“I can embrace the unknown, dis­cover cool tidbits about our world, and make friends along the way.” Courtesy: Joseph Harvey

Dear Freshman Rowan,

Welcome to Hillsdale College! This is you from the future. I have been a lot of dif­ferent stu­dents. A hard-working student, a poor student, a happy student, a depressed student, a straight‑A student, a drop-out. I have attended public school, private school, home school, com­munity college, and college. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way; I hope they encourage you and protect you from some dif­ficult times.


It’s okay to be imperfect.

Not everyone at Hillsdale has a 4.0, even if they look like it. Hillsdale College is not my life, it is but a stepping-stone in my life. I do not have to obsess trying to curate my aca­d­emics, my extracur­ric­ulars, or my social status. I do not have to double-major in Math and Eco­nomics and double-minor in French and Phi­losophy. I do not have to be in six Bible studies and two worship teams simul­ta­ne­ously. I do not have to be the best RA in history.


It’s okay to fail.

I can miss a deadline. I can fail a class. I can let a friend down. I can be fired from an internship or job. When faced with dif­fi­culty, I should not think, “This task is so hard.” I should think, “I need to work hard at this.” And when I do fall, try to get up. That can be really hard, and that is okay.


It’s okay to be vulnerable.

I like life when I share it with my friends. Time hanging out in a dorm lobby can be some of the most well-spent time. It is good to offer grace when my friends fail and to accept grace when I fail. I do not need to hide my short­comings to feel valuable, and by showing others the real me, I let others love me.


It’s okay to be helped.

People want to help me if they know I want help. The deans and the coun­selors, the RAs, the upper-classmen, the pro­fessors, student service staff, my roommate, even my parents want to help me to be healthy and thrive. I do no one a favor to pretend I do not need their help. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help; rather, it is a sign of weakness to only try on my own. 


It’s okay to be uncomfortable.

The uncom­fortable always has oppor­tunity I can seize. I can learn that flam­mable and inflam­mable are syn­onyms in a core class I hate. I can make mem­ories being thrown in the air during that weird home­coming dance contest. I, an inde­pendent non-athlete, can become friends with a married athlete who is three years my senior. I can even have fun at a football game by painting everyone’s faces. I do not have to run from a new expe­rience — I can embrace the unknown, dis­cover cool tidbits about our world, and make friends along the way.


These four years are special. Savor them. They are precious.