What’s up? How’s the cafeteria food treating you? I know, not funny considering how your dietary options appeared as if you would be dining like royalty during freshmen orientation. Unfortunately those burgers and fries were played out before midterms.
All jokes aside, there will be much to learn and enjoy about your college experience. I could best describe your educational pursuit as a combination of The Good, The Bad, & The Lessons.
The good? In spite of the seemingly countless assignments and textbook readings, you make it across that stage for graduation! It will be a semester later than you expected, but this doesn’t take away from the joy of knowing that you saw your bachelor’s degree to completion. The daily mantra before you left your dorm each day that “One day soon, it will all be worth it”, is true. As hard as it may be, balancing work as a resident assistant and a full course load on two separate campuses is possible. In hindsight these hurdles, which initially felt like a mountain, will soon feel like an ant hill to you. Just be sure to actually use that overpriced planner you bought and manage your time (and money) wisely. Watching that extra movie or documentary on Netflix isn’t worth the cram sessions before midterms. You still put the “pro” in procrastination today, but that’s a problem for another time.
As you make your way through school, you will build lasting bonds and create hilarious memories. Like the time you tried to save one of your residents from being attacked by a raccoon during RA duty. Or the freestyle rap battles you and your classmates had during ENC 1101 about how much you loathed the professor. All of these experiences taught you not only the importance of a good laugh, but the value in having a strong community of friends. Stick with those who inspire you to excel and you won’t lose.
You'll also learn the tricks and the trades of how to manage a college student's budget. After spending $500 on brand new textbooks your first semester, you will discover that you can cheaply rent textbooks online. Even the library, which you grow to appreciate at some point, keeps your required reading in the stacks.
And when you're hungry, remember that the key to good free food is in attending club meetings or sports rallies/tailgates. Or that local restaurants like Chipotle will occasionally give free burritos with your student ID. Treasure that ID with all your heart because it is the source of discounts.
The bad? Well, there will be times when you wished you took self-care and boundaries more seriously. Allowing yourself to be swamped with extracurricular activities and student organizations caused you to be on the verge of crashing. Understand that you don’t have to say yes to every club meeting, or go out of your way every time to help slacking classmates with papers at the last minute.
Take advantage of the student resources around you, no matter how humbling it is to ask for help. From counseling services to the financial aid office, college is one of the only times in life where almost everything you need can be in one place.
Oh, and one little thing. Or should I say expensive thing? That shiny new credit card you receive in the mail? Use it wisely or don’t use it at all! Before you swipe away at Forever 21, H&M, and Target, remember there’s interest rates and credit scores to consider. Yes, as in you’re not only scored on your Anthropology papers, but also on how wisely you use credit. Earnest said it best, "From the moment you take your first student loan or get your first credit card, you activate a paper trail of your experience with that debt." Splurging can be fun, but saving money brings about a sense of security that a new blazer can’t supply.
On the bright side, although you graduated with some credit card debt you didn’t graduate with student loans (If you did have student loans after graduation, you should consider refinancing them to help make the payments more manageable.) Which brings us to what you learned…
The lessons? College has taught you that sometimes you have to do what you need to do in order to do what you want to do. Sure freshman year you skipped studying for some nights of fun, but after putting some scholarships in jeopardy, you understood it was time to get to business. Being proactive instead of reactive to matters involving what classes to register for or when tuition payments were due helped to eliminate a lot of stress. From applying for scholarships to searching for work study positions, you learned that college was a fun social experience but also an opportunity to mature. You at first thought that being an resident assistant would cramp your style— because well, no one wants to party with the RA— but you knew it was a path to professional growth and a free housing/meal plan. And that definitely saved Mom and Dad some financial strain.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to change nothing. Who you were, made me into who I am. And the Tara of today is a Tara we can both be proud of.
Lastly, believe it or not this week you’ll register for your last semester of graduate school. That’s right, even after four years of undergrad you felt it necessary to torture yourself with more exams and papers.
But don’t worry, the experiences you’ll gain throughout college will more than prepare you.