Every era of life eventually has to come to a close. That ending can be exciting, scary, challenging, nostalgic, thought-provoking or just a jumble of emotions.
Graduation is on the horizon or right in front of the Class of 2019. As a graduating senior myself, I am feeling all these feelings alongside my friends. I have loved, lost, fallen and risen so many times. I was pretty clueless at the start on how to even do anything. I trusted some people when maybe it was better I didn’t. However, I made friends for life, had a chance to learn from many amazing professors and get to live in the city that never sleeps—New York City. College wasn’t a perfect experience, but it has been a wild one that changed everyone I know in one way or another.
From freshman year to now, everything feels different. First of all, I was 18 then and now I’m 21. I was fresh out of high school, and now, I’m going to be fresh out of college. It’s time to enter the real world, but not without some reflection. It’s almost impossible not to think back and wonder what I might have done differently or wish I had known.
Here are some thoughts these seniors wish to share with their freshman year selves.
“You are capable and talented.”
Gigi Greene, a senior at New York University, chose to reassure her younger self in her advice. “You were admitted to this school because you are capable and talented. Never forget that,” said Greene. No matter what school you’re at, it’s important to remember that you made it to college. There are so many steps to even get to college, and those steps are worthy of recognition. If you got into the college of your dreams, never doubt yourself. Just by being in college, there are signs of that smart and determined fighter within you. Some classes and experiences can make you feel like you aren’t smart enough or you lack some important character trait that only the true stars possess. Don’t doubt yourself. You’ve made it this far. You’re doing great.
“Your major does not have to be the first idea you have.”
This one is from me. Since I’ve been in college I’ve changed majors four times. I wouldn’t advise you to switch around for fun, but by moving around majors I just wanted to learn what was the right fit for me. For some reason, a common belief claims that you can’t be successful if you do not know your major from the beginning. In orientation, we were preached that it’s okay to go from Plan A to Z. I never knew how true that would be. Just because I switched does not mean my passion and career is any less valid than the person who knew from the start. Passions start and develop at different stages. No formula exists to success or knowing what you want to do. Allow yourself the freedom to figure out what you want to do while you’re in college.
“Explore your surroundings.”
Reginald Smith, a senior at Hunter College, said that his freshman counterpart would need to hear this. “I would have told myself to maybe not be so intense when it came to my attention on academics. Not that I wouldn’t do well but to explore my surroundings a bit more than I did.” In no way is this saying that academia isn’t important, but there’s more to college than hitting the books alone in a dingy library every night. Not to scare any of you if you’re at the start of your college journey, but you have hundreds, if not thousands, of strangers just waiting to say hello. “I would have tried to talk to more people than I did,” said Smith. College is full of the best people and the worst people. It’s all worth going through it to meet those best people. With those people, we got to explore our new city to the max.
“Your hopes and dreams are not impossible.”
Breanna Byrd, a senior at NYU, is at that point of peak bittersweet vibe, but she’s hopeful. “I think I would genuinely tell her that the things she imagined and hoped for were not impossible. That her way of seeing the world matters.” I think it’s fair to say that the reason lots of people come to college is to get closer to their dreams whether it be in their career, something they want to know more about or to feel some kind of stability. Opportunities, networks and connections are all super involved and part of this process. I will say this multiple times: it’s not easy. However, if you fight for it, it’s not impossible. Brie was dying to get into grad school, and she thought it was out of her reach. Out of graduation, she will be continuing on to do her Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz.
“You’re you no matter what.”
Byrd had a struggle with understanding that being you isn’t limited to sticking to the conventional. “I would also say that you can commit to new things, and you can still be you.” You have every right to try and commit to new things. No book or person can tell you that you are no longer you for pursuing a new goal, dream, school club, major, etc. This goes for lots of parts of identity you can discover while in college. If you want to try going out and clubbing for the first time, do it (in the safest way possible). If you want to join a K-Pop fan club while you’ve only ever listened to metal, who says you can’t? If you feel like you’re ready to talk about your sexuality, say it loud and proud. You’re learning more about yourself and exploring yourself throughout these crucial years. It’s no one else’s college experience, but yours. Own it.
“Grief is a powerful place.”
“I lastly would say grief is a powerful and uncomfortable place and it will at times make you unrecognizable but that is okay because you will still love her and the people who love her are the most important people in her life,” said Byrd. College is no walk in the park. I have reached some of the lowest lows while here. There is no shame in having shed some tears and been through a rough patch. However, as the cliche goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or wiser or smarter or lots of other things. Hard times do not mean failure. It means growth, which you will be doing plenty of throughout the experience. College is a preparation for life. Once you fall, jump up and get moving to show the world what you can do.
At this point, it’s almost all said and done for our college years. Our minds are jam packed with “what ifs” but also “I did its.” Avoid doubt. Avoid stupid decisions. Push yourself to explore and actually get out there. Rock your grades, but don’t forget you’re a full human being and college doesn’t last forever. Max it out with amazing memories to cheers to in the future.