[Graduation, May 2012, with Prof. B. One of the classiest, sassiest, most inspiring women I’ve had the privilege of having as a mentor.]
This is a column I wrote for our college paper, The University Daily Kansan, in 2012 for its Back to School issue. I wrote it specifically for KU students but feel college students from all over could relate to it as well. (At least, I hope so.) I hope you don’t mind me sharing it… p.s. this is before the copy editor polished it. The online version is not yet available. I apologize for the errors.
As my time as a student comes to end, I can’t help but reflect on the past five years (victory lap!) while Vitamin C’s “Graduation” plays in my mind… I’m not going to put you through that, but I would like to share some words of advice.
I’m going to go ahead and get the cliches out of the way first: College flies by. Get involved. Take advantage of the opportunities. Have fun. Study hard. Don’t take these four (or five, or however many) years for granted. Be safe. You will someday look back on this time and miss it. You will.
Now that those are out of the way (yet, so very true) I am going to add a few of my own “what I wish I had known while at KU” lessons.
1. The library has the best, I repeat, best resources. Learn how to use them. I’m not even saying necessarily for your projects or papers, but did you know they have an entire DVD section? Or an entire row in the stacks dedicated to Scandinavian Royals? Me neither. I didn’t know this until my last semester. They also have subscriptions to some of the raddest, most expensive websites and databases in the world. If you want a book, they will find it and help you get it into your hands. Any book. Even if it’s flippin’ Amelia Bedelia, they will make it happen. Explore your hobbies and interests now. You have the best resources to do so.
Also, most of your Western Civ. texts can be found online for free. Most of them are public domain and can be found on google books or somewhere of the like. Wait until after you find out how much of your textbook you’ll use in other classes, then you can decide if it’s worth buying. You can always find rentable texts in different libraries and departments. Honestly, I didn’t use 85% of my textbooks.
2. Eat at the dining hall. I know, I know, it gets old. I felt the same way. But oh, how I wish I would have listened to my older siblings when they said, “Enjoy it now, because when you have to cook yourself, it’s the worst.” Seriously. My sister would still own a pass to Mrs. E’s if she could get one for her and the rest of her family. After all, who could ever tire of a cereal bar? I think I’ll miss that the most…
3. Talk to your professors. They are people, believe it or not, and (most) are there because they really do want to help you learn. And (most) are experts on extremely specific topics. And (most) want to tell you about what they know. Go to office hours, email them if you have questions. Know what is worth debating and what is not. That extra credit you turned in and got five out of ten, let it go. Unless, of course, they are blatantly wrong.
4. Put down your phones and talk to the people around you. After college, you’re probably rarely, if ever, going to be around so many people in the same life stage/situation as you. Everyone is here trying to get a degree (and do so while making the best of it). We’re all on the same playing field–help eachother out. Meet people who are interested in your same hobbies. You may never again see people with the same interests on a daily basis. But don’t stick to only groups that agree with what you think or like what you like. Explore different groups and make friends with all kinds of people. This is how you learn.
5. I think this is probably the most important thing I wish I had known: Take control of your course order. I wish I had taken more general education classes at the beginning and avoided diving into so many major-specific classes. I have more than 12 credit hours that do not apply at all to my degree. I should have been more open to the idea I would maybe change my mind (which I did, five times) before deciding on a major. General eds: Get them done. Tell your advisor you want ones that are general to many schools and can count for at least something if you change your major. Be smart about your classes. Be open to new majors. Don’t assume you will graduate with the major you started in. If you do, props. Major props (pun intended). I wish I had had my stuff together.
But most of all get off the computer and go sledding on snow days, tailgate before games, and go to the Union movies. Because Facebook will be around ten years down the road (or so we’re told) but you won’t be on campus forever. Yes, we’re always Jayhawks, but it’s a rare time of your life when you’re surrounded by 25,000 others who hold “Rock Chalk” to heart.
I miss University more than words could ever express. This is a chapter I long to return to, but life doesn’t work that way. All I can do is let those of you going into college or currently in its throws know that this is it. These are times you will miss. Be present. Cherish every single moment.