I just graduated from Penn State, + leaving a place that’s been my home for the past 4 years has me feelin’ all kinds of ways. College is a time of change + challenges + growth ++ grey. Things you once thought were black + white are suddenly up to you. You are in control of your future + that’s powerful. When I was 19, I made a list of things I learned. Now I’m reflecting on what I wish I believed before I started college. While everyone’s journey is undoubtedly different, these are the things that could have helped me ++ hopefully they’ll help you too : )
#1] YOU MATTER + YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
A lot of people think *I’m only one person* — what can I do? But you have the power to do so much more than you realize. You can brighten someone’s day with a smile, start a new club [like CHAARG ; )] + bring together people who never knew they needed each other, or lend a hand to someone who needs it. You don’t have to change the world overnight, but you can change someone’s life through a series of small, seemingly unimportant moments that make all the difference.
#2] IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP
When starting college, we desperately want independence, so we try to do everything on our own. We don’t like to ask people for help because we don’t want to *burden* them with our problems. But there are so many people who want to help you succeed + will be more than happy to guide you on your new path.
#3] WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH IS THE *MOST* CRUCIAL DECISION YOU WILL MAKE
I didn’t fully understand how important it was to surround yourself with people who will bring you up until I started a CHAARG chapter. I cannot explain how much my life has changed for the better. Now I constantly ask myself these questions to evaluate whether or not the people I surround myself with are making me a better person:
HOW WOULD I DESCRIBE THE PEOPLE I’M CLOSE WITH?
Are they kind + courageous? Are they ambitious? Do we have the same values? Do they seek adventure?
WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE AROUND ME READING//WATCHING//LEARNING?
Are they trying to make the world a better place + are they trying to get as much out of it as they can?
WHAT HABITS HAVE I FORMED SINCE I BECAME CLOSE TO THESE PEOPLE?
Do they force me to dig deeper + challenge myself? Do I laugh more? Am I compassionate?
It’s not always easy to let go of people who aren’t helping you grow, but positive people can literally transform your way of thinking + acting.
#4] YOUR SUCCESS IS UP TO YOU
A lot of people base their success off how much money they make, + that’s okay. But it’s not for everyone. We all have different versions of success + understanding that yours is undoubtedly different than mine or anyone else’s will ease the pressure as you progress in your studies. Your major should be something you love + are truly curious about. You have to find what makes your heart flutter or you will never truly consider yourself *successful*.
#5] YOU WILL FAIL + LIFE WILL GO ON
I won’t lie to you + say college is always awesome. There’s a lot of pressure. And if you think you’re never going to fail at anything, you’re probably never going to try anything worthwhile. Failure is part of life — it’s how we grow + figure out what we’re not so good at so we can direct our attention to the areas we’ll thrive in. When I was a sophomore, I applied for a position I really wanted. I spent so much time on the application + cried when I didn’t get it. But if I had gotten that position, I would never have applied to be an ambassador, ++ I do not want to imagine what my life would be like without CHAARG. So yes, sometimes you are going to fail. But life will go on + often, something even better will come from it.
#6] TIME IS FLEETING — DON’T WASTE IT
As freshman, we think we have so much time. So we dabble here + there without fully committing. But time escapes us without us ever really noticing, so it’s essential that we immerse ourselves in activities, hobbies, + clubs while we can. College will be some of the best + most challenging times of your life, but don’t waste one minute, because it really does go by in the blink of an eye. Remember the big things in life — your health, your friends, + your sanity. Prioritize what’s important to you, but don’t miss out on the memories you’ll remember forever.
#7] STEP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE MORE THAN ONCE
This is so cliché, but important. We don’t grow unless we step outside of our safe zone. For me, I used to fear driving long distance, but when I realized it was either drive or miss out on meeting CHAARG girls [retreat plug ; )], visiting my boyfriend, or exploring new cities, I understood the destinations were worth the trouble.
#8] YOU HAVE EXACTLY ENOUGH TIME FOR THE THINGS THAT MATTER MOST TO YOU
The first time I realized this, I was blown away. I had been trying to fit in too many activities that I was too stressed to enjoy any of them. Then I tried to think: what can I not live without? What’s essential to me is different than what’s essential to you, but everyone gets the same 24 hours each day. Do not say you don’t have enough time — learn to say “no” to things you can live without. You have exactly enough time for the things that matter most to you. It’s up to you to decide what they are.
#9] BREATHE — YOUR TO-DO LIST WILL GET DONE
As CHAARG girls, we workout, have jobs, are involved in clubs, study for exams, socialize with friends ++ try to get 8 hours of sleep per night. It’s exhausting at times + there are days that seem to never end. But please, take a few minutes each day to *relax* + smell the roses. I promise your to-do list will get done. Has it ever not?
#10] YOUR MENTAL HEALTH + HAPPINESS > YOUR GPA
Perhaps the most important thing I wish I would have believed as a freshman in college is that my health + happiness are far more important than a number on my transcript. There will be times where you will be so stressed over grades that you’ll sacrifice your workouts, eating habits, + sleep. Please don’t lose sight of the bigger picture — none of it is worth it if you aren’t happy + healthy. Be efficient + organized, but make time for things you enjoy — your life is happening now.
What do you wish you knew before you started college? Share with us on Instagram : ) //