Dear 17-year old me,
We both know that this isn’t the first time a letter to the future or the past has been written. How are you?
I know you are not as excited about college as you could be and you’re skeptical about it being the best years of your life, but you really will have some of the most memorable experiences in the next four years. From the people you’ll get the chance to meet and connect with to the opportunities that presents themselves, every little detail helps built your values and beliefs. I wouldn’t say I changed drastically through college, but the values I hold most important has become clearer. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase and I will highlight what has happened in the past four years.
The first year was tough. It was tough not solely due to academics, trying to find a friend group was stressful to say the least. Coming from a rigorous high school that was more like a college than high school, it was relatively easy to adapt my previous studying habits to suit the new environment. Not to mention there are tons of aid online and offline giving out studying tips and guides. However, there’s no such guide for making friends. Although there were a decent amount of peers from high school who were going to the same college, I distinctly wanted to separate myself from them and find new people. I know many people did not face the same problems, many rather have the group of people they already knew, but I didn’t want to constraint myself in this high school bubble. We all know the college is expensive, and you may think not having a meal plan will affect anything important, suck it up and get the meal plan! I can’t count how many many opportunities to meet people were missed because I didn’t have a meal plan like a regular freshman. Even though the food can get tiring after a while, think about the potential relationship you are investing in.
Don’t feel pressured to stay in your major. Sure engineering is interesting, but you also find many other things interesting. Join that fashion magazine or try out for that dance group, don’t be embarrassed to go to something just because you don’t know anyone there and will be awkward. Use these opportunities to horn your interpersonal skills and find out what you like, or rather what you don’t like. If I had just done all the things that interested me freshman year, rather than dragging it out and regretting never went by senior year, I would have been able to find out more about what I really want to do or use the opportunity and switch into a more design focused major.
Another thing is to go with what you believe and feel like you can handle. Sure academic advisers could be insightful at times, but you don’t have to listen to her all the time. Taking 18 credits and joining a project team as a first semester freshman could sound daunting to someone who was having a hard time adjusting, but you could have tried it first before saying you can’t do it. Till this day, I still regret not joining the team that first semester.
Now let’s talk about the more ‘adult’ stuff, money and job. Financial aid application is something no one enjoy but is essential. Do do your research and know the difference between federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, so you know which ones to pay off first to minimize the amount of interest accrued. Refinancing the loans, making them more affordable, is also an option, and accessible resources like Earnest can help simply the process. All in all, just make sure you understand all your options before making a choice!
I’m sure you’ve heard about the myth that freshman don’t get internships. Although that is not necessary untrue, there are opportunities available, it just depends on how much you search. Go to the career office earlier, establish a relationship and know what resources are available. Even though you did eventually acquaint yourself with the staff through the coop program and ended up working in the office for two years, sooner is always better than later when initiating a relationship.
The last thing I want to bring up is about the party scene. What is college without college parties right? Don’t go crazy with the alcohol (those are some meaningless calories there) but don’t also be scared of them. Like with the meal plan, these are the situations where you meet new people, staying in all semester may be comfortable but you might miss meeting some really interesting people. Parties are not always about drinking (although knowing your limits would be good), there are house parties and frat parties. Go out and try. Don’t shut something out just because they are foreign and you’re scared.
If I were to tell you about all the details and warnings for the next four year it would take forever. Besides, that takes the “fun” out of life. Go out there and have fun. There will be ups and downs but everything happen for a reason.
21-year old me