All things considered, I had a successful academic career. It ended in confetti, with a former Prime Minister of Jamaica handing me my degree. No, really. It did. It did for all of us. It was a proud moment, putting an official end to six years of college education.
I’m proud of my accomplishments… and amused by my mistakes. If I could go back and change any of it, would I? A few things, yes. But for the most part, I did alright for a sixteen year old thrust into college life.
Even so, here are a few words of wisdom I’d like to mail back in time to my younger self.
They lied when they told you high school would be the best years of life. You know they did. High school sucked! And yet you will be grateful for the social graces Catholic school taught, the writing skills they fostered, and the overall solid education that prepared you for college.
The even better news? You’ll end your college career with honours, awards, and a whole string of students thanking you for the tutoring you provided. You will feel proud of not just your accomplishments, but their own.
Even so, here’s what you should watch out for.
Art Saved Us
So Mom says there’s no way she’s paying for a creative writing degree, and somehow your Dad signed you up for the wrong Plan B major. Now you’re taking sociology courses instead of psychology. You’re upset and think maybe you should try to pull some strings to switch over. Don’t.
Your art degree will become the foundation of your creative expertise when you find yourself as head of your own PR practice. And the business degree you followed up with, will navigate your way.
By the looks of it, you’ll likely head back to do psychology for the heck of it in a few years, anyway. Always the academic, aren’t we?
You will fall madly in love in the last year of your associate’s degree. It will not last, but you will be grateful for the good times. This is one of those relationships in your life that will teach you lessons with smiles, and not broken hearts or anger.
Even so, thank you for staying single for the rest of your college career. Remember that one time that New Zealand expat messaged us asking us why we’re studying when he wants to talk? Thank you for reminding him he doesn’t pay our tuition. High five!
You’re a loner – I get it – and you’ll be a loner all your life. But as you get older and develop an interest in public relations and the social sciences, you’ll be surprised at how good you become at convincing people you aren’t.
Use this to your advantage. Don’t wait until your last year of university to start networking with professionals, like I did.
Build a Portfolio
In your first semester of college, professors will brag about your writing skills so much that students will come to you for help to sound like a true academic. This will launch you on a long and satisfying career in PR.
For god’s sake, Alex. Why did we not save all this work in a portfolio? Why on Earth did we wait until 2015 to decide we needed to make one?
You’ll be a professional writer some day, even without that creative writing degree from GSU that you missed. Please stop treating your writing like a hobby.
Work harder to find more clients. Don’t always sit around “knowing” they’ll come to you. Better ones are out there.
Know your price, and put your foot down. Don’t be afraid to demand what you’re worth, because you’re only seventeen.
At eighteen, we went to quite a few parties, didn’t we? My goodness, where did the time go? But we’re happy to say we were well-behaved, and that no frat boys had their way with us. In fact, thank you for smacking that dude who tried to sneak his hand under your skirt. A short skirt is not an invitation.
You will need to reinforce this for the rest of your life. Even though you’ll grow up to be a hoodie and stretchy-pants kind of gal, guys will still try their luck with you.
Get a Suit!
So we lost our scholarship offer because we did not wear a suit. It wasn’t a big scholarship, but it would have been good to have it all the same. I suppose it wasn’t our fault we never thought to own a suit. Who wears a suit in college? Apparently we should have.
Please get a suit! The second time around, they might realize we’re a lot more put together than the girl in the tailored grey pencil skirt with the peach stockings, and a pink shirt.
Keep It Low Maintenance
That said, stay low maintenance – but know that a lot of women will hate us for it for the rest of our lives. They will pull at your hair, and point at your black-rimmed eyes. They will ask about the green curls, and the band-shirts, and Converse.
Ignore them. Low-maintenance will be “in” with the crowd you love when you hit your mid-20s: the minimalists, the travelers, the hippies, the beach bums, the expats. Your future husband will be especially happy that he doesn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for you to shower and get dressed.
Also, get dreads soon. They are way easier to care for than straightened hair and braids, and you will love them.
Enjoy the Video Games
Is it really possible for us to have played more video games in college? How on Earth did we graduate with first class honours? Was there a class we weren’t tweeting and simming in? My goodness. It was all fun though, wasn’t it?
Remember those teachers who told you, you would never graduate or pass their class because you never paid attention? Don’t worry about it. You will get the last laugh on that one.
Stay Up Late
Some nights friends will keep you up, but most nights, work will keep you up. Don’t listen to the other millennials telling you to “live a little” and “get out more”. Stay home and study your butt off for that test. Work all night on that project. Go to class on four hours’ sleep. It pays off in the end.
In fact, it went exactly as you told them it would when you said:
There’s plenty of time for fun after graduation.
Most of these people settled down into cubicle-slavery life, and the weekends became a time for rest after work. Some failed out of class, and dropped out of college. They are just going back to get the degree that slipped through their fingers. Some never will.
Meanwhile, you and a few others are traveling, and hiking, and meeting new people. You started several blogs, and launched your own PR firm. You are living the life you always dreamed of – albeit with the same ups and downs as anyone else.
Spend More Time at the Beach
You’ll be at the beach every weekend as an adult, snorkeling and paddle boarding. But it won’t be enough. One day you’ll migrate to a place without white sand beaches, and you’ll wish you had spent more time in the water, so soak it all in while it lasts…
A Wiser Older You.