What I Wish My Younger Self Knew Was OK in College

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Dear freshman Jaya,

How’d your first weekend at college go? Did you drink more in one night than you did in your entire high school career? My money (and your nasty hangover) says yes. Well I hate to tell you, but that was dumb…like really, really dumb. So don’t do it again.

I know you will though, because that’s part of college.

I have a long list of things I wish I could tell you looking back at it all now. Let me start with this: you are a perfectionist. While I can’t change much about that, I can offer some advice. For example, when you have 10 assignments due on the same night, sometimes you will have to settle for completion. That’s OK. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of the little chant that gets most people through college, “C’s get degrees.”

Another thing, some classes (like Kinesiology 235) are going to kick you in the butt…more than once. It’s OK to fail an exam, as long as you learn from it. As long as you have done your best and don’t ever give up, I can cheer you on. One final thought on academics because that is really only part of your college experience: nothing is impossible to do in less than 24 hours, but don’t take that as a challenge from your professors. Yes, you will successfully pull an all-nighter and turn in a paper less than one minute before it’s due, but don’t do it more than once. You might be lucky, but not that lucky.

You’re also going to meet boys. Some of them will be really nice and fun but most times they will be clueless and dumb. Have a good cry and move on. If you’re looking for a solid, steady relationship, Ben and Jerry are two guys who will never let you down.

Yeah, boys suck, but you’ll learn some harder lessons along the way. I hate to tell you this, but not everyone will be your friend—no matter how hard you try. It’s OK. Instead of worrying about petty girls and guys looking for hookups, find those who challenge you. Find people who will make you laugh and hold you when you cry and never let them go. You’ll find a few this year and let me tell you, you should keep them around.

A few other things before I let you actually enjoy your freshman year and you forget everything I have told you. First, it’s OK to stay in and study, but don’t forget to live. Yes, you will probably meet people at the library, but more than likely you’ll meet more new friends out socializing. On that note though, not wanting another drink or not wanting to stay at a party is OK. Trust yourself. Only you know what’s best for you—don’t let anyone, especially a drunk boy, tell you otherwise.

Finally, sometimes things aren’t going to go your way. You might not believe me now, but you will bite off more than you can chew. Though a million activities may spark your interest, there’s only so much time in your day. You are going to have to pick and choose and you’re definitely going to have to learn to swallow your pride. It’s going to suck and you will probably be mad at yourself but you can thank me later.

Don’t let fear get the best of you. Do one thing a day that scares you. Also, never forget your passions. You will join an a cappella group this year and they will be some of the best people you’ll ever meet.

Above all, remember one of your favorite quotes: “Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best that you can.” There is a learning curve and this is a learning experience. No one, not even you, should expect perfection.

With all of my love and confidence,





Student, singer, painter, dog lover and poetry aficionado. Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Strategic Communication and Reporting and minoring in Global Health and Environmental Studies.

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