Two years ago, I rang in 2011 midway through my senior year of college: a time that, I realize in retrospect, lies somewhere between college and the real world.
During the last year of college, responsibilities are few and far between (financial independence, bill paying, and the pressures of the professional world are yet to come), but pressures are high (senior thesis, the job search, and the looming “real world” often feel like insurmountable hurdles along the path to graduation).
Looking back on that year, there are so many things I wish I had known, and there are many other things I wish I had done.
So as it is New Year’s Resolutions time, I have compiled a list of things I wish I had done during my last year in college, plus a few things I did do and that ended up serving me well. None of the following are meant to be resolutions in the traditional sense, but instead simple, realistic goals to be accomplished and checked off during the coming months.
1. Figure out how and where you do your best thinking. Then, go to this place and just think until you have come up with your official answer to the question, “what are you doing next year?” It’s okay to not know, but figure out how to express your uncertainty without opening the door to critique, criticism, and unsolicited advice.
2. Likewise for justifying your major. Once you can convey passion and confidence about your studies, others will respect your decisions and choices.
3. Take a day off from something that is stressing you out. For example, if your senior thesis feels like the bane of your existence, spend an entire Saturday alternating between other homework and fun breaks with your friends. You may resume thesis work on Sunday, and will hopefully find that in looking at it with fresh eyes you accomplish more in that one day of work than you would have during an entire weekend dedicated to thesis agony.
4. Save your money to visit a faraway friend over a break or long weekend. My senior year, I road tripped from Maine to upstate New York to visit my friends from my study abroad program at Hamilton College. That weekend was one of the happiest of my entire senior year.
5. Let something go. So your friend went after the guy you liked, or you had trouble living with an assigned roommate; dwelling on past drama isn’t getting you anywhere. Let the past go and move on.
6. Conversely, face something head-on. If there has been drama that you truly can’t just drop, go and talk it out until the issue is resolved.
7. Decide whose opinions matter the most to you, and when you need advice, ask only these people. Don’t let anyone not on this list make you second-guess yourself.
8. Try something totally new, be it a dance class or a Spanish discussion group or just something silly, like a dining hall dish you think you won’t like. After college these things either cost money or require extensive planning; take advantage of your campus while you can.
9. Apply to at least one job for which you are horribly under-qualified. Because you just never know.
10. Lastly, think about starting a blog. I kept a blog during my junior year of college, and started my current blog, Champagne for Ducklings, the summer after I graduated from Bates. I have so enjoyed the time I have spent writing and photographing for mine, and highly recommend blogging as a way to process the post-college world. Why not start now?
Happy New Year, from my real world to yours.