Words Of Encouragement From A Recent College Grad
For many readers, school is once again rearing it’s rather imposing head around the corner, causing them no small amount of stress. Indeed, chances are you or a friend are hastily stocking up on supplies and scouring Amazon for textbooks or going to the beach and movies with friends in an attempt to make the most of what remains of summer as we speak. Being a college graduate myself, I am very familiar with this feeling, and so it is for this reason that rather than talk down to you about why you should do this thing pertaining to your college career or not do that other thing pertaining to it, I am simply going to offer all you freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors some words of encouragement.
To freshmen: congratulations on your admittance to college! All those late nights and early mornings, difficult tests and tedious assignments are finally paying off, for you are about to begin a great adventure. There will still be difficult tests and tedious assignments, and there will still be late nights and early mornings, but there will also be so much more. There will be guest speakers to inform you, free movie screenings and concerts to move you, new friends to comfort you, and yes, even parties to let you unwind. But most importantly, there will be the realization that the world is a much bigger place than the classroom and halls you until recently split your time between. For many of you, this will be your first time away from home. Although you will stay in touch with your family, you will mostly be on your own in your day-to-day life. This experience, while difficult to undergo, will be very rewarding. Some of you may go in thinking certain doom lies ahead, while others, feeling that since you successfully maneuvered the travails of high school you must know the secrets of the universe, might go in thinking it will be a cakewalk. I found myself alternating between the two groups my freshman year, but I can assure you that both will find their expectations subverted. The nervous will find a place teeming with possibility and opportunity, while the cocky will quickly find themselves humbled. But being humbled is not necessarily a bad thing: after all, somebody needs to take you down a peg or too, to tell you that no, you don't know everything, and that's okay. After all, if you did know everything, you wouldn't be going to college now, would you? Best of luck with this exciting journey, and may learn much in class and even more outside it.
To sophomores: Well done! You managed to survive freshman year, with all of the new responsibilities and expectations it heaped upon you! As the culture shock wears off, you're more than likely getting into the hang of things, like setting aside time for studying and working on homework without having to be told by anyone, making lasting relationships with your peers, and, God forbid, speaking with financial aid or housing whenever the need arises. By this point, you should also be closer to having an idea of what you want to study if you are still an undeclared major. Hopefully the general electives you probably took last year gave you some idea of what interests you, but you still have until the end of the year to figure it out. Being more comfortable in this new environment and used to the standards of college-level coursework, budgeting time for extracurricular or recreational activities like clubs or on-campus organizations should be no great task. They might be just that - that is, extracurricular or recreational - but the fact is activities like these, aside from simply making your time at the university you attend much more enjoyable, could easily motivate you both in and out of the classroom by showing you a possible pathway after you graduate and thus encourage you to excel in your classes so you may work towards that goal (as in my case, working with UCLARadio did). Keep up the good work, and get involved!
To juniors: you're half-way done, and victory is within sight. You can juggle the demands of professors, TA's, RA's, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, campus staff, and random people in the lounge with ease. All of your GE's are most likely fulfilled and you've made significant headway on your major coursework. Stay involved with whatever campus groups you've become a part of, and continue making new friends and connections. It is also a good time to start thinking about what you're going to do after graduation, so if you're even considering grad school, it would behoove you to start cultivating relationships with your professors and TA's so that when the time comes, they can write you quality letters of recommendation. If you're thinking about entering the workforce immediately upon graduation, then you should seek out people who supervised you in any campus organizations you were a member of or jobs you worked at. Prospective employers will look upon glowing recommendations from people who actually worked with you the way grad school admissions committees look upon effusive recommendations from professors who actually supervised the student they are considering for admission: that is, positively. Stay alert, but stay in touch with friends and campus organizations.
To seniors: this is it. One more year, and an easy one at that, if you played your cards right. Your major requirements are all but done, and your GE's are ancient history. There is a very good chance that you will spend your last few semesters taking classes you don't necessarily need because you've already accounted for most of your requirements and the only thing you really need is units. Of course, this is not always the case, and if it turns out you're short a class or two for your major or another requirement, you can easily finish it during the summer at another institution or even, in some cases, online. There is no shame in this, particularly when you consider that aside from that particular class, you're done and thus considered graduated. Equally important this year is making the most of what little time you have on campus: this might be the last time you see many of the people who you've encountered and befriended on this four-year adventure, in addition to being able to take advantage of many of the events taking place at your school. Keep studying, but don't be afraid to take a break so you can go out for a bite with your roommate. Go to office hours, but also go to the theater department's production of The Drowsy Chaperone. That way, in addition to having a college degree to show for all the work you've done the past four years, you also have cherished memories of your time there to return to and tell others about. Good work, and good luck wherever you go and whatever you do.