With summer upon us, this one is for all the incoming freshmen out there. This is for the recent high-school grads, and the up and coming high-school seniors. Heck, this is for anyone who wants to do life right.
Did you ever wish you could just hit the reset button, take all the lessons you’ve learned up till now, and start again to do things better? This is your chance.
I graduated from college a few years ago, so I’ve had some time to think about my experiences. If I could distill everything into two words that describe the essence of college it would be “reset button”. In fact, that’s how I described it not too long ago to my little brother who just turned 17. Application season is coming up for him, and he is trying to figure out where his “best fit” will be. In reality, he’s just trying to figure out what it is he’s even looking for in a university.
You may be ahead of the curve when it comes to figuring this out, or you may be right there along with him. So I’ll break it down here just like I broke it down for him.
Now, my family has a bit of a reputation in our local school. I’ll blame this mostly on my older brother, but I can’t deny I played my part in establishing the family name as well. You know on the first day of class, when the teacher is calling out names, and he or she always gets to that one kid where they pause and go: “Oh, so you’re so-and-so’s brother/sister?”
That was me, and also my little brother, and now our baby sister is going through it too. So apart from everything else that follows you from year to year when you go to your neighborhood school, I had to deal with being pegged as a potential troublemaker by teachers from the start of every school year. And you know what they say about self-fulfilling prophecies.
All this is to say that I was threatened by various teachers and school administrators on no shortage of occasions with the mythical and ever-terrifying “permanent record”. You know, the “Do you really want THIS going on your permanent record?!” Line. Maybe you’ve never heard that one before. I envy you.
By the time my little brother rolled through, he was getting pre-emptively threatened with the permanent record.
I spent Memorial Day weekend visiting the fam, and I let him in on a little secret: There is no permanent record. Or at least if there is, no one gives a shit about it.
Now for anyone who has ever suffered under the same authoritarian threat of every potential future employer knowing about the time I hid all of Ms. Fitzpatrick’s erasers from her in 6th grade, and she didn’t realize it until the board was already full of spelling words… (Sorry, Ms. Fitzpatrick!) the weight of this revelation and the freedom it entails is tantamount to what you experience in college… times about a hundred.
Here’s how the convo with my little bro went (names redacted to preserve the innocence of all parties involved):
Cool Big Bro: “Hey, little bro, made any progress figuring out where you want to apply?”
Earnest Little Bro: “Some. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I want to go to a big school or a smaller one.”
Cool Big Bro: “Go with your gut. The most important thing is to be comfortable… and to make sure none of your professors are friends with Ms. Fitzpatrick.” He groaned, having had his fair share of spats with her too.
Earnest Little Bro: “Ugh! I still can’t believe she put that I was backtalking her on my record. I wasn’t even!”
Earnest Little Bro: “What’s so funny?”
Wise and Sagacious Big Bro: “You’ve been in high school how long?”
Earnest Little Bro: “Three years?”
Wise and Sagacious Big Bro: “And has anyone ever mentioned your permanent record?”
Earnest Little Bro: “No…?”
Wise and Sagacious Big Bro: “You know it doesn’t exist right?”
Earnest Little Bro: “What doesn’t?”
Wise and Sagacious Big Bro: “The ‘permanent record’.”
Wide-eyed, mind-blown Little Bro: “What, seriously?!”’
Think about it. Did anyone in high school care about what you did in middle school – really? No. The same holds true of your next transition into college. No one cares what happened or who you were in high school.
Now you can take this two ways, and I hope you take it in the positive. Because this is an amazing opportunity to take all the lessons you’ve learned along the way, press the reset button, and be the person you are in the best way possible. Starting out day 1 everyone has equal chance to be valedictorian if you put in the work, and if someone beats you then you still have magna or summa cum laude you can pick up along the way. Everyone has an equal chance to be a leader and make differences for the better in people’s lives on campus. Everyone has an equal chance to do whatever it is that’s in their hearts and make it real.
Because for better or worse, no one cares what you did or didn’t do in high school. Take advantage of that.
One final thought:
Reflecting on what it was like transitioning from college into the world, I realize that this was also an instance of pressing the reset button. I had a bit of a reputation in college for not being the hardest worker even though I got pretty good grades. That was something I wanted to change when I started my career, and so I did.
Life is full of these opportunities where you can flip the reset switch, take the lessons you’ve learned until now, and work on becoming the most awesome you possible.
There’s really not even any need to wait for a transition experience to do so. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can make the choice to flip the switch.
But college is definitely the biggest opportunity. So do life right, incoming freshmen, because what you do now actually does follow you, to some extent, for the rest of your life.
And by the way, if Ms. Fitzpatrick is reading this: My professors in college ****ing loved me. Sorry again about the erasers.
Peace & Love