Some Advice for the Uncertain College Student

As the winter term comes to close, and the start of my final college term draws closer, it’s hard not to look back at my past several years of college and think about all the things I wish I’d done differently. While I’m no advocate for dwelling on the past, I do think that some reflection, some thought about how I’d advise anyone about to begin college, can be healthy. Hopefully, this advice will help a college student in need, and will remind me how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. 

            The single most important lesson that I’ve learned is that there’s no one person with all the answers when it comes to planning my future. In high school, there weren’t many paths for me to take. While I had flexibility in terms of which colleges I wanted to apply to, the classes that I took and the extracurricular activities that I partook in were pretty much set in stone. The degree of choice that I had was limited. In college, things are so different. Every term, there are so many classes to choose from. The activities I can participate in and the lectures that I can attend are almost endless. At first, I was overwhelmed by this degree of choice. I would turn to advisors and other students, searching for the person who could tell me which classes I should sign up for. Initially, I felt so lost that I would pick classes based on what I’d heard from others. I thought that there was one right way to do things that I had to stick to. Looking back, there were so many opportunities that I missed to explore my own interests, both inside and outside of the classroom. If I could go back and advise my younger self, I would tell her to use college as an opportunity to learn about herself and her interests. 

            I would also tell her to seek advice, but to ultimately make decisions for herself. I would tell her that there is no one person with all of the knowledge and answers that she seeks. Instead, she has to rely on a combination of her research and her instincts. I would also tell her that even though it seems like everyone around her has everything figured out, that’s hardly the case. Many other college students, maybe even most college students, are still learning about their own interests and trying to figure out their future plans, while also doing their best to develop new study strategies and to make new friends. I would tell her that she’s not alone, even though it might seem that way sometimes. She shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to others, as she might just find someone who is currently in the same position, or who has recently gone through something similar. 

            There are so many things that I wish I knew coming into college and there are so many things that I wish I could go back and tell myself. But the process of learning about those things has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had. Working through moments of uncertainty – moments during which I felt lost or overwhelmed – has increased my confidence in my ability to pursue my own decisions and to make informed decisions. And as look back on my college experience, building my own confidence and discovering new passions and interests has been one of the most valuable lessons learned.