So you’re waiting for mid-March when colleges will release a flood of seemingly life-defining decisions. It’s a nerve-wracking time, but here are some tips from Sean about how he spent his time waiting for his college decisions!
It has been a few months since most Early admission outcomes were announced, and while many of you have received definitive decisions, some of you may feel “in limbo” after being deferred from your Early choice(s). Receiving a deferral notice can certainly be disappointing, but here are a few across-the-board truths to keep in mind as you await your final decisions in late March:
Most of your life as a student is preparing for something -- preparing for a test, preparing for college, preparing for a sports competition. You spend hours and hours studying, practicing, and creating expectations for how it’s going to be when you reach the goal you are pursuing.
Sometimes, however, when you finally achieve your goal, you find that it's not quite what you expected. It’s not so uncommon to dislike the life you had been fighting for, or at the very least to
struggle with the transition once you get there. It's actually very common for college students,
even ones who get into their dream schools, to feel this way at the beginning of their freshman
year. They may think: “but it’s all that I've ever wanted” or, “it took me so much time and energy
to accomplish this.” If this happens to you, stay calm -- it’s not the end of the world.
You are not the only one to have second thoughts about the new place you are in and the people
you live with. The teachers may not be so friendly or helpful, and college is a totally different
environment that can be very intimidating.
My tips to get through this phase (yes, it can be just a phase) are:
- Talk to your peers. You may not think it, but there will be a lot of people feeling the same way as you.
- Don’t isolate. You have to give it a chance in order to enjoy the brand new world that college is, so try to participate in activities and to integrate into a group that you identify with.
- Get help from your home support system. This can be friends in the same situation as you, your parents or siblings (sometimes the distance can make people even closer), or even an LP instructor.
- Seek professional help. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about your feelings with someone outside of your circle.
- Enjoy the journey. This is a unique lifetime experience that will change you and shape your future as a person and professionally, so be sure to enjoy and take advantage of all the lessons learned.
And then, if you continue to feel that you don’t belong to the place after you give every shot, it’s ok to change your mind and try something else -- another school, city, or even another county. We don’t always hit the mark at the very first try; what’s important is to overcome and figure out what’s best for you and what will make you happy.
Good luck and enjoy college!
1. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde
I know, I know, it’s a pretty Hallmark card thing to say. But if I had the chance to go back and tell myself one thing, this would be it. No one else is quite like you, which means that how you grow and succeed is a deeply personal thing. The way you study, socialize, and relax might look different from how other people do it. That’s ok! Figure out what works for you. Don’t contort yourself into what you think is most interesting or attractive. Don’t get swept up in what other people are doing. The most successful and magnetic people I’ve met got to the awesome place they are by being no one but themselves. Maybe you don’t know exactly who you will become or what you will do. Here’s an earth-shattering secret: no one does. Being yourself isn’t a static thing, it’s an ongoing process and exploration. If you think you’ve got it all figured out right now, guess what…
2. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” —Heraclitus
This isn’t a diss on going into freshman with a clear sense of what you want to do and pursuing it. Some of my friends came to college knowing very clearly that they wanted to pursue art, or medicine, or history, or law. They didn’t change their major halfway through or contemplate hundreds of life paths every time they had to pick a class schedule (like I did). But a lot of my classmates who stuck to a clear path in college are doing wildly different things now than they (or anyone else) expected them to do after graduation. I know art majors who are now in med school, and pre-med kids who are living off the grid and writing award-winning poetry. College (and life) gives us all kinds of experiences we simply can’t predict. You can fight that uncertainty, swim against the current, and exhaust yourself. Or accept that things will shift, not just once or twice, but all the time. That doesn’t mean that every time something is hard or every time you mess up you ditch and run. There are challenges inherent in every field of study, every way of life… but ask yourself: “are these the challenges I want to be engaging with? Does this feel right for me right now?” And accept when the answers to those questions change.
3. “Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.” —Michelle Obama
Fill your life with people and ideas that inspire you to be your best self. Life is hard, don’t make it harder by investing your time and energy in pursuits and people that leave you feeling insecure or empty. We all have doubts and fears, but it is important to not be ruled by them, and watch out when others are picking at your insecurities. Be strong in standing up for yourself, and seek out the people who help you do that -- and who you can return the favor for. Building mutually supportive and enriching relationships will help you succeed in and out of the classroom.
4. “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose” —Friday Night Lights (my favorite Netflix binge in college)
College is a big deal! It’s your first shot at curating your own life. It’s an incredible privilege to have so many options before you, but it can also be terrifying, and sometimes paralyzing. What’s the right way of doing this? Who should I be? It’s ok to be nervous, but remember you can’t control everything, and there is no one way of getting through college—or life for that matter. Adjust your game strategy as needed. Keep your eyes open. Find things to love. Faced with an expanding world of uncertainty and possibility, be kind and patient with yourself and others.
And when all else fails, get a pep talk from this kid:
Thumbs up for rock and roll!
1. Textbooks are extremely expensive
With 4 or 5 classes a semester and textbooks that run around $200 a piece, getting ready for the semester can get really expensive really quickly. Luckily, there are a few alternatives. You can try to buy textbooks from students who have already taken the course and will probably sell to you at a discounted price to get the book off of their hands. You can try to buy used books from the campus bookstore as opposed to new ones (Pro Tip: often there are new editions to textbooks each year, but very little changes from year to year; older editions are often less expensive and provide the same material). You can also try to rent your textbooks from the bookstore or online; both physical and digital versions of these books are probably available. The best option in my opinion, however, is to try to find free PDFs of these textbooks online at no cost.
2. You need to actually talk to your professors and their TA's
Coasting by in the back of the classroom isn’t going to cut it anymore. If you want the professors to know you, care about your performance, and help you succeed in their class and beyond, you need to make sure you develop a good relationship with them. Not only is this practice helpful when you need help with material in the class or that little grade bump at the end of the semester, but it is also a helpful beyond the classroom. Professors are key to connecting you with great career opportunities, whether that be working in a lab or getting your next summer internship. Also, they may even take you out to dinner for free (once you are in college you will realize how revolutionary that is)!
3. Dining Hall food WILL get boring
While in most cases dining hall food doesn’t dip into your wallet, it can get a little mundane after a while. Even if you go to a school where the food is always really good, the same menu options can only get you so far after weeks of multiple meals per day in the same kitchen. Great ways to help combat this issue are to get your own food from the grocery store, take up cooking as a hobby, or try new dining halls maybe a little further from your dorm!
4. Amazon Prime™ is your best friend
You WILL need things over the course of the semester that you didn’t realize you’d need until mom and dad are gone. Amazon Prime™, with a discounted student membership fee, will save you in your times of need. In just two days, you can get any books, school supplies, or dorm necessities delivered to your dorm. This opportunity might not seem so pivotal now, but once you are outside of your house and need to be resourceful on your own time, Amazon Prime™ is there.
5. Spotify® is also your best friend
Just like Amazon Prime™, you can get a discount on a Spotify® Premium subscription for being a student! Whether you’re creating a playlist with the people on your floor, tuning people out while you study in the library, or just relaxing in your room, ad-free music is a must-have for any college student.
6. Venmo® is also… a really good friend
Even if you personally always have cash on you, you will come to realize that 95% of college students do not. Going out for food with friends is fun, figuring out how to split the check when everyone only has their credit card is a hassle. Venmo® makes it easy for you and your friends to split bills, cover each other for small purchases, etc. and most people you meet in college are already using it.
7. College can be a bubble, so keep yourself updated on current events by reading the news
College keeps you pretty busy, and sometimes it’s hard to remember the important things you should always be doing, like calling home and keeping up with the world outside. If not for your own knowledge and ability to talk about important happenings around the world with your peers, you should make a greater effort to keep up with the news because being an active global citizen is an important part of attending university. As part of the generation that will be taking power in the next few years, we should all be informed about what problems others are experiencing, what political and economic tactics work and don’t work, etc.
8. You’ll make way more friends than you could ever imagine
From the first day of orientation week, you will be bombarded with a bunch of unknown friendly faces and you will be forced to pick who you are going to be friends with. Especially if you go on a pre-orientation trip, you will make a lot of friends right at the beginning of the year, and you might be worried that this friend group will be the only one you will get close with during your time at college. That fear is totally misguided: this isn’t high school anymore. Every semester you will take new classes you are interested in, become involved in different clubs or professional organizations, and meet new people who share your goals/hobbies. As an adult, you will begin to schedule times to catch up with a friend for lunch or off-campus, and you can maintain a much larger network of friends than the group of people you ate lunch with in high school. In fact, sometimes it becomes hard to remember all of the people you’ve met because there are so many of them! (Pro-tip: when putting people’s contact information in your phone, put the name of your school as their company so you have your own directory of college acquaintances that you can search through if you ever want to remember the name of that one person you played basketball with, or to catch up with the person who sat next to you in your freshman writing class.)