You will spend a lot of time in college taking classes to prepare you for a job or what you will do in life, but my challenge to you is to spend just as much time doing things to prepare you for who you will be as you transition to adulthood. Who you are is more important than what you do. Here’s my list of what I want you to remember as you embrace your freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or senior+ year of college:
Education is a privilege. I have read varying statistics and couldn’t find anything from this year, but if you are pursuing an advanced degree, you are in the minority in the U.S. and the far, far minority in the world (single digits). Don’t waste the opportunity you have to devote a few years of your life on academics pursuits; most people do not have this privilege.
Meet new people. College should be a time of expanding your horizons not just intellectually but relationally as well. Meeting new people goes beyond meeting new people who are just like you. Get to know people who have different backgrounds, different religions, and different experiences. Take time to listen to their stories and learn from them.
Try new things. My mentor teacher took fencing when she was at UGA; I love this! Another student I knew took a wine class her last semester at Tech. The class ended up being slightly more difficult than she thought but she learned a lot about the science and industry of the wine world. I know students who have taken up rock climbing in college or learned how to play the guitar. Opening your mind to new things is good and easy during this time in your life.
Do hard things. Now is not the time to play it safe. When you get a job, get married, have kids, and start adulting, taking risks can be difficult due less to bills and others counting on you but more because we get in a rut of playing it safe. By taking risks at the stage in your life, you get used to thinking outside the box and build confidence to do hard things as an adult.
Rebound from mistakes. It’s a fact of life: people make mistakes. If you are a former student who cheated or plagiarized in my class (not really the people reading my blog, I suspect), I hope you remember my speech (which I have unfortunately memorized because I give it on a semi-regular basis). It goes like this: “People make bad choices, but what you do after a mistake shows your character. Will you choose to blame others for your mistake or will you accept responsibility for your actions? Will you learn from this or will you continue to make the same poor choice over and over? I will not base my judgment on you as a person on one bad decision. Now is the time for you to show me who you really are.”
Go to church. Students often become Pillow Presbyterians or Bedside Baptists during college. According to Lifeway research, approximately 70% of students who attended church regularly in high school take a hiatus during college with approximately two-thirds returning later in adulthood. Don’t be in this statistic. The point is not to check church off your list each week but to continue to grow in your personal faith during these formative years in life.
Don’t forget your roots. You will leave and get smarter, wiser (two different things), and mature. You may realize that your hometown and the people there no longer define who you are as you move on to “bigger and better” opportunities in life. But your past – good or bad – shaped you just as much as what you are experiencing now. Go out into the world and embrace it but don’t be so big for your britches that you aren’t proud of where you’re from.
I believe in you. When you need a word of encouragement, you know where to find one. I’ll gladly put down my essays and make time for you. I am so fortunate to not only have had a front row seat to your senior year in high school but have also continued to keep up with you during college. I frequently tell my peers (the old people), “If you are discouraged about the upcoming generation, you don’t know the same kids I do.” I am proud of you and can’t wait to see how you leave your mark on the world.
Work hard, call home, and use the Oxford comma –
The Barb, Babs, Mrs. Barber, Hey You, etc.