Dear past me,
Hey! Congratulations on finishing high school and on getting into your dream college! You are about to start a new phase of life at the University of Michigan. I know you might be feeling nervous about what the future has in store. Honestly, it won’t be easy. You will spend many nights wishing you could return to the comforts you became accustomed to in high school. I am writing this letter to you with some advice on how to make the transition from high school to college easier.
You will lose friendships!
You are probably feeling excited to enjoy the summer with your friends. Yet, you are also a little worried that this summer might be the last time you will hang out with your friends. In all honesty, be prepared to have your circle of peers shrink down this summer. With your friends going off to different colleges across the country or even the world, it will be hard to maintain friendships. As you part ways, remember that friendships coming to an end does not reflect failed relationships but rather a consequence of this new stage of life which you simply cannot control. Be sure to cherish your friends and appreciate that this might be one of the last times you will be able to hang out with them.
You will miss home!
You are finally moving out and can’t wait to be on your own, taking on Ann Arbor. You will quickly realize how difficult and lonely it can be by yourself. The dining hall will never replace mom’s cooking. There will be nights where you miss the arguments you had with your sister and the lectures you got from dad. It will also be as equally hard on Mom and Dad to let you go off to college. They've spent nearly two decades sheltering and protecting you from the world. My advice to you is to spend quality time with them this summer. Moving forward, your summers will be filled with research, internships, and job searching, leaving little to no time for you to spend with your family. Use this summer to show your family how much they mean to you. There will be times when, despite being in a city much more packed than your modest home town, college will feel lonely. Reach out to your family and friends to combat this. They will be so happy you called and will be there to support you through this transition.
The best way to move on from old friendships is to forge new ones. Joining clubs and getting involved in student life is a great way to build new relationships in college. There are hundreds of student organizations on campus to choose from. By making more connections, you can create your network. Networking is an essential skill that will help you get connected with resources that can help you land research opportunities, or even a job. When choosing what clubs or organizations to join, push yourself to join something new, but do not try to change who you are as a person to impress someone else. By sticking true to who you are, you will feel much more at home and comfortable in this new environment.
College is challenging.
Another difference you’ll see between high school and college will be in your academics. College classes are much harder than the courses you have taken in high school. The difficulty of the material and the pace of the class will be nothing like you have seen before. I would advise you, strongly, to connect with older students to help you schedule classes, something you will be expected to do yourself in college. The days of being able to procrastinate and pull off a good grade in a class are long gone. Instead, you must work tentatively throughout the semester to achieve the best results possible. Do not skip classes just because attendance is not mandatory. You will fall behind, and it will be challenging to catch up with the material you miss out on. Do not be afraid to go to office hours with your professors. The higher student to faculty ratio might make you feel that your professors don’t even know that you exist, but by attending office hours and introducing yourself to them, you can offset that. Make sure you talk to other students in your classes. You can form study groups and make friends. However, be cautious and remember that just because someone is your friend, that does not mean they are the best person to study with. Do what is best for you and find people who don’t distract you. There will be times when no matter how hard you work or study, you simply do not get the grade that you were hoping for. That is ok, just remember that as long as you do your best, you have done your part. Anything less than an “A” does not mean the end of the world. A common problem that develops amongst students, especially in their first year is imposter syndrome. You might start feeling that you do not belong amongst your peers who seem to have it all planned out. I promise you, nobody has it all figured out, and everyone is just as scared as you are. Do not compare yourself to others. Remember, you got into UofM just like everyone else, and you have every right to be there.
Prioritize your health.
Living without the restrictions of your parents will, at first, seem like a dream. You won’t have a curfew, you can eat whatever you want, no one can make you go to class, etc. Do not be fooled by this illusion, and be sure to look after both your physical and mental health. Sticking to a routine that will ensure you get at least eight hours of sleep a day is essential to ensure you are fresh for your days. You should also stick to eating three meals a day and having a well-balanced diet rather than munching snacks and junk food 24/7. “Freshman fifteen,” the amount of weight many students put on in their first year of college, is genuine. You can combat this by working out at the gym in your free time and making sure you eat healthily. I understand that being away from home for the first time might seem like the perfect opportunity to wild out. Unfortunately, you will quickly crash, burn out, and end up getting yourself sick. I know I sound like Mom, but please, look after yourself.
Most of the tips I have mentioned are not anything you have not heard before. I figured if you would listen to anyone, it would at least be yourself. Try your best to follow my advice. You will have a much more enjoyable college experience if you do.
All the best,
Your Future Self