Dear College Student // Ivan Gonzalez
Dear College Student,
Hello! As a self-described “forever student” (second time in grad school, what up!), I pray this letter finds you well rested and with eager anticipation for the upcoming semesters.
For those just beginning the journey into post high school education, welcome! It is an immense privilege to be pursing an advanced education, a privilege I hope is not lost on you as you navigate all the blessings and wonderful experiences that come from this season of your life.
When I was asked to share some insights regarding what I wished someone told me about college when I first arrived, I thought of three primary things that are often under emphasized as one begins or continues their college education. Be mindful that these three points can sound like a bit of a contradiction, but my hope is that you find yourself somewhere along this spectrum during your academic journey.
College is a time for character building
I cannot stress this point enough. Although I am confident that your academic studies will change you intellectually, the way you pursue your growth outside of the classroom is often times more indicative of lifelong meaning and success.
College is a tremendous opportunity for holistic character building. Questions surrounding one’s spirituality/faith, how one views their body, and how we engage others interpersonally are all areas of our lives that are primed for growth in this season.
Oftentimes, many young people understand growth in this season as happenstance, a “learn as you go approach,” if you will. While this may happen organically for you during your four to five years at school, being intentional about growing in these areas is what will set you up for success.
During this season, take who you are becoming seriously. Seek a therapist; join a dynamic community, one that will hold you accountable to your struggles and temptations, whatever those may be for you. My undergraduate years were not what they could have been because I often found myself running away from all the aspects of myself I didn’t like, instead of taking the time/finding folks who would love me and push me to grow as a person.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
While you’re out there working on developing your awesomeness, remember also to not take yourself too seriously. It’s a delicate balance, to take some aspects of your life rather seriously but not yourself too much.
Remember, college is a season of firsts for many people, and mistakes and mishaps will happen along the way. You may not overcome all your fears, find the person of your dreams, or learn to not snapchat while in class, but having a forgiving and lighthearted posture toward yourself will help you remain focused and appear human to others.
By not taking ourselves too seriously while working on our character, we remain committed to getting the most out of life: the messy, the funny, and the serious.
Figuring yourself out is great, but it’s not all about you
If you hear anything in this letter, hear this: It’s not all about you. I often spent one too many nights leveling up my wizard in World of Warcraft.
In hindsight, I realize I was shortchanging myself out of one of the best gifts college has to offer: the opportunity to help others. Do some googling, I am sure whether you are at a state college or university there are a variety of ways to get involved in your community and flex that selfless muscle of yours!
Caring for and helping others in ways that makes sense for your personality is the glue that makes character building and not taking yourself too seriously one of the greatest gifts of the college experience.
Many college students get the idea that they have little to offer during this time, but that is the furthest thing from the truth! We all have things we can offer to others in a meaningful way right now, and those are often discovered when we take the time to explore how we may be a blessing to others.
That’s it! Enjoy college my dear student, but above all, learn to love yourself and others even more, as it is those two things that what will truly change the world.
Your forever student friend,