Lessons from a college senior: Advice for freshmen about the road ahead
Everyone has heard the old platitude that college is the time to ‘find yourself’. However, three years ago, I started school at Louisiana State University thinking I’d already had it all figured out. Now that I’m in my senior year at LSU, I realize what I think I had known the whole time: you never really figure yourself out because you are constantly growing, changing, and evolving into the person you want to be. That being said, I’ve gained a lot of clarity over the years. While I can’t imagine what it’s like to start college in the midst of a pandemic, I can impart some wisdom I’ve gained and offer advice to freshmen for the road ahead.
Take This Time to Find Yourself
Firstly, you should really listen to that old cliché and take this time to find yourself. This statement is broad and not easily applied, but there are numerous ways you can go about this. Take time to figure out what makes you tick. Take classes that you find interesting, not because it helps you get your degree but because you want to learn something new. Some of my favorite classes at LSU have been the ones that don’t have much to do with my major but push me to think deeper and discuss new topics and ideas with classmates and friends. Take advantage of events and activities your university offers to freshmen; I met some of my best friends this way. It may look different this year, but that brings me to my next point.
Go Out of Your Comfort Zone
You should intentionally go out of your comfort zone. The best way to learn about yourself and what makes you tick is to constantly open yourself to new opportunities for growth. If an idea excites you and scares you, roll with it. You’d be surprised how much happier and fulfilled you will feel when you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Join clubs. Get involved with your professors and classmates. You can even take a dance class. (I did this a few times, and let me tell you, as an entirely unrhythmic dancer with disproportionally long legs, it is one the most terrifying and exhilarating things I’ve done in college). The point is not that you do any one particular thing but that you try to go beyond what you already know.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Broadening your scope of experience can be scary. I know it was for me. My next piece of advice is a big one: don’t be afraid to fail. Throughout my life, I’ve always been a perfectionist. So much so, that I’ve been tempted to not try certain things on numerous occasions in order to maintain my sense of self. But that’s no way to live. The times I’ve failed have taught me more about myself and what I want out of life than the times I was succeeding at everything I was doing.
Go with Your Gut
The single best piece of advice I can give you is to go with your gut. In other words, trust yourself. What I’ve learned in college is that you should only ever make decisions for yourself and not for other people. Be kind and compassionate but do what’s right for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you what is right for you because you know yourself best. Now is your time to figure out what you want to do with your life, but do so at your own pace.
Best of Luck
Remember, there’s a season for everything; don’t beat yourself up if things don’t look like how you want them to in the present moment. Just keep pushing yourself. You CAN do it. You have made it through everything else in your life up until this point, and you will make it through this too. I wish you all the best of luck.