Reading an Op-Ed from an alum, you should recognize that he or she is giving her 17-year-old-self a bit of advice and hoping that perhaps something there may be of some value to someone. Decide for yourself what advice you’ll take, what you’ll consider, and what you’ll apply, because you may be an entirely different person.
1. The first thing is that college is short and life is long. For the past 17 years, everything has been building up to that one question: where are you going to college? At the end of the day, you will be the exact same person whether at Yale or at Princeton, Middlebury, or the University of Virginia. Some places may make you happier than others, but in others you may learn how to make your own happiness. At the end of the day, you’re going to be fine wherever you go.
2. College may not be the best four years of your life. Pop culture depictions of wild fraternity parties, spring break
road trips, and late night conversations about politics and philosophy may or may not happen for you. The greater world is actually much easier to mold to your ambitions and desires than it may seem right now or than people would have you believe. Enjoy your college experience, but don’t stress over making sure that it is “The Best Time Ever.” Just take it as it comes.
3. Don’t worry about trying out too many different things. If you find something you genuinely love, it’s OK to stick with it. Besides, just like college admissions officers, future employers will like seeing your dedication to something you found you loved. It will also make you happier.
4. Study abroad. Even if you don’t end up liking the experience of being away from friends, family, and the comforts of American life, there will be few other opportunities as easy or as simple as studying abroad in college.
5. Keep up with your foreign language. You’ve already invested the equivalent of five years of study to French or Spanish or even Mandarin–don’t make all of that time a waste. Take those classes all through college, and if you can study abroad in a country where you can attain fluency, do it. You never know when that perfect job you want will require it, or when it’ll come in handy for last minute travel, or even just getting help from a stranger when you move to a new neighborhood.
But remember that just as the last four years were just four out of a lifetime of years, there will be four more after college. And four more after that. It is the little, everyday things that will have the most effect. Did you figure out whether you were most productive at night or in the morning? Were you able to discover how to fall in love without losing yourself? Did you learn to tell the difference between friends who were worth investing in and friends who weren’t?
Maybe ten years from now you’ll write an Op-Ed in Maroon and realize how both SHS and college will leave imprints on you. But there will be more experiences after them. Life really holds much more promise than four years on a campus.