A Letter To My Soon-To-Be College Freshman Niece

by Jill Veldhouse
Originally Published: 
A college girl lying down on grass and working on her laptop

I love you. That’s what I want to say first. It’s the most important point, so I want to be clear from the get-go. Because I love you, there are things I feel compelled to say to you as you begin this next very exciting stage of your life. I certainly don’t claim to know every answer to all of life’s questions, but I am confident that I know more than you.

I probably seem pretty old in your eyes. However, in my eyes, I’m your age. No shit. It was just yesterday that I was you. Roll your eyes if you must. That’s what I would’ve done at your age. I rolled my eyes a lot back then. I thought I knew everything. Looking back, it turns out that 11 times out of 10, I was dead wrong about pretty much all of it. It’s called hindsight and I have it now. You do not. In your current state of youthfulness, you are naïve. It’s perfectly normal at this point in your life, so no worries. If you’re even slightly aware of it, you will be one step ahead of the game. If you disagree, this just reinforces my point. Trust me, you are.

As such, here are the top 10 most important things that I want and need you to know:

1. You will make mistakes. Lots of them, and good for you if you do. Learn from them. Be a better person because of them. And then make some more, because that is how life works. I mean, don’t intentionally be an ignoramus, because that’s just not cool. It’s the opposite of cool. No one likes an idiot, especially a fake one.

2. Be yourself. Be true to who you are. If you’re scared, challenge yourself—don’t run away. Unless it’s from some douchebag at a party who after one glance at you announces to the world that you are his soulmate. Then run for the hills. He doesn’t deserve you.

Live your life for you, without thinking about how it affects anyone else. You owe it to yourself to discover who you are first, and this won’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process and will require some real soul-searching and exploration. At the end of the day, your identity should not be tied to anyone else’s. At least not yet. When you think of yourself, you should think of you.

3. Stay put! The first month or two of your freshmen year is when most friendships and alliances are formed. Since this is your first real stint away from home, this might seem like a looooooong stretch of time, but when it’s over, it’s over. You do not get a do-over. These critical first few weeks are when you will establish your core group of friends for the entirety of your college experience. It’s not easy to become part of a group once it has already been formed. Trust me on this one.

Granted, you will miss home and everything home has to offer. Our home (and everyone in and around it) will miss you terribly too. It won’t be easy at times, but try really hard not to give into your insecurities. I guarantee you that if you step outside of your comfort zone, you will not be disappointed in the long run. That means staying put (i.e., not leaving campus for a while). Maybe even consider leaving your car at home for the first few months (gasp!). If you do get miserably homesick and desperately want to escape to some place more familiar and safe, fight the urge. Engage. Put your phone down. Seriously. Put it down. It’s okay. Get involved in anything and everything. Meet new people. You’re good at it, and they will be better off for knowing you.

4. Study. Hard. It’s not a joke. This shit is real. I neglected the whole school portion of college for a larger chunk of time than I would care to admit. As a result, I had to dig myself out of a giant GPA hole to even consider applying to grad school. It was not easy, or fun. Always try your best. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take it seriously, but not too seriously. You see how this gets a bit tricky? Guess what? I failed Probability and Statistics, and I tried really hard. Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses. You can’t be good at everything. Occasionally, shit happens, even if you try your best. Cut yourself a break periodically. It’s okay.

5. Don’t label yourself! Explore options. If you think you know what you want to be when you grow up, you don’t. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Don’t choose a path too soon. Keep an open mind. There are endless career opportunities out there, most of which you currently have no idea even exist. Be a sponge and soak it all up. You’ll have plenty of time to choose a specific path in the future. Right now, be content dabbling in everything! There is no limit to your potential. I guarantee you that if you do this, you will surprise yourself. Who knows, you could be the next highly sought after sommelier (average, pay $80,000, up to $160,000). On that note, I expect some sort of a kickback if you choose this path. Write that down.

6. Have fun. And lots of it! You get one real college experience. Make it count. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a pseudo-adult with a license to have an absurd amount of fun and get away with blaming college for your behavior. Once you’re an actual adult, this changes, so enjoy it while it lasts.

7. Be responsible. Make good choices. Use common sense. Don’t drink and drive and/or get in a car with anyone who does. I know you’re smarter than that (I wasn’t), but some things just need to be said regardless of the intended audience.

8. Stay away from the assholes. Even if they’re really cute. Especially if they’re really cute. Usually these are the worst ones. They will want your attention and go to great lengths to get it. You are beautiful. Stunning beyond words. Trust your instincts. Keep your feelers out, and don’t let some muscle-head idiot with a six pack and a wad of 20 dollar bills fool you. Make him—and everyone—earn your trust and do not under any circumstances grant it prematurely.

9. Make GIRLFRIENDS first! For real. This is critical. These women are instrumental to your happiness. If you don’t have them, you will miss out on one of the most spectacular and rewarding aspects of the college experience. Bitches stick together. Word.

10. Call your mom. A lot! She misses you already, and you’re not even gone yet. That said, I guarantee you that if you call her after your first week of classes and tell her that you want to come home, she will not have the strength to discourage you, so don’t do it. You will always be her baby girl. To be honest, I already miss you for her, but if you need to call someone regarding the above topic, call me. Here’s what I will say to you in no uncertain terms: “Put your big girl panties on and stay the course.” Then I’ll send you a care package with fresh chocolate chip cookies and a note that says, “Park your cute little ass right where it is and eat a cookie. I love you.” I’ll probably draw a smiley face and everything, but don’t misinterpret it as sarcasm, because it is not. I might even include a twenty if you play your cards right. I’m pretty cool that way.

Stay awesome sweet girl, and if you take one message away from the above rant, please let it be the following:

Always pair yoga pants with a long flowing shirt.

You’re welcome.


Auntie Jill

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