After four short years, I’m graduating in a few weeks. I wish I could stay around a bit longer. Despite everyone’s assumptions that I’m excited to move on to the next phase of my life, I feel like I’m just beginning to take advantage of everything the University has to offer. The last four years have been painfully challenging and equally rewarding. I have memories, knowledge and relationships that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life thanks to LSU. However, I do wish I could press rewind and redo a few things. I hope these next few paragraphs provide the guidance I should have taken more seriously.

Don’t think of college only as a service to acquire a credential. Sure, on its surface, the goal is to receive a piece of paper certifying your educational achievements. That’s all it is — a piece of paper. Those intellectual and potential financial achievements don’t always result in happiness. Fulfillment comes in an assortment of ways, it’s much more than a diploma.

College is about molding the basis for your most fulfilling life on your terms. Use those short few years to find whatever makes you happy. Don’t pursue a soul-crushing major for the chance of a high paying job or for the approval of a family member. If you love science or math, explore those fields. If you love English or teaching, explore those. Pursue what you’re passionate about and stay open to opportunities and the rest will work itself out.

For some less idealistic advice — address your mental health concerns. Talk to a friend, peer, family member or even a professor about whatever you might be struggling with. Then, most importantly, talk to a healthcare professional. It’s their job to help, so let them. I put my mental health on the back burner for far too long, and the consequences are evident.

College, as fun as it can be, has the potential to wreck a vulnerable mind. If you think that could be you, be proactive and take preventative measures. On the same note, learn healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. Creative and physical outlets are some of the best antidotes for negative feelings.

Our minds are happy when we take care of them — that includes a healthy sleep schedule, time management, alcohol and drug moderation and enriching relationships. All-nighters aren’t a sustainable method to get through a semester. Invest in a planner and use it. Chart out your days and allocate blocks of time to school, work and leisure.

Leisure can certainly include a night out to Tigerland, but be mindful of the poisons you introduce to your body. The hangover probably won’t be worth the fourth, fifth or sixth drink. Alcohol can easily turn into a toxic friend.

Friends and relationships will come and go. Let go of those who hold you back and don’t over-invest in a partner. Keep close those who encourage you to grow and surround yourself with people you can learn from. Go to your professors’ office hours and form relationships with them. They can be the key to future opportunities or they can lend an ear after a tough week. Don’t forget to maintain relationships with family members back home. Our roots are the basis for everything we blossom into. They’re just as important as all of the newfound support you find in college.

Go into every situation with an open mind. Try new things and embrace the possibility of failure. If there’s any time to fail in life, it’s now. Read what your professors assign. Take a mental health day if you need. Forgive yourself and others. Carrying hate in your heart is a self-prescribed burden. Lastly, ask as many questions as you possibly can. Who knows when you’ll be in a place as great as the University again.

James Smith is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.

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