You’ve said goodbye to your parents, your grandparents and your aunts and uncles; you’ve held your childhood pet tight, and you’ve reassured your high school friends that you’ll keep in touch.
Now, it’s time to start college. Cue a slew of emotions.
Some of you may fall into one of a few different categories – you’re anxious, excited, confused or overwhelmed. The vast majority of you, however, fall into all of the aforementioned categories simultaneously, which you probably didn’t think was possible until today. But alas, it is possible. It’s also going to be okay — I promise.
It’s been a few years since I stepped foot on campus as a freshman, but I remember the experience like it was yesterday. I also remember the seemingly infinite number of questions I was asking myself. Four years later, I still don’t have all the answers — but I have a few opinions, and I’d like to share them with you.
Five things to do at The University of Texas:
FAIL. This isn’t an easy pill to swallow — but it’s an important one. Perhaps you’re coming from a high school that didn’t challenge you. Maybe you’re ridiculously smart and soared seamlessly through AP, IB and dual-credit classes. At any rate, college is different. No matter who you are, you’re going to fail — sometimes socially, sometimes academically and sometimes socially and academically. And that’s okay. We learn so much more from our failures than we do from our successes. So fail — and then pick yourself up and try again, but harder.
EMBRACE. You should embrace everything — the information that your professors share with you in class, the people with whom you eat lunch and the experiences you have throughout the city of Austin. Beyond all of that, though, I want you to embrace diversity. We’re all coming from different backgrounds and different walks of life — and that’s beautiful. I’m a white, cisgender, gay male, and I learn more from women, from people of color and from people who subscribe to different religions than I do from people who look and act just like me. Our differences make us beautiful; our differences enhance the quality of our education. So lift our differences — yours and others’ — up.
INVEST. Let’s say you ace your first college exam. Let’s also say that ten years after you graduate, someone asks you about your first college exam. What are you going to remember more — the grade you earned, or the people who helped you get there? Hint: It’s not the grade. I’m surrounded by people who push me to be the very best version of myself each and every day. Invest in the people around you, and let them invest in you. People matter.
EXPLORE. Do you know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life? Great — keep pursuing that dream. Are you scared of what the future may or may not hold? Do you have no idea what you want to do after college? Also great – keep exploring your options. I started my freshman year under the impression that going to medical school was the only option for me. Four years later, I’m graduating with degrees in neuroscience and psychology and going into higher education. Change is neither comfortable nor convenient — so be uncomfortable and be inconvenienced.
RECOGNIZE. You are now a part of something so much bigger than yourself. You have joined a group of leaders, thinkers and innovators who have changed the world, who are changing the world and who will continue to change the world. But they need your help. Changing the world is the most recognizable part of the Longhorn legacy — a legacy that you are now a part of. Recognize our legacy and help us further it.
You are about to embark on the most socially and academically enriching chapter of your life, and it’s your responsibility to make the most of it.
Welcome to the 40 Acres!
Helgren is a neuroscience and psychology senior. He is also the Student Government president.