I feel like a poster child writing this. This week's topic for 10 for Tuesday is 10 things you would tell a college freshman. I'm not sure I have 10, but because I never finished at Wellesley and can pinpoint things to my own stupidity and willful ignorance of things I didn't want to see or acknowledge I feel like the ones I have are really important.
Dear College Students,
I know it sounds like forever ago, but I was a college student in the early nineties. I could have done more with my time: tried new things, learned more interesting stuff and more diligently, and I could have taken more responsibility. For many of you, this might be your first truly unsupervised time away from home. I know it was for me.
When you are in school, this is a great time to invent yourself. Maybe you love how you were in high school or not, but there are at most colleges many more offerings, things to try and do. Maybe your school is like mine and only offered a one act play each year or only did Shakespeare, and at college you can try a huge assortment of theater offerings. Or maybe you wanted to be a scientist and need to get some extra lab time. Joining groups, making friends with both other students and your professors will help with many things. Just because you think you will be bad at it is no reason to just not do it. Maybe you will find your niche.
I know not everybody has a plan, but if you do have one you need to not be 100% tied to it. There might be something you are better suited for or something that is wonderfully interesting that you never would have gotten to try if you did nothing outside of your premed track. That said, use your summers wisely. While it might be easy to work as I did at the library job you had all year, a science job in the future works best if you do a science job now. The same can be said for those with political aspirations or computer science. Application of what you've learned makes you much more prepared than the people who take the easy way out. While I enjoyed my summers of working in the library and I did learn a lot, if I had wanted to continue with biochemistry they did nothing for my prospects. Take that risk and see what happens. It is better than playing the what if game forever.
Lastly, and this is the biggest of the big three, take responsibility. I know you already are, but you are the only one who is affected if you don't get your financial aid paperwork in on time. If you file your papers late, you may not get the funding you need. One or two weeks might not kill it, but the longer you wait and pretend it doesn't matter or exist the less likely you are to get anything. Lack of funds can kill college dreams faster than almost anything else.
I know you are smart. Take the forms and when your parents have filled out their part, take the time to immediately fill out yours. If you don't understand the form, it is not your fault. They, like many a tax form, are very dense and obtuse in their language. There are people to help you on campus, often an entire department of them. If you call and are polite rather than panicky, then they can answer your questions. Once the forms are filled out and any supporting materials are collected, mail them that day.
The one thing I've regretted more than any other at my time in college was the semester I realized that I didn't submit my financial aid forms in on time. Instead of biting the bullet and asking the financial aid department and sending them in late, I tried to pretend that everything was fine. The forms were just becoming later and later until it was simply too late. It was a stupid thing to do, and only now more than 10 years later am I ready to entertain going back to college.
Now pretty much all of this is useful even if you aren't going to college. If you look at the BCAE (Boston Center for Adult Education) and a class sounds interesting, then collect your dollars and try it. It might become the great love of your life. If you need to find a new job as so many people do, try to find something that will further your dreams and aspirations rather than leaving your life on hold. If you have a bill and you cannot pay it now, don't forget about it or think that it will go away. That way lies repossessions, mortgage woes, or smaller but no less irritating things like having your electric shut off. Figure out when you can pay it in full or if you can pay at least a part and do it right away. Even a partial payment is better for your future credit rating that pretending a bill doesn't exist.
A Financial Aid Poster Child
(I didn't intend for this to sound depressing!)