It's all sorts of fun to joke about a crazy day in the life of you graduating seniors, as Will Ferrell and I could show you here. But at the end of the day, amidst your glass case of emotions, there’s something genuinely important I urge you to consider. Your college years are drawing to a close. Your years as a student. As an adolescent. As an active sorority woman, or fraternity brother. You prepare to leave your college experiences behind, ready (or maybe not so ready) to begin a new chapter in your life.
But what else are you leaving behind?
When you reflect on the time you’ve spent in college, are you proud of your accomplishments? Do you regret some things you did (I mean, it is college), or even regret things you didn’t? What would you change about your college lifestyle? (Note: “fewer McDonald’s runs” is not a sufficient answer). Who and what did you have an impact on? Was it for the better? Now that you’ve been sufficiently overloaded with questions, allow me to summarize.
What legacy have you—and your actions—chosen to leave for others?
In order to truly explain this further, I’ll give you a chance to step into my shoes. Go ahead, step on in, they’re comfy.
You’re preparing to wrap up your second year in college. You’ve officially been around the block. You’ve moved out of the dorms, and eat substantially fewer microwaveable meals. You’ve experienced a summer away from school, and have gone through recruitment on the other side. Your classes are getting more challenging, and (maybe) more interesting. You continue to meet new people, but all the while, your circle is getting smaller. You’re no longer a freshman, frolicking about campus with your only worry being where to spend your meal plan. But even approaching the halfway mark of your college career, you’re nowhere near the end of it all.
Sophomore year is the fitting room for you to try on your big-kid pants.
But this article isn’t about sophomore year. So why bring it up, you ask?
Back in my shoes we go.
At this point in my college career, as a sophomore, I have grown much more than I imagined. And I continue to grow. While you might be at a different stage in what you consider your personal growth, I feel that I speak for many—especially within the Greek community—in saying this: those older (and wiser) than myself have had an unrivaled impact on the way that I will continue about my college career.
Having completed (nearly) two years of college, I have consequently encountered two generations of graduates. Two generations of students who, throughout their four years, have been through similar experiences. Enjoyed similar certainties. Encountered similar problems.
Given, I did not—and likely never will—get the chance to truly know all of these people, hear their stories, and gather their advice for students like me. But from those that I have grown to know, I have genuinely learned so much.
I have learned what it really means to be a leader. I have learned when to speak up, and moreover, when to sit down. I’ve been taught all of the best places to get my party on, and the best hidden study spots in the library. I’ve learned what it looks like to carry oneself with poise, and the bona fide importance of doing good (shoutout to DG). I’ve been advised on troublesome teachers and boys alike, and have come across a number of exciting opportunities at the hands of graduating seniors.
From those older than me, I have gotten a glimpse into what it looks like to ditch the fitting room and rock those big-kid pants. I’ve watched two generations of sorority women lead by example as they prepare to take the real world by storm.
So what does this sophomore spiel this mean for all of you soon-to-be graduates?
Today, I call upon you to create a legacy worth remembering. In these final days within which you prepare to transcend your college days, reflect on the impact you have had on others, even though you may not know its true extent. In order to do so, and given my two-years-of-college-knowledge, I offer you this.
Work hard in your final college days, and set an example for those who will eventually follow in your footsteps. Even if that may be years down the road for some, be a living example of hard work paying off.
Practice what you’ve preached.
Especially important among Greeks, leading by example encourages others to do the same, and demonstrates humility upon proposing advice.
Focus on the future.
Tying back to leading by example, know that those younger than you look to you for an idea of how to do this whole “growing up” thing. Whether or not you’ve actually got it all figured out, preparing for a successful future—although it might not come to fruition immediately—is an important aspect of leaving your legacy by showing the youngins’ the ropes.
Don’t focus on the future—too much.
Yes, having a plan is important. Yes, getting a job is important. Nonetheless, the watchword here is balance. Between the endless job applications and networking opportunities (aka kissing up to important people), don’t forget to be present in your daily life. Be sure to continue to foster your most important relationships. You will likely never all be together in the same circumstances again, and these are the exact people that will remember the legacy you leave.
Sharing is caring.
In order for someone to follow in your footsteps—or to avoid certain cracks in the road along the way—it is vital that you pass on your knowledge. As a graduating senior, you’ve likely been through a number of experiences similar to those of your successors. In these final days as a college student, share what worked for you, and what didn’t. What helped you in the long run, and what might’ve hurt you. Pass on opportunities and offer your advice. Bottom line: help a sister(/brother) out.
College can be a wild ride—as you surely know at this point in your college career. So as you prepare to step into the adult world wearing your permanent big-kid pants, remember to leave some direction here and there for others to wear their very own.
Congratulations Class of 2016!