At the seasoned age of twenty-seven, with a younger brother of twenty behind me, I can see an able, intelligent, and useful person trailing my footsteps. While I have twisted my knees and sprained my ankles in a few unforeseen ditches along the way, he has leapt over those very spots with ease. I will always admire his capacity to detect potential mistakes before they occur; however, without two older siblings paving the road for him, he could have easily fallen prey to a few of our errors.
I may not be all-knowing, but I have acquired some pertinent knowledge I wish to impart upon him should we separate for periods of time. These are those things:
1. Don’t let grade point averages consume you, but maintain at least a B average. One of the most frustrating aspects of my high school career was the pervasive obsession with having the highest GPA. I would often hear students discussing their sheer disappointment that they were averaging a mere 3.74, for example, and complaining that it was keeping them behind their peers academically. While most got caught up in this rat race, this attitude caused a few reasonable students like myself to opt out of the competition and instead excel only in class participation. It caused some struggling students to give up entirely. Personally, I was most hindered by it in that I was conditioned to feel I could not balance other necessary aspects of my existence if I wanted to be a competitor. It palpably hurt my GPA.
Bottom line: Teachers categorically prefer students who are interested in the material and seeking to learn over students who are looking to achieve a number, grade, or status point. The proof is in my own experience. I have asked various high school teachers, college professors, and in recent years, friends of mine who have become educators, and have received this same response; still, bear in mind that even so, one should never stop trying to do well. A benefit of a real willingness to learn is that in most cases, teachers will boost a grade if they see genuine effort.
2. If possible, attend community college before taking the dive into a university. I say this simply because two extra years makes a world of difference in the selection of an academic path. It also saves a lot of cash along the way. I left community college with zero student loans and no debt at all, which aided me in the affordability of my four-year school. I am currently in $12,400 of debt from school, which, fortunately for me, my parents have very kindly elected to pay off. As a point of comparison, most of my friends are in an average of $25,000-$50,000 of debt from university, and a few outlying friends have between $100,000 and $200,000 in loans to pay.
Debt is never a positive way to begin one’s adult life; do yourself a big favor and try to minimize it.
3. Move away from home for a period of time in your early twenties. I was not given the option to attend school away from home. At the time, it was not financially feasible for my parents or me. I did, however, accept a paid internship position down at Walt Disney World, where I felt truly autonomous for the first time in my life. Believe me when I say it is absolutely necessary to live away. Too much time in the nest can cause a sort of arrested development later in life.
3.5 Study abroad is covered by student loans. Yes! You, too, can travel the world while acquiring the necessary credits to graduate college. It is more expensive, but I know not one person who regrets living abroad.
4. Internships are of the utmost importance. Internships are the new entry-level positions. My folks fought me “tooth and nail” on the whole internship thing; to them, if it wasn’t paid, it wasn’t worth my time. As a result, my internship experience is lighter than I would prefer, and it is that much more difficult finding jobs in our competitive job market.
P.S. If it says entry-level, it usually requires 1-2 years of experience.
5. When holding a job while in school, try to keep it at part-time. Allow me to express the complete and veritable sense of burn-out one experiences when working full-time and carrying anything in excess of three classes. Imagine me, a young student completing a degree in political science (with fantastic nail beds… but we digress), but also minoring in writing. For all of my writer friends out there, we know that quantity is as important as quality since the more we write, the better we become.
Life looked a little something like this: My professors were like, “Hey girl, we’re each assigning you three essays this week,” and my boss was like, “Brah, you’ll be here for the massive banquet tomorrow night… and you can close, right? Oh yeah, I fired that one kid, so, actually, I need you to close all week.” CUE MELTDOWN.
Don’t let this happen! Of course, we all have our respective breaking points, but I would encourage any college student to limit his or her schedule to part-time. We can always take on more work if we desire.
6. Balance social time with alone time.While we each fall in a unique place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, or even differ depending on the activity in question, social time and alone time are essential for all of us.
Without social time, we begin to exist almost outside ourselves. Our perspectives shift based on the limited information to which we are exposed, and we can become deluded in our own thinking, falling into tendencies of vanity or inferiority. We need experiences outside ourselves to live completely.
On the other hand, too much time around people can allow our own perspective to slip from us. We can often forget our motivation for action in the midst of community.
An ideal balance of the two bestows clarity and direction, tempered with motivation and passion.
7. Find something that brings purpose, and through purpose comes happiness. Happiness is in the journey; it is never stagnant and will slip through the fingers if not properly nourished. The purest way to achieve happiness frequently and repeatedly is to find purpose. When we fulfill that which feels right — and when we have pride in ourselves doing it — we experience our most undiluted form of happy.
I truly hope this list can help somebody beyond my own family. Please, feel free to add other thoughts to the comments section. Best of luck to all of the lads and lasses out there!