I’m not your usual student. I’m not just saying this to highlight how unique an individual I am among a sea of other students or tell you that you would do well to add me to your student body/business/Tumblr fandom clique. I’m saying that because I am thirty years old and I am just now finishing my undergrad.
In fact, this past semester has been my first semester back as a full-time student in nearly a decade. I know I’m not the only one, but dang, you wouldn’t know it from the majority of my classmates. It can be kind of scary and isolating to be doing something like this; making a huge life change and being so obviously different in a student body. So, for anyone else out there who is going to make the change themselves, or who just wants a perspective on what it’s like in my position, let me offer some insights I’ve gained from my first semester back.
Here’s how to push through your first semester back on campus as a full-fledged adult.
Snapchat is your religion now
I did not realize before getting back on campus just how important Snapchat is to campus organizing. Want to set up a study group, meet for a meal or just gripe in general? You better have Bitmoji installed and your Snapchat skills and etiquette up to date. This is an actual nightmare for me, because I hate taking photos of myself. But I’m learning to embrace the ugly selfie, one snap at a time.
Embrace your lack of cares
When I was a Youth taking a class with an Old, I appreciated how much they just did not care. I don’t mean a laissez-faire approach to learning; in fact, quite the opposite. They didn’t care about asking “stupid” questions. They were self-assured. They clearly didn’t care what the world thought of them.
I get to be that person now. The best thing about getting older is that you learn what’s worth your energy and what’s not. Lean into this. You already don’t care what questions or contributions you have to make, so ask the questions. Make those contributions to discussions. Take the opportunity to not only help other students feel more relaxed about what they have to say, but to help take classroom discussions in new and surprising directions. Trust me, the professors appreciate it.
Don’t compare yourself to fellow students
I know, it seems pretty straightforward: don’t compare yourself to others, it’ll just make you unhappy, blah blah whatevercakes. But, it’s something that’s easy to do, so I think it’s worth reiterating: don’t compare yourself. I feel bad sometimes that I don’t have the energy to be as involved in campus activities as I would like to be. There are a ton of great events and clubs that I would love to go to, but they start at 8 or 9 p.m. And frankly, I take my fiber and start my bedtime routine around then. Maybe next semester I’ll feel differently, but right now, it’s okay to take it easy during a major life change.
Don’t pull all-nighters
Oh my gosh, I am dead serious. I tried a near all-nighter and no one warned me that when you get older you feel like you’ve caught the Death Flu the next day. Nausea and body aches? I didn’t sign up for that nonsense. I can’t think of any amount of caffeine that would make you feel okay after one of these and not also give you an honest–to–goodness heart attack. Learn from my mistake: don’t do this.
Your experience is an asset
I know, it sounds like one of those things that people say to make you feel better. I thought the same before this semester. I’ll be honest: I didn’t think there was anything about my so-called “experience” that would help my fellow students.
I was wrong.
You know how sometimes you look back to a bad part of your life and think I wish I could tell my younger self it’ll be okay? Every day, I’m surrounded by people who are just as stressed and anxious about school as I was at that age. I remember what it was like and how miserable it made me. And now, I know for a fact that it’ll be okay. A bad grade or poor group project isn’t the end of the world. A dip in your GPA isn’t a referendum on your worth as a person. I know this, because I’ve lived through it. I survived it and lived to tell about it. And now I try and tell my fellow students: it will be okay.
That’s what I tell the Youths, and that’s what I want to tell the Olds who are making this change, or who are apprehensive about doing so: don’t worry. Relax. It’ll be okay. Can I join your fandom clique now?