Dear Class of 2022,
First off, I am not some holier-than-thou, won-a-million-dollars-in-the-lottery, Ivy-League college student. While there is nothing wrong with attending Ivies, that’s not most of us. But to those admitted, my sincere congratulations! My invisible hats are currently saluting you, and I know exactly how much you worked for it, and you undoubtedly deserve it.
This letter is for you guys, too. But this is also a letter to everyone. Whether you are a liberal arts kid, STEM student, or someone who didn’t get into their first choice, I can tell you this: whoever you are in this exact moment—regardless of your situation, race, or age—is going to change. Now, I know—the word change, in its nature, is elusive, abstract. And many of you need concrete advice on how to survive what one would argue to be the most formative years of your life.
I know this is rather a late introduction, but I am Anna from Southern California, and I happen to attend an university about a half-hour drive from home. I have always commuted from home, so I don’t have too much first-hand knowledge about shared bathrooms and dining hall food, but I am sure you will survive. All my friends did. I didn’t get into my dream school that I’d been eyeing since my sophomore year of high school and instead ended up at a place that I could have never ever seen myself attending—yet here I am. I know that for many of you reading this, your situation may completely be different. You may be traveling halfway across the country or the world to attend your university; you may—and will likely—be living in a dorm; you may have gotten into your first-choice school. But despite all the little incongruities, I am hopeful that the tidbits of wisdom I’ve gathered in the past two years at university will help you.
The immediate years after high school are a transformative period for everyone, even those not attending college. You officially can’t be a “kid” anymore because you are nearing the end of your teenage years, and before you know it, you are going to be in your 20s. (I am freaking out.) However, despite the pressure to grow up so quickly, you really don’t have to do so. College is full of people who come from entirely different backgrounds, and just because your roommate’s friend’s girlfriend interned at Google, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t feel the need to) copy that. Going back to the idea of change, it will happen. I went into college thinking that I knew my exact major and specific career path. Lo and behold, I realized during my first Introduction to International Relations seminar that I really don’t enjoy IR. (For the record, I stuck with various IR classes for two whole semesters, so I definitely gave it a thorough try.) Now I am an English major, and I have never enjoyed anything or learned so much as I am right now.
Also, you will get a lot of rejections—and I am sorry to tell you that college rejections are only the beginning of rebuffs to come. Not to be depressing, but your ceaseless emails about internships will remain unopened, your meticulously polished resumes will end up in someone’s trash pile, and your life will not be the perfect, smiling faces in every college brochure. And that’s okay! Although this is disheartening (and since I speak from experience, I genuinely know), there are always more opportunities. I’ve learned that the universe, although under no obligation to function as you see fit, does look after you in some way. And that is a beautiful reassurance.
My last (and most important) advice is to call your mom or grandpa or aunt or whoever loves you. After dealing with so many people at once, there is no one better than those who have loved you from the very start, and there is no place better than home. It’s a lesson that I am slowly learning now, but we really do need to grasp unconditional love in all of its intangible elusivity.
So my sincere congratulations to you, whether you are taking a gap year, not attending college, or going to your dream school. You finished high school, and that warrants all the flowers and fireworks in your name. Wherever you end up, be happy, be you, and don’t forget home. This truly is the start of your adult life, and I believe that at the end of the day, everything will work out. It always does.