June is always a busy month for me. We take on three family birthdays, Father’s Day and, of course, the typical end of school chaos.
This year we had the added pleasure of attending several high school graduation parties. Interestingly, these celebrations struck an emotional chord with me, more so than anything else. Watching these young graduates reach this pivotal milestone conjured up old feelings of when I went off to college. New feelings also emerged as I realized how soon I would be seeing my own children take this step toward adulthood and independence. I reflected on my college years and thought about what my advice for college students of today might be.
I was vicariously excited for the new phase of life these young, enthusiastic people are entering. I considered my own college experience and couldn’t help think about how I could’ve done it differently. I entered UMASS Amherst from graduating class of 60 girls at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, MA. I was scared and totally unprepared for the culture shock I would face. I would say my first real taste of freedom was intoxicating and toxic at the same time. My freshman year was rough, but I eventually got my act together and made it through the final three years. The one thing I didn’t do, was take my undergraduate education as seriously as I should have. I often wonder where I would be now, career-wise, had I been a better student and more tuned-in to the classes and opportunities I had available to me.
From the time I was little, I knew I was a creative person, yet I majored in business management and marketing. I considered a minor in art, but blew it off. Why? I’m honestly not sure, but I regret that I didn’t explore that further. Business didn’t excite me then or when I took a job in the financial services industry as a post-graduate.
Advice for College Students Today
If I could’ve told my young self a few things before heading off to college, here’s what I would’ve said:
- Relax and take it slow. Know your limits and remember why you are at college. Study first, party second.
- Your destiny may not yet be clear, but pay close attention to the classes and experiences that you are most enjoying. Your future success and contentment may very well be tied to your passions. It doesn’t always work out that way, but exploring the possibility will at least ensure you don’t utter the phrase, “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
- Think ahead – really think ahead. Take time to consider what you want to do in life and whether you can see yourself happy on your chosen career path long-term. Change what you need to change, but commit when you’ve got it figured out. Seek the help of professors, parents and mentors. Don’t coast through college without a plan.
As my girls get close to graduation, I’ll be doling out more and more advice based on my own experiences and I’m sure they’ll beg me to stop. I know that those four years can be easily wasted or optimized and I want the young people of today to make the most of them. Their future selves (and parents) will be glad they did.
What would your advice for college students be?