A Letter to Incoming College Freshmen

First things first: Congratulations on finishing high school! Due to unforeseen and unfortunate events, your Prom and Graduation were stripped from you. Have no doubt in mind that your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and I salute you for soon embarking on a new chapter in your life for as long as Miss Rona stays away. 

This letter I write to you is to give you insight and reassurance into my college journey, which is considered unorthodox, but I’m here to let you know that it is not.

A little bit about me: I graduated from a Noble Network Charter High School in 2017 and committed to The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for The Class of 2021. Due to mental health issues that further affected my academic and emotional performance, I did not return for my sophomore year and dedicated that I would not return overall. Instead of enrolling to a City College, I made the executive choice to attend Triton College, a suburban community college. While I was not fond of a big school, I still wanted to be able to get involved in student organizations. I found just that at Triton. I spent my sophomore year and half of my junior year there. I transferred to DePaul University for the Winter 2020 Quarter, and I’ve been enjoying my time so far even though this pandemic is intruding on the experience I was longing for.

Even though I was not going out of state, going to a college 3 hours away was a huge decision, especially being the youngest and only girl in a Latinx household. Fortunately, my parents were nothing but supportive in whatever college I decided. I was always a homebody and still very much a shy person. I figured going to a big school would challenge me to step outside my comfort zone and start marking my independence toward making friends as opposed to the traditional high school setting. It took two months into my freshman year to realize that this school wasn’t it. I wanted to go home. My mental health began to deteriorate in addition to the seasonal depression that winter. Spring semester rolled around and I tried my hardest to get back to where I was, but something was holding me back. I just wasn’t happy. I was grateful for having my friends be my support system, but my feet were still not on the ground 100%. 

Moving back home was a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Enrolling at Triton College was my chance at redemption. I gave it my all to my classes, joined student organizations, became a part of volunteer organizations, and got jobs on campus. I did anything to get myself involved in order to feel connected for a greater outcome. More importantly, I shared my college experience and journey thus far to peers around me and my various mentors. Their own stories and reassurances helped me keep my toes on the ground, further motivating and congratulating me into becoming a better version of myself. I’m trying to do just that before many of you engulf into an experience similar to mine. I want you all to know beforehand that the stumbles along the road and switching of lanes when it comes to finding yourself and your college goals is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s totally normal. Because of all the transferring I’ve done, I’m most likely not on track to graduate within the 4 normal years college takes. I don’t care. I’m doing everything at my own pace. At the end of the day, I’m no less smarter for taking 5 or more years to complete my degree. I will still obtain my degree at DePaul. I  will probably have some more bumps along the road, but this time I know where to seek help, whether that be through campus resources, therapy, talking to family and friends, or just simple self-care. I’m glad things played out the way they did because without it I wouldn't have had the revelation that love and nurture can be key to transformation. Everything that I am, and everything that I am yet to become has and will continue to be created by the constant battles I face. With the willingness to succeed carried on my shoulders, nothing will ever bring me down. Carry that with you. Put yourself and your health first.