10 things I wish I would’ve known before college

As I sit here after a whirlwind day, a tad stressed, and eating my third York Peppermint Patty (yes, I am an unfortunate stress eater), I am overwhelmed as I think about everything I have learned this year. So to my seniors and everyone else, here are some things I wish I would’ve known before college:

  1. Get rid of all-encompassing words; there is nothing “everyone” does.
    I go to an SEC school and was told coming down here that EVEERRRYOONE rushes and is Greek. Everyone in college drinks and parties. Everyone pulls at least two all-nighters finals’ week. These, among others, are false. I know plenty of awesome girls and guys who are not in sororities nor fraternities. I have not touched alcohol (and everything else in that general category . . .) and I know other people that choose not to. I have never pulled an all-nighter since being in college (sorry to be a fun-sucker, I need at least 3 hours of sleep to function). This is just like high school, when you would beg your parents to go to the party because EVERYONE was going. They didn’t believe you, so don’t believe others who persuade you with that word. Come on Dad, everyone has an iPhone! Trust me, I’m in college and I still know people working the T9 flip phones–not everyone does nor has any one thing.
  2. You are not superior, even though in high school you were __________.
    I have met about 50 other Homecoming Queens. There is probably another class president in every class I take. You were a state champ? That’s awesome, but there are 49 other states that have state champs, too. You’re not the first senior that ever went on a wild and crazy senior spring break trip. You had a 4.72 GPA?! WOW, that’s awesome, and the random girl that just passed you on the quad had a 4.73.  You spoke at graduation? That would be cool if the kid next to you didn’t speak at a national conference AND get a standing ovation. This is not to diminish what you have done and where you come from, but humbly allow your accomplishments to graduate with you, when you walk across that stage in May. (I am also not the first genius to have this revelation, either. I was told this time and time again, but it will still be a shock to you, once you are thousands of miles away and no one knows your nicknames, weird quirks, and all of your–super awesome and one-of-a-kind–accomplishments.) People who love you will always think you are special, regardless.
  3. You will probably not meet your future husband or wife at a bar or some raging fraternity party.
    If you are currently engaged to someone that you met at a party, please just skip over this one. Okay, everyone else who is not engaged? Please do not bank on meeting the love of your life at some random dark, sweaty, loud-music filled party. In movies it looks so glamorous when the super-cute frat star comes up to the girl and asks if she is “new here”. However, it is the farthest from that. Know what you deserve–just because you do not see your Romeo, does not mean you need to lower your expectations. Go for a person with ambition and morals. If that’s at a church–great. If that’s in a random class–awesome. Starbucks? Fantastic. If it’s at a Friday night rager? That’s great, too; just don’t go to some party on the prowl for your next boyfriend or girlfriend, because the odds may not be in your favor.
  4. Just because you miss home does not mean you like your school, friends, or new life any less.
    And along with that: You will miss home. I don’t care if you were the kid slashing the days off their calendar. I don’t care if you were “so over high school” by fall of your junior year–you will miss home, and that is okay. Whether you are 45 minutes away or 10 hours, being away is away, and you have to adjust. Also along those lines, you do not have to cross seven state borders to escape the wrath of your parents and high school and your reputation. There are plenty of people at UC who did not go to Mason. Don’t want high school to repeat itself? Then go out of your comfort zone and meet some of those thousands of other people. I can make pro and con lists all day about staying close to home or going far, but the bottom line is that wherever you go, you will miss your family and what used to be, and that is normal and healthy.
  5. Transferring and failing are mutually exclusive.
    Unless you transfer because you were failing out . . .
    I have a ton of friends who transferred between first and second semester, and after their freshman year in general. Transferring is not failing–it does not mean you know yourself any less and you are screwed and cannot make it and will never be able to commit to anything and blah blah blah to all the other things ignorant people will say. I have the utmost respect for kids that go out of their comfort zones, realize it’s not for them, and then swallow a painful pill called pride and admit that to themselves and their parents. It’s courageous, challenging, and sometimes God envisions us somewhere different than where we originally desired.
  6. How you meet your friends is how you meet your friends.
    There is no formula for this. I cannot tell you how many articles I had read that tell you when and where and how you will meet your BFF/soulmate/bros/partners-in-crime. Some people meet their best friend immediately and they’re inseparable for the next 30 years. Numerous people have said something along the lines of “who you meet the first two weeks of college will be your friends forever”. I think it’s important to put yourself out there the first few weeks of college, but I also have friends that are seniors and didn’t meet their best friend until junior year. Some people claim that it takes time to really develop deep bonds with someone. I have friends I have met in all cases (and will continue to). Your college experience is yours; do not let anyone tell you that there is one right way to do it.
  7. Just because you graduate and your life changes, doesn’t mean you have to change.
    Again, there were a ridiculous number of articles I read where people talked about how your old friend group will drift, and how you will discover “who you really are”. I was petrified that I was going to go home and not even recognize any of my old friends. To anyone in that boat–here is hope. You can make it work. Yes, some days it is work. Sometimes you’re crazy busy and hectic, but take the 30 seconds to send your best friend a text. Schedule in a facetime with the one person who you said “would always be by your side”. Is it sometimes hard? Yes, but it is absolutely possible. If a friendship is worth it, then you will work for it. I love going home because there are some people that I truly do not miss a beat with. (I also recommend writing letters. Time consuming–yes. Getting mail, though–fun.)
  8. You will fail. So. Many. Times.
    And then you will get back up, learn that you’re going to be okay, accept your awesomeness, and do a hair-flip. Give yourself a break–you are doing this for your first time. Whether it is forgetting to call your parents, still not remembering the nice kid’s name who sits in front of you in English, sprinting across campus because you are a freshman and terrified of being late–someone, somewhere has done it, and it may have even ended worse for them. You are not alone, and the failures make the successes so much sweeter. (And yes, there are much bigger failures than being forgetful, but I’ll let you figure those out on your own.)
  9. You will never know all the answers, but knowing where you can find them is a good first step.
    Truthfully, I have learned that most all of them are found in The Bible. Seriously. About to have a break-down because you have no idea what you’re going to do with your life? Turn to Jeremiah. Feeling alone or unloved? Call up Corinthians. Don’t know how to treat the one kid that just really gets under your skin? Romans can help you out. There aren’t enough physical hours in a day to sleep and you are exhausted and drained? Matthew (and your bed) is your go-to medicine. There was a point in my life where I thought The Bible was like a sheet where you could hide from your problems and act like you were fine. Oh, how I was wrong. The Bible addresses your problems–it is, and forever will be, the most truthful, honest, brutal, yet love-sappy book ever written.
  10. I am so broken and so happy to be saved.
    I thought I had it all together, all my ducks in a row, and that makes me cry of laughter. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, if I didn’t have Jesus, I do not know what I would do. Guys, college is wonderful, but it is also one of the most challenging and exhausting times of your life. That is brutal and honest, but take heart, because He has overcome this world (John 16:33). Know that the God of Gods has conquered every single one of your challenges, fears, and obstacles because He loves you. I love my friends, and I show them that by spotting them a couple bucks for ice cream. The flawless creator of the Universe loves us, and He shows us that by having His son die for us. Die. For me. For you. There are so many days where I fall and stumble. I love and indulge and cling desperately to this world, to things that will only temporarily fulfill me–y’all I’m so broken. And yet the ultimate sacrifice gave His life, so I can be viewed as perfect. He covered it all, so I can get the green light into paradise. This isn’t something you need to know for college, it is something you need to know for life. Please do yourself the favor and find Him. Latch on to Him, because the water will rise at times and you will have nothing else to keep you afloat.

Get back to me in a year, and sophomore Erica will probably have a thousand more bits and pieces and corrections to the advice that I am trying to give, despite my lack of qualifications. What I can tell you, however, is that 9 and 10 are solid. They will not change. Everyone’s college experience and life will look different, but with Him they can all be wonderful.

Praying for your next 4 (or 5 or 6) years. Praying that you find the anchor of a lifetime because that anchor will give you an entire new lifetime.

All my love,

The stressed and blessed, still-learning college freshman

PS: Also consumed 2 more peppermint patties during the course of writing this. That really holds no relevance, but I just felt like I would be lying to you all if I let you believe I only had 3.