The high school days are finally behind you – all those countless test prep hours have finally amounted to something, all those high school counselor meetings have led you to this moment – you’re finally here.
Welcome to college.
About a year and a half ago, I was sitting in my room 7,500 miles away from Boston in Bombay and fantasizing about the next best four years of my life. The friendships I was going to make (like what “Friends” taught me), how I’d meet the love of my life and kiss her under the stars ( What Ross Geller taught me), and how Boston was going to be a perfect setting for my new journey (close enough to New York City).
And now, here I am, sitting in a cafe (not Central Perk) on a Saturday afternoon. As I approach my third year, let me give you some advice that I wish someone gave me when I was in your shoes.
I know what you may be thinking – What makes YOU an expert?
I’ve lived two different lives: one in order to support the fantasy I shared with you earlier, and the other to finally let go of all that and just live.
I’ll also give you some resources that have dramatically changed my perspective about college and, most importantly, about life.
You’re probably hoping to work hard, get good grades, graduate, and live a good life. That’s the narrative many of us have heard when it comes to being successful. But through my time here so far, I’ve come to see that there’s more to college than that. In fact, getting good grades and graduating is an extremely small part of what this experience is all about. With that in mind, here are some pieces of advice I wish someone had told me before I entered my freshman year.
Try to find a purpose.
Socrates once said,” To know is to know that I know nothing”
You may think you know exactly what you want to do in life, but you may quickly discover that your plan isn’t as clear as you thought it’d be. I stepped into college with the promise that I’d pursue a business degree in order to get a good job. However, my favorite class to date has been a philosophy class I decided to take despite what everyone else said (“Dude, what the hell are you going to do by studying philosophy?”). Why? Not because I got the best grades, but because I learned something and discovered an interest I otherwise wouldn’t have if I took a class just because it was an easy A or because it would help me get a high paying job.
Perhaps you know exactly what you want to do with your life or maybe, like most of us, you have no freakin’ idea. What classes are you going to take? What’s your major going to be? What kind of clubs are you going to join?
Instead of trying to find answers for all these questions, try to answer these instead: What legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to change the world? What energizes you and makes you feel fulfilled? If these questions become the focus of your searching, everything else will naturally begin to follow.
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean you have to know the exact answers to the questions – but it’s important to keep these questions in the back of your mind. Once you start to get an idea of what your purpose may be, your decisions will be more in line with what you want. Knowing what your “why” is can help you to overcome the “how.” You’ll think twice before taking a class just to boost your GPA or accepting an internship just for the money.
That’s what college is for: To help you figure out how you can leave your mark, however big or small that is. You can mess up all you want, as long as you keep striving and keep trying, you’ll continue to discover your purpose.
Try to be true to yourself.
In order to find friends, you don’t have to be in the best shape of your life, you don’t have to sleep with someone you don’t want to, and most importantly, you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not.
As president of my high school student council and the valedictorian, I was pretty confident that I was an extrovert, a people-person. Little did I know that by trying to please other people so that they would like me, I ended up beating myself up, day by day.
Friendships are a huge part of college but it doesn’t matter how many social circles you have. What matters is how many of them really matter to you.
So instead of secretly trying to win the Instagram or Snapchat contest every weekend, join clubs in which you are interested, surround yourself with people who inspire and make you a better person, do activities that you enjoy, because most likely the other people doing them will have similar interests. In these situations, passion will make the connection.
Try to not take all of this so seriously.
College is not life; it’s a part of it.
You’ll mess up and end up doing things you’ll later regret. Whatever it is, I hope you don’t mistaken four years for your entire life.
It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to study computer science and later find out you really want to be an artist. Your education isn’t going to waste as long as you’re experimenting and learning.
Sitting here now, I think about how imperfect my college life has been so far: I’ve not made as many friends as I hoped I would make, or found the love of my life, but that’s okay. I may have not followed exactly in the footsteps of Ross Geller as I had expected, but I’ve created my own memories, had my own hardships and made my own friends along the way. I realize now that college is not about living like your favorite sitcom character, but being your own unique individual.
Of course it’s important to study and try to get good grades, but it’s also important try to have some fun too. At the end of the day, you won’t remember studying for that final or going to bed on time, but you will remember ordering pizza at three in the morning and laughing with your roommate about how horrible your test is going to be.
If you ended up reading all of this, I’ll list some of my favorite resources – maybe you’ll find them just as helpful as I have.
- A practical way of conquering your so called bucket list.
- An amazing website that’ll teach you everything there is about being a good man (or woman).
- From renting your first apartment to being a good roommate, this book is all you need for college.
- If you ending up feeling too much, know that you’re not alone.
- To help you stop waiting for everything, use this app.
- A website that will help you become a lifelong learner.
- Lastly, a place where you can learn about life, not textbooks.
So learn as much as you can, explore, broaden your perspective, and finally, use this to make the world a better place. Step in with curiosity, strive through with ambition, and head out to conquer your ambition.