An Open Letter To The Class Of 2020

averie woodard
averie woodard

To the class of 2020,

You grew up thinking you were going to be best friends with your kindergarten buddies forever. You made home videos in grade school with people you once thought of as sisters. You went through your mood swings and crushes in middle school with other teenage drama queens (or kings).

And high school was just a blur of Friday night football, state athletic tournaments and AP classes you hated but appreciated later. All of the people in these phases of life made an impact on you. All of these phases helped form who you are and taught you lessons that are basically unexplainable.

They brought a handful of people into your life that will remain close forever. They’ll be friends you can go months without speaking to and pick up right where you left off. And they’ll be the ones that taught you how to appreciate what was to come. I remember my dad talking about his college experience as a kid. The mischief and adventure he got into combined with the constant reminder that his rebel child could never do anything that he hadn’t already done basically gave me a glimpse into my future without even knowing it.

Unfortunately, my college experience didn’t exactly start out as we had planned.

By we, I mean my dad and I. You know, medical school or law school, at a prestigious university, that required years of planning and plenty of time applying to…that kind of plan. Long story short, plan was changed by a high school relationship that “surprisingly didn’t work out.” (Imagine that.) Lucky for me, I was better off without him. Unfortunately for me, I was a lost soul that partied way too much, didn’t take school seriously and was at a location I honestly didn’t want to be at in the first place.

After taking a semester off and shadowing what felt like a million different careers focused within the field of communication, a small school located in Springfield, MO caught my attention as I began to pursue a degree in Advertising & Public Relations. I moved down to Springfield to start my summer classes in 2012 and soon found out that college isn’t just about earning your degree, partying or eating pizza at midnight.

I soon found out that finding the right college is finding your home.

Home is defined as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” And the more time I spent at Drury University, the more I realized exactly what home was. I hope you learn to appreciate the following things before your four years are up. I hope you know what the best four years of your life will consist of.

To start?

Move In Weekend.

Let’s be honest, this was the most terrifying and adrenaline filled day for so many of us as we hid our drinks in our back packs, wandered around campus aimlessly in attempt to find our classes and even decorated our dorm rooms. We met people that we didn’t realize would be some of the most influential people we come across and we witnessed cultural differences that allowed us to see the world as a bigger and better place.

Now that the first event is out of the way, I want you all to know that you have so many other things to look forward to. The top 10 highlights for me (and probably several others I know) are:

Late Night Study Sessions

Yes, mom and dad, I did actually read a book or two while I was in school. But, in all honesty, the reading probably took twice as long as it should have because library sessions usually have plenty of spring break planning opportunities, snack times and random wandering to see who else is in the building.

$2 Tuesdays

“Club goin’ up…on a Tuesday.” If you’re in a college town, you’ll have some college deals. We could be studying for the biggest test of the year yet, end up downtown because of a stupid song, a convincing blonde friend and a good deal.

Morning Wake Up Calls

You’ll find a friend that you depend on as you go through this unbelievably short journey. Which, actually feels like eternity as you endure through the pain of midterms, senior seminar and research papers together. This person literally served as an alarm clock or vise versa nearly every morning—hey man, you do what you’ve got to do to make it to class, even if that means picking each other up and driving directly to McDonalds for a Dr. Pepper.

Your Roomies

These people are the people that put up with your crazy breakdowns, sick days and drunken endeavors. They keep you on track, encourage you to keep your faith and believe in yourself. They patch up your scraped knees and make you wash your face before going to bed. They have endless dance parties in the kitchen while spilling actual Kool-Aid all over the entire floor. They’re your person(s). They’re your family. Warning: they may come with cats…which is a sacrifice you will end up making.

Your Professors

This is an item that most people will get made fun of. But, little freshman, let me tell you to make sure that you need take advantage of the opportunities to get to know the people who are willing to teach you.

Take heart, they are their to help you, encourage you and help you develop into the young professional you aspire to be. You might hate some of their classes (like web development or research) but you’ll learn so much if you understand where they’re coming from as your mentor.

These are the people who will be your references; the ones who will destroy your first résumé, and the ones who will remind you to keep every project for your portfolio. They’ll fail you, they’ll give you constructive criticism and they’ll teach you to separate yourself from your work.

They’ll also coach the teams your on, bring you snacks during the weeks you’re up all night working on semester long projects and sit in the hospital with you at 10pm because your appendix ruptured. They’ll make you value Aristotle’s Rhetoric more than you thought possible. Before you know, you’ll have another set of parents that love you more than you ever imagined if you just try to build relationships with them.

Trust me they want you to succeed, let them help you.

Sporting Events

Be proud of your school. Be proud of your teams and cheer them on as they make the Cinderella Story come true. These people are not just athletes; they are your peers. Your future colleagues. Your friends. Plus, you never know when you’ll witness a National Championship. (Hint: Check out Drury’s Men’s Basketball and both swimming programs—enough said.)

Group Projects

Most of my group projects consisted of the same group, more or less. I went to a small school so it worked out in my favor as I recognized most of the faces in my classes. It was definitely a bonus but also a lesson. Group projects will show you where your strengths are. You’ll find out if you’re a leader or a follower. You’ll find out what type of people you work well with and you’ll find out how to overcome issues that actually do take place in the workplace.

Do not take advantage of your group, but rather, the opportunity to have collaboration in a place that thinking outside the box is welcome.

Campus Organizations

Whether it’s athletics, fraternities/sororities or other clubs in general, get involved. The best decision of my entire life was to work with my peers for the National Student Advertising Competition. Not because we won, not because we learned a lot but because we were a family.

Uniting together to support something you care about, working on projects collaboratively to effectively get a message across, with anyone, will bring you closer.

Being involved in these type of things for multiple consecutive years creates a bond that is unbreakable. It also makes you a little crazy but if you can survive the hell weeks, you can survive absolutely anything—again, trust me.

Graduation Day

Right now, this feels like it will take forever, almost as if it won’t actually happen. The real truth is that it will come all too soon. Before you know it, you’ll be celebrating senior week…reminiscing on spring break trips, projects and laughing at the tests you tried so hard not to bomb. You’ll be talking about futures and promising each other to visit on a regular basis because you can’t possibly imagine going more than a month without seeing each other.

Then, the reality of leaving the place you’ve called home and your family sets in. One of the proudest moments of your life turns into one of the most heartbreaking moments as you realize you’re packing your apartments up and heading in separate directions.

Moving Out

You’re all packed up, ready to start your first adult job and trying not to cry as you say “I’ll see you soon,” to your fellow graduates…your friends…your family. You get into your jam-packed vehicle and make the trek to wherever you’re headed with tears streaming down your face because you’ve never felt the whirlwind of emotions you feel now.

You never thought that your dad was right about the college experience he described. And you realize he wasn’t right at all because it’s not just about the fun, the games and getting your education. It’s about finding your place in the world, meeting the people you belong with and establishing a forever home with a forever kind of love.

Class of 2020, no matter where you are, stay focused and enjoy every moment. This isn’t just a phase. It’s your future, your dreams and your life. Embrace the moments, chase your future, and you will achieve your dreams.

TC mark

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