I want to start off with a polite message welcoming you the university, much like the ones you’ve been hearing since orientation and these first few weeks of school. While I’m really happy that you guys have decided to attend this university, I feel like it’s my duty as a senior to tell you what I’ve learned since my first day of college three years ago: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I feel like I should begin by letting you know that this will be the easiest part of your college career. Sure, in a couple of weeks, you will start to feel the crunch once your homework load increases. Yet even then, you are still bound to receive more sympathy than the average upperclassman. Though most TAMIU professors are great people, many of them don’t play around when it comes to the most innocent mistakes. Still, many of your first-year professors will remember what it was like to be eighteen, broke, and tired and subsequently go easy on you; their job is not only to teach you how to write a decent essay, but also to help you navigate through the sea of deadlines and inevitable all-nighters coming your way. As my University Seminar professor bluntly told the class on our first day, “We are here to help you get your shit together.”
However, within a year — maybe even a semester — that will be your job. When you mess up (which you definitely will), people might not be so nice and understanding. It will become your sole responsibility to stay on top of your schoolwork and figure out almost everything about this place on your own. Very soon, it’s going to be your choice what you do with that freedom.
This brings me to my next point. Regardless of your academic record during high school, you are now starting at zero. I learned this during my first semester, when I went from being the overachieving teenager to the below-average adult within a matter of weeks. Not to toot my own horn, but my English teachers in high school always gushed about what a good writer I was; one of them even referred to me as “the best in [her] class” in when she signed my yearbook. So when I stepped into my freshman composition class, I was sure there was nothing left for me to learn.
That was my biggest mistake in college to date (other than taking 8:30 AM classes three times a week). When my professor left remarks on my essays that weren’t filled with praise, I thought he was mistaken. I thought he hated me. But eventually, I took his constructive criticism and can now thank him for helping me learn an important lesson: you must never stop learning. Not when you graduate high school, and not even when you’re finishing college. The moment you decide to stop learning is the moment you do yourself and everyone around a huge disservice. You miss out on so much when you think you know it all. There is so much to learn outside of your textbooks, the lecture halls, and the library.
Also, you’re going to meet some people you will always remember, in both good ways and bad. Some of these professors will change your life, while others, you’ll wish you never met. Same goes for your peers. From both groups, you will come to realize the biggest lesson I’ve learned in college: you are not alone.
In your joy, your sadness, and your frustration, there’s going to be at least one other person feeling the same way. If you’re anything like me, you might this out shortly after emerging from bathroom with bloodshot eyes and shaky hands after failing a test. But you also might realize this when you get that scholarship you applied for, or when you board a plane to a foreign land that you dreamed of visiting as a child. That’s the magic of college, I suppose. We all like to pretend that we’re grown up and can handle everything, but the truth is, we will always need someone or something to fall back on. If we’re lucky, they will push us right back up, maybe even higher than before. Through trial and error, I’ve found those people.
Despite the different directions we may take in the near future, each one of them has carried me through tough times and celebrated with me during good times. You want to find people like that and keep them while you can. They may not be around forever, but they’ll be around long enough to make an impact.
I’ll step off my soapbox with one last thought that just occurred to me. In a few months, I’ll be graduating. Once again, I’ll be starting over. Even though this letter was intended to be the voice of experience imparting wisdom on young minds, I am still just as clueless as I was in 2013, just in different ways. There are still many things for me to learn and mistakes to be made. Still, we all have to hit the ground running at some point in our lives, and there’s no better time than now to do so. You have both feet on the ground now, so go ahead and start running. I promise there will always be somebody to catch you and push you along when you need it. Because once you start running, it’s a lot easier to start flying.
Wishing you the best,
The Bridge News