why college was ‘worth it’

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“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”  -Tom Bodett

 

Welp, here we go. It is officially, definitively, one month to graduation.

The school has given us our caps and gowns, the yearbook has been poured over, and we have all given up on caring about our grade in that one senior elective we only took to fulfill credit requirements.

The job hunt looms ahead: an intimidating mess of resumes, cover letters, and awkward moments during interviews. We know we have no choice but to look ahead into that dark cloud of uncertainty, and all we really want to do is turn around and relive the familiar, worry-free moments we didn’t realize we should have appreciated more.

In the face of post-grad life, there’s talk about the value of a college education. Having that degree will, hopefully, help you get some job or another. But, there’s still those who ask- was it worth it?

Was it worth the money? That unbelievable price tag that you justified you could pay off between scholarships, grants, loans, side jobs, and (for us lucky ones) the generosity of your parents?

Was it worth the time? Those endless hours in pre-reqs and core classes, the late nights writing 20+ page papers on Shakespeare and studying for that cumulative psych final?

Was it worth the stress, the anxiety? Was it worth the frustration? And, in the end, are you any better off?

I can’t (and won’t try to) speak for my fellow soon-to-be graduates. But for me, the answer is: absolutely.

Why?

College connected me with people who have drastically, and beautifully, changed my life.

The classes were important, but the professors were exponentially moreso- the English professor that was so excited about what we read that he made me WANT to go to class, the Humanities professors that made me change the way I see the world and defend my opinions with conviction, and the art teacher that convinced me we’re all artists, somehow.

The professional experience was valuable, but my mentors made all the difference. The advisers that showed me what real support in the workplace does (and doesn’t) look like, the older students that inspired me and made me want to be better every single day, and the co-workers that continually surprised me with their passion and their dedication.

The late nights out and college parties were fun, but they would have been nothing without the friends I made in the process. The roommates that have stood by me since move-in day, the friends that have no problem with a 3 a.m. emotional phone call, and the alumni that still keep in touch and offer advice via a group text message that involves too many emojis.

These people, all of them, saw me in my best and worst moments. My professors at my academic highs and lows. My advisers and coworkers through my successes and failures. My friends through the highs of loves and lows of breakups, through happiness and hangovers.

They have had an impact on my life that, years after our tassels have been turned, will not be any less important in shaping who I am than it is today. They gave me a real education.

If someone asks me if I’ll be better off financially than I would have been with a different past four years, the honest answer is I don’t know, and maybe I never will. But worth isn’t always measured in numbers and statistics, and the experience of meeting these amazing people and sharing a love of learning and life with them has been the most worthwhile thing I’ve done thus far.

So don’t worry, college. When they ask if you were worth it, I’ll tell them you were.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have you on my resume.

dear mary: an open letter to my college-bound little sister

Sisters

Dear Marybear,

There are a few reasons being four years apart in age hasn’t always been fun- we never got to be in high school together and sometimes we’ve been on completely different pages. But now you get to (hopefully) benefit from the fact that we’re both graduating this year- besides the money we’ll save by combining all of our Class of 2014 paraphernalia.

Not that you need my advice, but maybe if you remember a few of the things I learned in college, going away in the fall will be a little easier. Here it goes.

I know people almost always make you roll your eyes, but give them a chance, Mar. You’re about to meet some of the best friends you will ever have. You’re also about to encounter some of the dumbest people you’ve ever met, but I know you’ll have a golden response to everything they throw at you.

I know new things are scary, but find the thing you love and do it with all you have. Join something that makes you smile. You know the newspaper changed everything about my college experience, and I want you to find the thing that brings that much joy and pride into your life, too.

I know it’s hard to put your foot down, but be with the people that make you happy. Sometimes the friends you meet the first day stick with you, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes some of the most important people you know won’t surface until junior and senior year. But your time is too short to spend it with people who make you feel any kind of bad about yourself.

I know you hate getting out of bed, but go to class as much as you can. You’re like me, I think, in that it hurts your pride a little too much to do poorly. You’re the smartest person I know, but trust me when I say going to class will make your life a lot easier.

I know that boys are fun and so are boyfriends, but be careful with your heart, cutie. I can tell you with conviction that it’s better to have loved and lost, but the losing can be hard. You’re too young to be anything but happy in your relationships. Just remember you deserve the best, and accept nothing less.

I know that alcohol is fun too, but trust me on this- if you think you’ve had enough, you have. Don’t let anyone else convince you to do anything you don’t want to. Real friends want you to have fun and be safe, and you have to be able to trust each other. Take lots of pictures, but don’t put them all on Facebook. And remind me to teach you about privacy settings.

There are going to be times you make mistakes and miss home and want to cry but feel awkward about it because there’s really nowhere to be alone in your dorm. You’ll want to quit because you have too much homework and a hangover and you miss the cat and mom and dad. But there are also going to be times you try new things and meet new people and get really excited about the opportunities ahead of you. You’ll want to take on the challenges and go to the parties and wish that college could continue just a little (or a lot) longer.

Most of all, remember that you’re smart, you’re beautiful, and you are unimaginably loved. Remember that I am always only a phone call away- and that whatever “it” is,  I’ve been there and done that, and you are never alone. I’m so proud of you, Mary.

Good luck. Have fun. Be safe.

all the love I have,

your big sister. xoxo

here’s to 100 nights

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“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” -Bill Watterson

You know you’re nearing the end of college when most of your friends are drinking out of bottles instead of cans and Tyler (who once taught you the basics of beer pong) passes on a free drink because he has to go to work in the morning.

Senior Thesis Day is less than a week away, your landlord notifies you that she’ll be showing the apartment tomorrow and the toast of the night is “here’s to 100 nights until graduation.”

The conversation has changed over the years, from figuring out which core classes to take together to cleaning up Twitter accounts and applying to jobs. Sometimes it seems like you all met yesterday and sometimes it feels like you’ve known each other since 4th grade. Time is weird like that.

In the midst of side conversations about internships and grad schools, Krista wins the poker game, because she has no clue how to play and you’ve come to expect that kind of thing. You sit back and look around at the people you’ve grown with, grown apart from, and grown closer to on any given weekend.

You think about all that’s happened since these people first came into your life. Jackie deals the last hand and you remember meeting her the first day you moved in, praying you two would be friends and taking the fact that you both used Herbal Essences as some kind of sign. You wonder how different your life would have been if you hadn’t been roommates, and you’re grateful it’s not.

You realize that even though you’ve all had your ups and downs, the people around the table have come to resemble some kind of eclectic family that will always come to mind when, years from now, you think about college. You know you’d be someone else if these people hadn’t come into your life, and you wonder if you would have liked that other you. You decide you probably wouldn’t.

You think about the seniors you met when you were a freshman, and you wonder how they seemed like they were so much older than you are now, and how you thought they must have it all figured out. Now you have to laugh to yourself because although you know a lot more than you did at 18, you know that 21 is not the year you figure it all out.

More than anything else, you think about how you only have 100 nights to do things like sit around and play poker with your friends until 2 a.m., and how you’d better take advantage of every one because the “real world” is coming, and it’s nothing like MTV.

Here’s to every night til graduation, and to making it count.