Dear “New and Fresh Faced, College Student” Joanna,
You are about to start another phase of your educational career. A career that will go by too quickly and end before you know it. Life will continue to teach you valuable lessons, but there truly is nothing comparable to the feeling of having your brain absorb information like a sponge while you are in school, so enjoy it while you can.
You will look back at these years and see many things that you may wish you could change and some that you would not change for the world. I’m not here to ruin the surprises of what will come your way, but I am here to let you know that it is OKAY.
It is okay to feel a bit lost sometimes. You may hear “these are the best days of your life” but you heard that about high school too, so if there are days where you think “Best days of my life? Yeah, right.”, that is normal. You will have off days but what is important, is that you keep going and you go on to have several more amazing days.
It is okay to feel like you chose the wrong major, or wish that you hadn’t chosen a certain class. Sometimes, you choose classes just because they are the solution to having an amazing schedule. Your major may have seemed like it was exactly what you wanted, but things change. You should not feel bad about yourself or feel like you are disappointing anyone by changing your mind. Do not say to yourself, “I am going to stay in this program because it is easier than going through withdrawing and trying another program.” Or, “I don’t want to disappoint so and so.” Life is too short to do things that you don’t enjoy. Changing programs may be a hassle, but it will be worth it when you are going to your new classes each day and are able to smile because you know it is exactly where you belong. Even if that means taking a break from school completely to go out into the world and figure out what you feel will suit you better or reassess your goals- you will return to school and you will do well.
It is okay to take a break. If you wear yourself down, the studying you do won’t stick and it will all be for nothing. That night out that you want to have or the night in with your girlfriends binge watching sappy shows and stuffing your face, DO IT. Enjoy yourself and take a breather. Even if it means getting to sleep just a bit early, or missing one class (don’t make a habit of that though- that is another lesson!)- get your rest and give your body and mind a break.
It is okay to eat the cafeteria food when you forget your lunch at home, but don’t waste your money there every single day. Budgeting and making grocery lists while comparing prices for groceries really makes a huge difference, not only health wise but financially too. If you still need help finding the money to pay for your books (buying secondhand helps but is still VERY expensive) or for schooling in general, keep in mind that financial aid is there to help you. It can be confusing and you may be embarrassed having to ask, but don’t let that stop you from seeing a financial aid counselor at your school. If you think that loans may just end up being more complicated and you think it will keep you in debt for the rest of your life, don’t panic. There is always a solution. *Sidenote for those of you reading: For my readers in the U.S, I know of a few companies which can help you with finding the right solution for you. One of which, is Earnest and you can find a ton of information to help you on their website. Even if you have already graduated and are looking for more options in order to take care of the loans you may have received while in school, such as refinancing them, they can help you. Read more about it here.
It is okay to ask for help. You have a lot on your plate during the College years, and in life, this will never change. Another thing that will not change is that asking for help does not show that you are weak, but rather that you are strong enough to admit that you can’t always do things on your own. Maybe you need help in a class and need a tutor, or the stress from classes is making you eat unhealthy foods and you need to get back on track, or paying for books is taking a toll on your finances- there are always ways to get help.
It is okay that not everyone will like you. More importantly, it is good for you to realize that it is impossible to be liked by every single person you meet so don’t break your back trying so hard. In college, you meet SO many different people and some of these people will stay with you for the rest of your life. Maybe not as your best friends, but definitely as people you are glad to have met and who continue to help you grow as a person, even if you don’t speak regularly. You will also have teachers who change your life. Perhaps there was just one class that you attended and they said one sentence that changed your perspective on things- you will never forget that class or that teacher. Appreciate what your teachers do for you. Not all of them are perfect, but they all initially chose to teach as a profession because it was a passion and they wanted to help shape young minds and that is highly respectable.
Overall, it is okay to feel like you don’t have your entire life figured out while you’re in College. Even once you graduate, it may take you years to feel like you’re finally doing what you’re meant to be doing so don’t rush anything. Keep your friends, family, health and goals as top priorities and you will go far. Life has a way of figuring itself out and everything will be okay.
the Joanna who graduated and who is now a Mom (Spoiler alert!)