In every way he was perfect. Except that he wasn’t. For me.
1. You are going to change your mind. Many, many times.
It’s hard enough deciding what cereal I am going to have for breakfast let alone what you want to do for the rest of your life at the age of 17. I went into university with full intentions of being a doctor. I am now entering my senior year of university and will graduate with a psychology degree I never intended to get. Do I regret changing my mind? Not at all. I am lucky to have found something I am passionate about and enjoy studying. Whether it is about programs, career choices, dating, or food, you will find yourself changing your mind. A lot. And that is okay.
2. Whatever you want to do in the future is your choice and should make YOU happy, not everyone else.
I spent a lot of time being upset that I was letting people down by not choosing to be a doctor. People expected it to happen: family, friends, and random acquaintances. Don’t spend your life trying to please others with your career. Spend your life pleasing yourself and your personal goals. This is your story to write, not anyone else’s. If you’re happy, they should be happy.
3. It is perfectly normal to not know what you are going to do with your degree.
Probably the LAST question anyone in post-secondary wants to hear is “…so what do you plan on doing with that?” Uhmm… hang it on my wall? In this day and age, it doesn’t matter what faculty or program you come from, the “real job” world is a dog eat dog world. Jobs are hard to come by regardless of what you want to do. And sometimes, YOU don’t even know what you want to do. A degree on its own is now equivalent to what a high school diploma once was. This is a different time and it adds so much extra stress to your daily life.
4. High school does not prepare you for university.
Whoever said that it does lied. I had probably two teachers in my high school career who legitimately prepared me. From their lecturing style to their tests, they helped immensely. However, as a whole, high school is like a spoon-fed meal while university is like trying to eat a rare steak after getting your wisdom teeth removed. It is a completely different dynamic. You will see grades you didn’t know existed. You will learn to ACTUALLY read. You will also learn to skim and will quickly learn the difference between the two. You will learn that your writing in high school was crap and is embarrassing to read if you look back at it. No one holds your hand. No one cares. It is all on you.
5. You don’t have to spend 100% of your time studying or doing homework.
Now I know I just finished saying that university is harder than high school, but that doesn’t mean that you should forget about the other parts of the university experience. I don’t mean getting drunk all the time or being rambunctious, but I mean things like joining clubs, explore your university city/town, or play board games with your friends. A little R & R is necessary – you can’t spend your life behind books all day.
6. People get depressed, anxious, or develop other mental disorders during university. You are not alone.
I always had anxiety. I can tell you that right off the bat. However, I was diagnosed in university and that scared me. My grades suffered, my social life suffered, and I changed as a whole. But as I got to know more people, I found out that I wasn’t alone. Other people had it too. And it seems like society is trying to eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental illness. Also, if you’re prescribed pills, that’s okay too. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It simply means you need a little help in getting through the day. People with diabetes take insulin and people with depression take antidepressants. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.
7. Joining a fraternity or sorority doesn’t mean you are a party animal.
This past year, I joined a sorority (Delta Pi). Not because my boyfriend was in a fraternity (Pi Kappa Alpha, represent!). Not because I needed to “pay for my friends.” I wanted to experience sisterhood in a new light. The media blows up the idea of Greek life to astronomical proportions compared to how it is in the Hamilton community. We do not drink all the time. We do not take pride in sleeping around, nor do we engage in that activity. We put on fundraisers. We eat meals together. We network! Joining a fraternity/sorority is one of the best ways to meet people. Whichever one you belong to, you are all connected by the underlying group that is the Greek community. Use that as an advantage rather than subject yourself to being a stereotype.
8. If you thought you knew what time management was, you didn’t.
University doesn’t teach you how to manage your time. It forces you into figuring it out. And if you don’t, I guess we won’t see you after Thanksgiving break. I thought I had time management figured out in high school. Then the next time you blink, you have a part time job, 1000 volunteer hours to complete, minimum 5 courses per term to attend, study for, and do homework, have a social life, have your alone time, and any other extracurriculars I may have missed. Doing all these things isn’t impossible – not at all. However, it is the best way to learn how to manage your time accordingly – a vital life skill.
9. Not everyone goes to graduate school immediately after undergrad.
Whether it is medical school, masters programs, college programs or whatever, everyone makes it seem like there is a rush to take the next big step in your life. What people don’t talk about is that…that doesn’t always happen. I want to take a year off in between undergrad and grad school. I want that time to work, to develop as a person independently (moreso than ever), and to see what exactly I want to do. For the past few nights, I felt like what I was thinking was ridiculous and I should just jump into grad school. What I didn’t know is that I am not alone… not everyone has their life figured out. Not everyone pretends like their life is figured out. You don’t have to jump if you’re not ready.
10. You will grow so much as a person.
The people you were friends with in high school won’t necessarily be your friends after your undergrad and you know what? That’s okay. Sometimes you grow apart. Sometimes you grow together. You won’t see each other as often, but you’ll find that the ones who want to stick around will be there. You will find that things that bothered you in the past don’t anymore. Or vice versa. You may find new things to be annoyed by. Your opinions will change. You will argue with facts and statistics. You will compare prices between items and between time periods. You will learn to manage your money. You will learn that the person you thought you were going to marry in high school doesn’t compare to the person you’re with now. Or you will learn that dating doesn’t always mean you’re going to be with that person forever. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean you’re going to be with them for more than one date. And at the end of the day, you shouldn’t need to always be with someone because the most important person in your life is you. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Sometimes you will need days to be alone in your room with a bottle of wine, a box of pizza, and Netflix. You are changing but you are still you. And that person is wonderful and has so much more to learn.