it. You can do it. But, I have seven tips to help you through the process.
1. Accept the Change
You’re going from New York City to Canton. There is absolutely nothing remotely similar about these two places and that is perfectly okay. Don’t shy away from this opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and create new experiences. Going to a small liberal arts school in a rural area gives you the opportunity to build close relationships and do some cool stuff no one else will ever get to do. This is a reason to celebrate; you’ll meet your very best friends because of this.
2. Go to Career Services
They are there to help you and they are good at it. They want to make sure you have a summer internship and a job once you graduate. Do not run from the resources here that will help you succeed. A working resume and cover letter never hurt anyone.
3. Remember Who You Are and Why You’re Here
You are here to get a degree and to learn. You need to graduate in four years with knowledge and skills that make you marketable in a competitive and ever-changing work force. You can do this. You have the support and ability to accomplish these tasks as long as you work hard and stay focused. That being said, you are also here to have fun. There is no rule that says that in order to be successful after college you must be miserable throughout it. Go out, do things that scare you, do things that excite you, and do things you know you may never have the chance to do again.
4. Making New Friends Doesn’t Mean You’ll Lose Your Old Ones
You and your best friends from home may not talk every day anymore. You’re all in college and busy but that doesn’t mean you’re losing them. They are making new friends and you are making some of your own. Your relationships with them aren’t devalued but strengthened. When you go home, it’ll be like you never left. Don’t be afraid to talk to new people and make new and equally as strong relationships. You aren’t replacing them!
5. Talk to People
Everyone here understands the position you are in as a first-year student. You’ve walked into a new place not knowing anyone but there are people who are open and willing to talk to you. You just have to make the first move. Arguably, walking up to strangers is scary but you have ways to make it easier. Join clubs that sound interesting, talk to the people in your classes. Step outside of your comfort zone. It’s awkward but it's awkward for everyone. The best way to break the ice is with some really funny awkward conversation. Make some friends; future you will thank you for it.
6. Focus on Yourself
You’re in college now. Your eyeliner means absolutely nothing to anyone but you. I’ve seen people so stressed they’ve worn the same clothes for a week. No one actually cares you were late to class (well…maybe your professor), no one cares you’re in sweatpants every day. No one cares you have bags under your eyes and no one cares that the only words you’ve said all day is “I need food.” This is not to say no one cares about you; you are loved and cherished. But, those who care about you don’t really mind your bad days or weeks. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter. Even though literally no one minds because they also feel your Finals Week pain.
7. You Know Nothing and That’s Okay
I am your sophomore-self telling you that when you walked into this place you knew nothing about anything. And that is okay because you will learn and the best thing you can do in your position is know that you know nothing. This understanding opens you up to new experiences so you can get the most out of college. It is perfectly okay not to know where you want to go abroad or what you want to major in. The benefit of a liberal arts institution is they give you the chance to figure it out. You are okay.
BONUS SECRET: Everyone else also knows nothing so you can rest easy. No one knows anything and they are also just trying to figure it out. It will work out.