Dear 100 Hour Board and Alumni,
All of you have graduated from or are attending college. What advice do you have for a college student. Or, to borrow a phrase from the musical Hamilton, could you "tell me what you'd wish you'd know when you were young and dreamed of glory"?
Use all the resources your university offers for mental health care and diagnosis. Continue using those resources throughout your college years, and get retested if you think you need it. This all gets way more expensive after college and it can impact your career if you don't have a diagnosis for something. This comes from personal experience--I was diagnosed with ADHD in college, and my diagnosis has helped me acquire much-needed accommodations for my job after significant role and daily requirements changes were made in my department. Bonus, the diagnosis and ADHD coaching plus therapy were all free!
Learn to live cheaply in a way you find enjoyable/fashionable/luxurious (I know, I know--sounds weird to use "cheap" and "luxurious" in the same sentence but it's a real thing). Find ways to develop your aesthetic that don't cost scads of money while simultaneously making you feel at home and expressive. Learn to live with roommates and how to find roommates you like, and upon graduation continue to live cheaply and with roommates so you can stock up your savings (retirement, emergency, etc). Saving is fun and cool and worthwhile and keeps your life a little more stable. If you don't know how to save or are from a background where saving is a privilege, take advantage of the financial education included in your tuition.
I wish I had gone on more road trips/trips in general. So, learn from my mistakes and get out of your apartment, even if on a low budget! Learn your university's area. If you're in Provo that means the ENTIRE WASATCH FRONT is yours for hiking, camping trips to Southern UT will make the liminal seasons of spring and fall feel less overwhelming (less! winter! less! winter!), and visits to the desert will give you a greater love and respect for Utah's arid climate. Going along with the "learn your area" theme but in a more human-oriented direction, take advantage of the cheap musical performances at your university and neighboring universities (and take advantage of student discounts--SLC has operas and symphonies to attend for $10/ticket for those under 30). During the summer, if you're here, there are several outdoor concert series including one in the Provo North Park every Sunday in June (a personal favorite). Attend lecture series and forums!
You can totally start building your resume and career network now. Even if you don't want to work in Utah, knowing people in your future career will help you get a job someday, and so will internships or field-related student jobs, if you can swing them. Go to the job fairs early even if to just talk with recruiters and find out what they like to look for in potential employees coming out of college.
Lastly--and this is going to sound boring but please trust me here--SLEEP. IS. WORTH. IT. Sleep! Sometimes you have to lose out on a fun event or a liiiiiittle more studying so that you can get the sleep your body needs. I regret every all-nighter I ever pulled in college, and every sleep-deprived day I had. Sleep and eating health-conscious food will help you feel less like a dying college kid.
Dear Seeking Student,
(1) For the love of all that is good and holy PLEASE spend the early years of your college career looking around for other interests and possible majors. Even if you have declared a major and even if you love it, use your generals to meaningfully search for things that might be even more interesting to you. As a high school student, you simply don't have enough experience to know that you like one thing above all the others. So look around! And be willing to change it up if you find something you like better. If I had done that I'm absolutely certain that I would have changed my major to something else and that I'd be doing a different thing with my life right now. I kind of regret staying in my major even though I loved every day of it.
(2) Don't take the standard issue general classes. Look carefully at the list of classes that also satisfy your general requirements and pick whichever one is the most interesting for you. (It might be different now, but when I was at BYU they listed a basic general class (like English 100 or whatever) and it seemed like that was the only choice. But in reality there were some 20 or 30 other classes that you could take.) Taking the standard classes is largely a waste of time. You'll never have this much access to this much knowledge again in your life and you owe it to the investment you're making (in both time and money) to take the most interesting classes you can find without worrying one lick about how hard they might be. Do the harder, more satisfying thing whenever you can afford to do it.
The Man with a Mustache
Dear young, scrappy, and hungry,
Be annoying! Not everyone has this problem, but I sure did. I thought when I asked professors or TAs for help I was being annoying. I thought that they should make more of an effort to make me feel included (and to a degree I still think they should have). I thought that you get to be a TA by being dubbed, or you get to work on an interesting research project outside of class by being dubbed. I thought I should talk less, smile more. Basically I thought it was all out of my control. But at least some of it was in my control and I just wasn't nearly annoying enough. Do you like a subject? Do you like a professor? Go annoy them and find out how you can be in the room where it happens. There's a million things I didn't do, because I waited around for someone to ask me if I wanted to and that never happened. This is the moment, this is the day* to push yourself to do interesting things with interesting people while you're all concentrated in one location.
*Sorry, wrong musical.
Dear Seeking Student,
I love the saying "have the confidence of a mediocre white man." I don't know who said it first, but I wish I had heard it sooner. I wish I had realized that no one else in my computer classes knew what they were doing either, that I should try harder to overcome "imposter syndrome."
I also want to second Mico's advice. It wasn't until my senior year that I found out there's a whole list of student research groups in linguistics that I could have potentially annoyed myself into. However, I did manage to do a study abroad and an ORCA grant project, which were out of my comfort zone, and I'm so glad I did!
Dear Seeking ~
If you're pre-college: You don't have to go to college. Trade schools are awesome, less expensive, and serve a vital need. Plus, they will help you pay for more schooling if you decide you want to go to more. This is an unpopular opinion for a lot of people, but college is expensive, and if it's not actually going to lead you to a job, don't go into debt for it.
If you're already in college: Chill. College feels like it's the most important thing in life. And it is important. But there are more important things. What those are depends on you, but may I suggest: your relationship with God, your health, your relationship with family, your relationship with friends. Also, try not to go into debt if at all possible. But if it's not possible, don't beat yourself up if you do go into debt. Just be smart about it. If you can learn budgeting skills now, you will benefit from it your entire life. Please note: budgeting does NOT equal restriction. Instead, think of it as freedom. You decide what you want your money to do. You set your priorities. Then you have the freedom to live those dreams. (Also, YNAB is my favorite budgeting software and students get a year free. Go ahead, try it, then set some budgeting goals for travel or a wedding ring or that new gaming system. Then feel zero guilt when you spend money on it.)
~ Dragon Lady
The most important thing you can do in college is find out how you work. Find your strengths and figure out how to play to them. Learn your weaknesses and learn how to work around them. If you can be exceptionally good at a few things, you can get away with being bad at a lot of other things.
Take interesting classes outside of your major because you can. Learn how to cook. Learn how to repair stuff when it breaks or wears out. Find one or two extracurriculars and throw yourself into them; it's better to be a huge part of one thing than a small part of dozens of things.
For the love of all things, learn professional grammar and writing style.
If you're always miserable or stressed, something is wrong. Don't just try to push through it on your own. Get therapy. Get medication. If you can get accommodations, take full advantage of them. Even if you can't get any help, getting a diagnosis will give you some additional peace of mind.
Sleep enough. Enjoy all of the new people.
If you want to go to grad school, get research opportunities/internships/whatever (find out what you need from professors/grad students in the field) ASAP.
I graduated about three years ago now, and it wasn't until my senior year that I realized that I could (and should) develop meaningful relationships with my professors outside of class. I had so many great professors that I would now jump at the chance to have as mentors. In college, I don't think I even considered that concept. Now three years later, I am looking to apply to grad school this fall, and I am almost at a loss for a way to reconnect with old professors in order to obtain letters of recommendations, mentorship, and advice that I desperately need.
So yeah, form relationships with your professors. Consult with them and befriend them: it will help you in class and enrich life outside of, and beyond, class.
The Soulful Ginger
I joined a dinner group this semester and it has been surprisingly great. I eat different, (pretty) healthy meals four nights a week, only cook for everyone about once every two weeks, and it's been a great way to meet people. So start/join a dinner group if you can, and/or find other things to be involved with that make you happy.
I wish I had made more friends with my classmates. I was in the same classes with the same people for years, but it was only as a senior that I realized what I had missed. I could have gotten more technical help and moral support, but each semester I mainly focused on myself and surviving midterm to midterm, thinking I'd never see these people again. So, with people as well as with academics, think long-term instead of short-term.
This may directly contradict what some others have said, but maybe it will help you strike a balance.
Don't obsess too much over getting the absolute perfect major. You can't know everything about all the majors when you choose. If you're going to switch around, do it early. Get through school. Get your degree in something you want to know about. Ask your professors how to get get a job when you graduate.