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.