06 May 2014

A Letter to my Seniors who won't be able to read this for 3 weeks...

Dear Seniors,

I just made you write a letter to incoming freshman about what to expect at Saint Francis and how to get the most out of that experience. It only seems fair to offer some of the same sage advice to you as you begin your journey from high school into "the real world." And what does the real world entail? The same things the "fake"world does, except you can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But seriously, what things do you need to know to fully succeed in college and beyond? Well, here's a list of things that may help- at least I wish someone had told me these things (correction: i wish i had listened when I was informed of this stuff)...

1) Everything in moderation. Why do I start here? Because unless you go to college and live at home, one of the first choices you're going to have is whether or not to party that first night. And unlike the new high school parties, these will have kegs. And Jungle Juice. And Marijuana. And lots and lots and lots of peer pressure. Whether or not you choose to partake in these is clearly your choice- my only recommendation is to do whatever you do in moderation. Almost all of your friends that start at a college away and find themselves returning to a college closer to home usually have taken moderation out behind the building and beat it like Django Unchained. But moderation is an issue with academics as well- sometimes students immerse themselves in their academics- so much so you never meet students and expand your horizons.

2) Most of what you learn, despite the money you spend, will be learned outside the classroom. This is not to say that you will not learn A TON of important things in your classes. Insofar as an academic endeavor, there won't be very many things capable of exceeding a college education. For that, college is the goods. But lets not kid ourselves: ask all of your "grown up" friends about how much they use any specific thing they learned in a specific class on the job. I'm a teacher and I still find most of what i use on the job wasn't obtained in a classroom- i use my ability to communicate to different kinds of individuals from different backgrounds that i learned by living in the dorms, i use the organizational and research skills i learned in speech and debate, but even when I'm teaching English 1 I find myself telling them more about the best way to prepare for a test than teaching them grammar, and my test preparation skills weren't taught to me in a class: they were taught to me by a freshman from Lowell High School who lived on my floor (and is now a dentist in San Francisco).

What does this mean in real-time? It means that sometimes, the true learning will happen when you don't go to class and do something with the people around you. These people will end up being some of your best friends and confidantes. I thought I had a ton of close friends in high school- or so I thought. Of my high school friends, I think I still have one or two- but for the most part- the ties that bound us together are no longer as strong, or even relevant, as they once were. This isn't to say you'll not keep any of your high school friends, but it is to say that the people you go to college with will be particularly close to you- it's essentially your surrogate family. One of the down sides to being human is that need for connection to something bigger- the people around you serve that function. Sit around and shoot the shit with kids in the lounge. Join into a heated conversation about politics. Go out and play frisbee golf with those hippy kids. Play hoop with the psuedo ballers from downstairs. Study with the girl who digs anime and that dude down the hall with the great head of lettuce. All these experiences are as integral to your college experience as that Organic Chemistry or History of Sexuality class (not as cool as you think).

3) Don't Procrastinate. I know. I know. I know. I'm not the first person to suggest this to you. You've been told your whole life to not sleep on your work and to stay on top of things. But here's the thing about college you don't really know: the amount of work they give you is reasonable to do, but it's actually probably too much to do all at the last minute. But because college classes are way less focused on jumping through the hoop kind of BS that fill a high school grade book, and instead only focuses on a few major assignments- this means when you wait too long, cram last minute and don't get it done, it hits your grade so much harder than when you were in high school. A bad couple of days in the testing chamber could leave you with a sub 2.0 grade point average. The amount of work you're given for a class can feasibly be done in between classes and it still allows you time to go out and have your fun (kind of ties to the everything in moderation). This will happen to everyone at some point in time, the difference between people who get to stay in college and people who have to come home is how often your procrastination gets the better of you.

4) Be yourself. Everyone wants to take their initial college experience and use it as an opportunity to re-make themselves- to be the better, smarter, cooler version of their high school selves. People do it all the time and they do it in a variety of ways: they decide after  4 years of not doing any partying in high school that they want to be the party girl and goes out drinking every night. The boy that was kind of a dork in high school and since nobody knows him essentially becomes a cartoon version of themselves, acting in ways the real them would be ashamed of. The shy peaceful kid gets in with a crowd of kids that eggs and toilet papers houses and cars. All these kids are doing what they think is expected of kids who everyone wants to hang out with. But eventually the real you comes out, and all those fake ass busters you were hanging out with will figure you're not one of them, but someone of substance, you'll end up where you are right now: confused and not sure who your friends are. If you use the same standard you've always used, then you'll come up with a worthy set of friends. And let me make this point: not everyone you meet will be your friend- and that's good because most people kind of suck. In my world, a friend is someone that has stood up to the test and passed. If your friendship hasn't been tested, then you ain't friends yet. And don't assume all the people you want to pass the test will- that's the thing about tests- some motherfuckers will just fail it- and that's not on you- unless you accept their failure and allow it to happen again.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun. If you don't have fun in college, it's probably not gonna happen- the last place where responsibility has a pause button...


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