Ah going off to college…arguably one of the most defining periods of a person’s life. It is where knowledge is acquired (theoretically), horizons are broadened, friendships are made, and individuality is discovered. It’s a big change for sure, but what happens after four years at a university are up? Another change happens – a seismic lifestyle shift that comes regardless of how ready you are for it. From where I stand looking at what little remains of my college career, the impending change feels much different then the one four years ago. It feels much bigger, much scarier, and full of much more uncertainly. I’m not ready to leave the bubble that is my university. I can’t help but feel that there is so much to be done and yet so little time to do it. I am not talking about schoolwork that needs wrapping up, I mean life experiences that still need to happen. So here is how to make the most of what remains and fit years worth of experiences into a few weeks:
1. Focus on the relationships that have the most potential – You have to be realistic. You can’t stay in touch with everyone you’ve meet in college. For some of the people I have met it is easy to accept the likely scenario of never seeing them again but for others it is much harder to come to terms with. But many of the important people in the past, are much less so in the present. It sounds crass, but it’s simple economics. With only weeks until graduation, time is very limited. It becomes a scarce resource that should be used efficiently. So what do you do when there are so many people to say goodbye to? Focus your energy on the people who matter most. Whether these are your group of closest friends who you know will be a part of your life forever, or those who you may not be as close to now but see potential for longevity in the relationship. Don’t worry about finding time for one last catch up with the person who lived two doors down from you freshman year. Instead, spend your remaining time with the people who give you the most joy and take advantage of the opportunity to create a few more memories that you can look back on many years down the road.
2. Make a list, make priorities – Still feel like there are things you still need to see and do before you leave college forever? We all have them, so write them down! Compile the best ideas from the 101 things to do before your graduate lists, from recommendations, from city guides, from wherever. Make a list of the things that you will regret leaving undone and start checking them off one by one. You can even do it matching style where you pick one of those friends, pick an activity, and make it happen. Who cares if it is a Monday night? Go do something fun and different. If school and has always been the priority, change that for the last few weeks of senior because meaningful experiences go a lot farther and last a lot longer. So go exploring, break the rules, and by all means make each day count.
3. Restart with each new day – If you get all hyped to live it up the last few weeks and your grand plan falls through, don’t sweat it. If you feel like you “wasted” a perfectly good day or “missed out” on your chance to try something new don’t let it deter you from maintaining the same level of determination. Write it off as a personal day and start first thing the next morning on finding ways to have more fun.
4. Don’t think about the clock – While time is limited, the more you think about it and the worse it feels. Recognize that the end is near, but don’t count down the days. Rather take each day as one in a series of many…it helps take the pressure off.
5. Take it all in – It’s exciting to think about the future, to dream about the new city, the new job, and the new life that awaits you just a short time out. But make sure you are spending enough time in the present. Say yes to every offer that comes your way, take time in each activity to appreciate the experience, and revel at the uniqueness of the college world around you.
If you are doing everything you can to get a little more “college” in before it’s over but still feel like you are not quite ready to leave, that’s okay. In fact it’s probably a good thing and means that you are doing something right. When Oprah announced the end of her show she said. “I’ve done all the growing I can do here,” and with no room left to grow it was time to move on. I think this is a good gauge for when a change is needed, and I certainly felt the truth in that at the end of high school. There was nothing more that stage of life could offer me. It made going off to college easy because I was more than ready to leave and never look back. This time feels different though. I love my school and know there is so much I never got the chance to experience and so many things I never took advantage of. So if you are not ready to leave it may be because you are happy where you are! But like it or not, the next big change in your life is coming and it might just be the last chance you’ll get to reinvent yourself and to start fresh. Keep those important people close, but embrace the change too. Continue to seek out new experiences, check off those few things you never quite got to in college and start making a new list. Those same 5 principles will still apply to your new life because the goal should always be to make the most of each day as if the next big change is just around the corner.