Advice to college graduates

I was born in Huntsville, Alabama to a family full of engineers; amongst the scientists and NASA employees scattered in our city, they were certainly in good company. I learned early on that I would probably be working on computers for the rest of my life – just like my father, mother, grandfather, uncle, cousins… Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of future.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that, as soon as I could read, I immersed myself in literature and the escape that fiction could allow. Once I was introduced to the visual storytelling of movies, my passion for them followed easily. It wasn’t until high school that my love for film merged with a growing interest in writing; it hadn’t occurred to me that I could be one of those people behind the scenes creating the stories. It was at that point that my dreams substantially shifted.

I had the opportunity to write for my town’s newspaper in those early days and found that the restriction of journalism was definitely not for me. I saw more freedom in the stories I was creating in my head and occasionally in journals during my free time, and yearned for that space.

I set my sights on the tentative goal of Writer/Director as I began looking for colleges to attend, and found myself applying and being accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. It was there that I learned another lesson: my true love rested in writing scripts rather than the technical aspects of film production. I switched my major to Dramatic Writing and reveled in the next few years of growing into my talent and pursuing my true dream.

A few years after graduating in June 2013, I now find myself in Brooklyn, New York with an development internship at a production company and a few steps closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a screen and television writer. In the center of creativity and opportunity, I search for a way to participate in the industry knowing full well that I have much still to learn.

I’m sure by now you will have received countless well-wishers, searched numerous blogs, and read multiple magazines and articles telling you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do to make the most of your time at college. The advice will be pouring out of your ears for a quite a while now, and most of your friends and family will consider it their duty to give you even more. So what can you do with all of this information? Absorb as much as you can, but don’t let it overwhelm you. College will be a unique experience, catered to how you embrace the situations you find yourself in; it is scary and overwhelming, but it’s also really amazing if you allow it.
Now that I’ve done my duty as an older, graduated 20-something and presented you with the general idea, I can bestow the more creative information you might not hear from your guidance counselor.
You’ve been through years and years of education, classes, and different types of schooling; I’m sure that you understand the concept of paying attention in lectures, taking notes, and having your assignments done on time (or… well… as close as you can manage). But I’ve learned a few things in my stretch that I wish a sibling or college life blog had offered to me.
First and foremost: it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to sleep an extra few minutes, take a nap, go on a walk, or listen to some music and not think about school for a while. In fact, please do this. It will make you feel infinitely better while also improving your work; nothing helps more than a fresh and clear mind. Second: invest in some sturdy and versatile Tupperware. Leftovers will be your best friend, whether it’s a quick meal between classes or a late night dinner when all you want to do is crash into your pillow and forget all other important bodily functions. If there’s a kitchen readily available to you, make big meals in your down time or on the weekends that will last for a few days or even through the week. Pasta salad and leftover cheap Chinese takeout were my go-to.
Number three: if you’re living in a shared room (or maybe just with some noisy roommates), a sleep mask and earplugs can go a long way. Sleep is the most amazing and useful tool for you, and during those times when it’s available, it must not be squandered. If earplugs freak you out, then simply use some comfy headphones and download a free sleep machine app; you can choose beach waves, rain, music, or just some white noise – anything to drown out your roommate talking to her long distance boyfriend until 4 in the morning will work. Number four: do not be afraid to ask for help. Really, I can promise you with every ounce of my experience that even though everyone looks like they know what they’re doing, they really don’t. They’re just skilled at pretending. Email your professors if you’re too anxious to talk to them in person (which is completely legitimate, by the way, it happens all the time), hound your older siblings for information about their experience, or bribe the upperclassmen with baked goods. Free food is always the answer.
The last bit I will leave you with is probably the most important: allow yourself to make mistakes. Sure, college is about “learning” and education in the literal sense, but it’s also an instrumental time to be learning subjectively about yourself as well. Some classes will be incredibly boring, and you’ll wonder why you’re even bothering. Other classes will ignite something within you that you had no idea was even there – an interest in a new subject or a desire to pursue a topic that’s different than anything you’ve ever considered before.
Above everything else, this period in your life is yours. Whether you know exactly what it is you want to do after you leave, or you go as long as possible with your major still undeclared. College is a time to explore and experience the potential of education and all of the wonders it has to offer. It by no means has to be the best years of your life, but it can certainly be the most important.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest