What You Learn in College

Tomorrow my brother will begin his first day of class at U of C. He has been there playing football for the last several weeks, but I wanted to give him some pieces of advice before he starts actual class. (Side note, remember I never use real names) Below is an open letter to him. 

Dear Jude, 

Everyone has given you advice on how to tackle this next four years of your life. Hit the books. Make sure you go to the library. Get in a routine. Work hard, play hard. Get a good major, study hard, and get a job. Join a club. Meet your floormates. I am sure you have heard it all. 

As a recent college graduate myself, I can offer you a unique perspective on the next four years. All of those pieces of advice above are great and talk them to heart, but what I learned from college cannot be found in any textbook, self help books, or anything like that. What I learned can only be found through a thorough search. 

College. Yes, many a game of beer pong, late night pizza orders, and of course last minute study sessions and papers to be written. However, that is not what college is about, at least in my humble opinion. College is about defining yourself. 

Mom and Dad have done a great job raising the five of us. I carry the values they taught me into every single day I begin out here in DC. Use the values they taught you, but do not just do them because that is what you were taught. Now is when you need to find your own values. Discover why what Mom and Dad taught you, matters to you. You need to take ownership of your life. Mom and Dad will not always be there 

Take this time to learn more about you as well. Figure out what you value in a friend. Is loyalty important? How about love? Or maybe you want someone who will watch a Blackhawks game with you? Whatever it is, this is so incredibly important to know. I cannot tell you how hard it can be to figure out. Yet, take the time. It is important to know the type of people you want to spend the rest of your life surrounding yourself with. Also, figure out what you want out of life. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to be a bleeding heart and make no money, but change the world? Do you want to live in a city or the suburbs? Do you think you want a family? These answers will not be found magically, but through your experiences and some thought. 

Never forget how you grow under the least expected circumstances.  I grew the most during my time at Dayton the first summer I stayed at school. I learned what mattered to me. I had friendships tested and they survived. I finally understood what was important to me in my own life. My foundation had been set, I begin putting up the frame of the house that is my life. I began to truly establish myself as a person.

We have been blessed by having a lot of the road paved for us through grade school and high school. This is your first time where your last name will mean nothing. No one will really know anything about you. Use this to your advantage. Leverage the capacity you have to define yourself, on your own terms, for the first time. 

College is not about formulas, graphs, or notebooks full of knowledge and doodles. Well yes it is, but there is so much more. Never limit yourself to that small of an experience. Develop yourself and never, ever stop growing. There is always room to improve yourself and grow. 

Always know, I am a phone call away should you need anything. I am excited for you to start this journey, It will be one of the best experiences of your life. Use it wisely and know that I am with you every step of the way. 

Love, 

Michael 

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