As many schools are back to their first day of classes today including my great school (The University of Northern Iowa), I am struck with the bittersweet feeling of the graduated senior, now big girl, who instead of experiencing the first day of classes for the 20th time, will be experiencing the first day at a new job. As I sat on campus yesterday I looked around and saw new, young, excited faces moving into their dorms, making new friends and exploring campus. And I just loved how I could just see the raw eagerness in their faces for the years to come, not knowing what may happen tomorrow, but knowing they are excited for the road ahead. I loved it because I remember the beauty of those moments. Although I will not miss the homework and the stressful headaches of deadlines, I will miss the excitement of going to your first classes to meet your professor and find out who is in the class. Or figuring out which class is going to kick you in the butt and which one will undoubtingly be put on the back burner for the semester. More than that, I know I will miss the personality of campus and the everyday comfort that came out of being home, because I already do.
My message to you incoming freshman is to cherish each and every second of it. You have probably already heard a bajillion times that college is the best 4 years of your life, and I’m here to tell you it IS. You come to college expecting to see a new place, meet some new people, and get an education. But no matter what you expect, you will never be prepared for what you actually get. You’ll see a new place, and it will become a place that you never want to leave. You will meet new people, some of who will turn into your lifelong friends, your separated twin at birth, your other half. And yeah, you’ll get an education, but that won’t even compare to the lessons, the experiences, the trials and triumphs you will see in your 4 years there, all of which having an equal impact on your life.
So freshman, as you go into college look at it like a toddler looks at the world: an open adventure where anything is within reaching limits, you can do anything you want, and you can BE anyone you want. Cherish it, take it by the horns, and run with it, because in 4 years when you are standing on the outside looking in at the new eager freshman faces you won’t remember which night you stayed up too late, which test you failed miserably at, or that moment (or 2) of giving in to eating that extra slice of pizza at 2 in the morning. No you will remember the memories made with your friends while having fun, memories that you didn’t even realize in that moment would become the memories that mold the puzzle pieces of your college reel.
And seniors (because I know you are reading this too). If you haven’t lived according to your plans, your wants, your likes in your last 3 years, take this last year and run with it. No looking back, only looking forward, you better make it count.
Let loose, be smart, but have fun. There’s no sense worrying about if your hair looks perfect, or if your stomach is flat enough for that shirt, how many Instagram likes you are getting, or if you are going to achieve a perfect 4.0. This is college, this is your rehearsal for the curtain call we call adulthood. And unless you do everything you want to do while you have the chance to now, you might be standing at the curtain in 4 years wondering if your show was worth it.