The Not-So-Cliché Open Letter To New College Students
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The Not-So-Cliché Open Letter To New College Students

Reflecting on the cultural shift from high school to college.

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The Not-So-Cliché Open Letter To New College Students

The transition from high school to college is one of dutiful importance, awkward introductions and unfamiliar territory. Overlooking the unavoidable cliché, it’s true that college is both new and exciting. It’s a time to establish yourself, to navigate new courses, to entertain the ideas of multiple career paths, and to eventually stick with one – grabbing hold to something tangibly in-line with the person you aspire to become. For many, this is the first time that you’ll be on your own, no longer confined to the expectations and long-time associated statuses you’ve worn at home.

It’s exhilarating in the sense that everything is new, captivating – no one knows your past or that you’re the biggest New York Giants fan in the tri-state area. No one knows that you were considering a career in architecture before you came to study liberal arts, and in a similar sense – no one has a thing on you. No one can judge you based on your past; when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time, all they see is the person who stands before them. The cool thing about that is – you can make that person whoever you want.

The cultural shift that occurs amid young adults transitioning into sororities and fraternities, undergrad tracks and dorm life, classrooms with professors who are no longer paid to have a filter – it’s entirely progressive. This is the first time you get to experience life from "the adults'’’ perspectives; you’re included, you’re asked for your opinion, you’re asked to consider new opinions and, for the first time, you’re allowed to refer to Shakespeare’s Iago as the ultimate a**h*le in a class lecture – and everyone’s OK with it. You may even spark a few appreciate claps from the back of the classroom for expressing your thoughts so openly.

In college, praise often comes tied to those who are willing to speak up, to stick out, or to stand for something. This is a time for people to flourish, to embrace the person they were afraid of introducing to others in their high school settings. The culture of college life is perpendicular to high school, not parallel.

No more NorthFace jackets with sand-colored Uggs, no more cookie-cutter opinions – everyone agreeing with their peers that they mutually dislike one teacher or one student, one class subject or one irritatingly opinionated group of ‘outcasts’ in their third block. The idea of a ‘popular crowd’ dissipates amid the tens of thousands of student on the campus. It’s no longer about who’s the prettiest or who’s the one with the most followers on Instagram – it’s about the interesting people.

It’s about the relationships you develop with the students in your classrooms, and maybe that student happens to be the prettiest girl in class with a ton of followers on Instagram, but you won’t know that until you get to know them first. It’s about the students who aspire to work in a field similar to your own. It’s about the students who aspire to work in a field completely opposite to your own.

It’s about the people who speak up in class, who you get to know through their vocalized thoughts in an auditorium. It’s about the epiphany you have when you realize half way through your first semester that you know more about this vocal student in your 500-person astronomy class, than you ever knew about the boy who sat directly next to you in your AP government course senior year.

No longer is it cool to "not try" or to "not care." In college, the directions of students’ minds are completely altered. In college, students develop goal for themselves – real goals, reachable goals, thoughts and opinions. They have real conversations, deep conversations. They question themselves; they question their majors. They question why they ever thought they wanted to study what they’re studying. They question what their next step will be, then they pursue that next step and they take it. They run with it; they roll with it, they stumble with it – but the difference in this progression, in contrast to the ones that occur in high school, is that when they move forward, they mature drastically: Socially, culturally, emotionally, psychologically – they establish themselves.

They make a name for themselves. They define who they are based on their own actions, and they are totally and independently held accountable for those decisions. If they want to conduct research on racecars, they do it. If they want to write for the university’s newspaper, they do it. If they want to intern with NASA, with Seventeen, with Target, with GE, with Discovery – they set themselves up for those paths, they pursue those goals, and sometimes if they’re lucky – they may just achieve them.

However, in order to get that point, they first have to realize that college isn’t all about "social status." Another cliché that rings true on the college campus – you get out of life what you put into it. If you want to learn in an interactive classroom – interact with the classroom. If you want to be published – find a publication, show them what you’re capable of, and show them why they need you. If you want lasting, hilarious, memorable, crazy friendships – be open to talking, open to listening, and don’t be afraid to let the other person know that you’re just as weird as they are. And of course, if you’re craving a Cookout milkshake at 1 a.m. – go get your milkshake at 1 a.m., just remember that you have class to be up for in seven hours.

It’s a big transition, the cultural shift from high school to college, but it’s also one of the most exciting, exhilarating and memorable transitions of your life. The idea of a successful future is right in front of you, which granted can be just as overwhelming as exciting at times, but with that you also have the opportunity to freely and openly establish yourself. You live, eat and breathe amid a group of thousands of people your own age, and there are no pressures to fit into any one category in order to gauge your own personal, quantified sense of belonging.

When in college, do as you would do.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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