A Letter to My College Self

College me: "I live in a tiny dorm room with 2 other people, and it's awesome!!"

Dear College Kalie,

You are afraid of so many things. Don’t be.

Don’t let your adviser scare you. Just because he told you, all of 16 years old, that you need to decide your major within a semester, doesn’t mean it’s true. You have to explore and find out what you love before you make that choice.

Don’t let the fear of failure dictate your decisions. Listen to advice about your course of study. Remember that time your journalism professor, journalist friend, and grandmother (who worked at a newspaper) all tried to convince you to change your major to journalism? Seeing as you’ve spent more time working as a freelance writer than a teacher, maybe you should’ve listened. You chose to teach English in part because you were afraid to write. You learned so much in those two journalism classes you had to take. Just imagine the skills you could’ve learned had you studied it more! Sure, there are things you love about teaching, but that 65-hour-work week (at least till you’re tenured) is not going to work with the rest of your life.

Don’t be afraid to live off campus with friends. Even though you’ll forego some scholarship money, the experience will be well worth it, and God will provide. Living in close community with five other Christian women will prepare you for marriage like nothing else. You’ll learn how to resolve conflict, relate to those quite different from you, and admit your own shortcomings. And you’ll still be good friends with some of those roommates over a decade later.

Don’t be afraid to have fun. You’re all about the grades, but your GPA is never going to be your problem. You’re way too serious and need to loosen up and live a little. The “A’s” are all a blur, but the times you stayed up late listening to a friend, or laughing with your roommates, or going to Taco Bell with Neil are all as clear as if they happened yesterday. College isn’t just about a classroom education; it’s about learning who you are and what you can offer the world.

Don’t be afraid to make friends. You set out to do this, even though you had no idea how. And some of those relationships will continue long past graduation. They’ll be there for you when you get married, have kids, and hit rough patches along life’s road. Your GPA won’t do you any favors then, but your friends will.

Don’t be afraid to invest in the stock market. You will have the exact same amount of money in savings when you start college as when you get married and join finances. Lesson? You could’ve invested most of it, if only to get in the habit, learn the ropes, and earn a bit more than 1% interest.

Don’t be afraid to give. You’ll be glad you always gave away some of your meager income in college. Starting this habit early will teach you that there is always something to share if you make it a priority. And it’ll teach you to trust God to provide as you work hard and follow Him.

Don’t be afraid to get married. When your boyfriend of three years suggests getting married before graduation, try to be nice. Sure, it’s not conventional, but you know you want to spend your lives together, so why wait? Your destinies were practically set since you realized you both subscribed to Zillions (Consumer Report for kids) while growing up. In fact, you’ll help each other finish school and establish a simple lifestyle together from the start. And those student loans you’re marrying into–don’t worry, you’ll pay them off long before they’re due. (For information about repaying student debt and student loan refinancing, please check out Earnest’s resources here.)

What would you tell your college self? Were you as afraid as I was? 

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24 Responses to “A Letter to My College Self”

  1. Holly Johnson says :

    I mostly wish I had known what life would really be like when I was college-age. I was extremely immature until age 24! I had no idea what real life was like, or how important the decisions I was making really were.

  2. Tonya says :

    I would have taught her some financial lessons that’s for sure! I had my college paid for and I think it didn’t really learn some good solid work and savings ethics back then. Fun I had no problem with. lol!

  3. Brian says :

    I would have taught myself better money management. Maybe that it was okay to go away to school too. I stayed local and commuted.

    • Kalie says :

      I almost stayed home & commuted. Judging from my one and only summer home, I don’t think I would’ve lasted. My room & board were paid for and I’m so glad I lived on campus for a while. It really helped me make friends, which was a hard for my introverted self at the beginning.

  4. Amanda says :

    I would have told myself not to be afraid to do enter the adult world. I jumped into a grad school program immediately after getting my BAs – I think because I knew how to do the college thing and it was more comfortable just to continue to earn degrees.

    • Kalie says :

      I almost went straight into a grad school program, but I’ve never really regretted that I didn’t. I think I would’ve gotten a degree I didn’t really want, and I agree, it delays that real-world experience that can be so valuable for some.

  5. Ten Factorial Rocks says :

    Good one Kalie. The last one is a bit iffy though. I am glad it worked out for you with your boyfriend but for many it wouldn’t have been a great decision to decide on a life partner during their sophomore year.

    • Kalie says :

      We’d been dating for three years, so I was a senior. But also, this is not advice I would give to everyone–just myself in my context, with 10 years perspective!

  6. Hannah says :

    I think I would have told myself, “you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s okay.”

    College was my first time away from home trying to navigate the adult world. I’m glad that I had the learning experience that I did. I think my only regret is that I didn’t have as much fun as I could have.

  7. Josh says :

    To have 20/20 vision. I’m coming up on my 9 year college anniversary in May. You are correct on many points, especially relationships. I didn’t take the time to maintain or develop as many college connections as I should have. I did graduate with academic distinction, but, grades & hard work only go so far. It’s people that help you find new jobs, promotions, even a spouse (my wife taught piano to my boss’s daughter).

    • Kalie says :

      I did find my job (in a competitive field in my region) through a friend. So yes, those connections are important for lots of reasons!

  8. DC YAM says :

    I think I would have told myself “it will all work out in the end.” I also would have recommended that I stuck with that whole blogging thing instead of dabbling ; )

    • Kalie says :

      That’s a good one, DC. I was so worried and worked up about everything! I also had a personal blog just for fun, and I was very off and on about blogging until two years ago!

  9. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    I was so lost at that time of my life – hard to know where to start. I would tell that younger self, “Find a campus Christian group where you can be honest and figure out your faith and how it will play into your life.” That might just have resolved a whole lot. “Dear Younger Me” is a great idea, Kalie.

    • Kalie says :

      I love your advice to yourself, Ruth. I think we tend to want to give practical advice without dealing with underlying issues (when we talk to others), but your wisdom shows here!

  10. Emily says :

    Ooh, college self would be told “Learn to budget and maybe save a little for emergencies.” And that “Credit cards have to be paid off, and that’s not fun when you let them get too high.” Also such gems as

    “Your car has a maintenance schedule. Not following it gets expensive.”
    “Don’t go to grad school without working a bit in a real career job.”
    “Try an accounting class. I know you won’t believe this, but you’ll like it. It’s a little like logic puzzles.”

    • Kalie says :

      Haha, great tips to yourself. I didn’t understand car maintenance at first, either! Though once my horrified father explained it, I was faithful about it thereafter.

  11. Mustard Seed Money says :

    I’d tell myself don’t be in such a rush to graduate. Slow down and stop being in a hurry in life. There will always be time to be a grown up. Enjoy your friends and the care free lifestyle that you live.

    On top of that I would say go to more sporting events and sleep a little less and study just a bit more.

    Thanks for taking me down memory lane!!!!

    • Kalie says :

      Good point–I was in such a rush to be done with college, and then I missed it so much! The ratio of freedom to responsibility doesn’t get any better than in college.

  12. Alexis says :

    I think a huge part of me was always afraid of making friends in college. I moved to a different state and felt completely out of my element when I started school. I became really shy and preferred to be left alone. I made friends outside of school pretty easily, which was funny!

    • Kalie says :

      It’s interesting how we can act differently in various contexts. I tried to use college as a time to start fresh after not having many friends in high school.

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