It will be all the experiences gained throughout the college career that will define you more than the ending.
Reagan Collins, an Honors College student, earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at Texas Tech University. Her reflections of her final college semester is the sixth in a series of senior perspectives, which will appear each Monday and Thursday through the month of May at today.ttu.edu.
Dear First Year Self,
As you prepare for the first day of classes at Texas Tech University, know that these four years will be the best and worst of your life. You will experience the highest highs and the lowest lows – and it will all be worth it. Every moment.
You're going to spend countless hours in the stacks of the library crying and laughing about exams, professors and homework, all while struggling to forge your own identity at the ripe old age of 18. Don't agonize over your first-year classes when you find they are so much harder, so much more complex than what you knew in high school. You will figure it out. I promise they won't make or break your academic career. It is OK to not be the smartest in the room, but appreciate your mentors, advisors, professors and friends who have valuable knowledge to teach you.
In the next four years, you will meet people who will become your kindred spirits, the first people you want to celebrate with, the first people whose shoulders you want to cry on. Enjoy every night out with them, but please spend more time at the "real" library than the "downtown" library.
Remember all the group project meetings in the Student Union Building, labs where you left smelling like formaldehyde and student organization events with free food. They may not seem like much at the time, but you'll meet some of your closest friends through these encounters.
Enjoy your time on study abroad but try to take photos that demonstrate just how much you learned over six weeks (although a few that show just how much fun you had are OK, too).
When given the option to study all weekend for the test or take a study break to be with your friends, always choose your friends. You're going to remember those midnight trips to McDonald's and karaoke night in the dorms with your roommates. That break will probably help you focus more on the exam.
Senior year will be filled with "lasts." Your last first day of school. Your last football game. Your last class. Your last final. However, for you, in Spring 2020, your senior year will look a little different than most.
Just when spring break hits and you think you're going to cruise through the last half of your final semester, it's all going to come to an abrupt end. Instead of playing your last match as a Lady Raider tennis player, hugging your teammates tight as a way to hold on to that feeling of fighting together, walking out proudly in red and black, you'll be standing outside the locked gate to the courts that reads "closed due to COVID-19."
Instead of spending your last months walking by the blooming flowers in Memorial Circle on your way to class, you'll be wandering through your hometown neighborhood. Instead of pulling all-nighters at the library with your best friends during finals, you'll be studying by yourself at home. Instead of emerging from your favorite academic building with a sense of freedom and weightlessness after your last final exam, you'll be testing alone in your room at home.
Instead of celebrating graduation weekend with dinners out and parties, you'll be "Zooming" your family and friends. Instead of walking across the stage at graduation being recognized for the culmination of your collegiate accolades for academic success, you'll be streaming it online. And instead of knowing what comes next, a sure step towards your future, you'll be questioning when everything will go back to "normal, and if normal will ever be normal again.
This is not the happily ever after ending every fairytale promises you. But I encourage you to focus not on the end and every "last" you didn't get to experience, but focus instead on the three years you spent growing and learning and thriving at Texas Tech, and how those three years helped you become the person who can shelter in place to flatten the curve, who can still appreciate the fact that tulips bloom and birds sing on campus, and who will one day become one of those doctors who are keeping us all safe during this time of COVID-19.