3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started College

By Rachel Smith, CPDC Career Ambassador Student Director & BFA Graphic Design Major

As an 18-year-old in 2012, I had no clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I enrolled in college alongside my peers, simply because it was the thing to do. I explored 4 different majors within my first 2 years of school, but nothing stuck. Everyone was telling me to just pick something. I felt lost and overwhelmed. With so many choices and so many things I was interested in, it felt like too much to pick only one major. It wasn’t until I chose myself over schoolwork that I realized I didn’t have to know what I wanted yet. Below are the three key things I learned throughout my journey:


1. “It’s okay to take a break.”

No one said I could stop school. It felt like the wrong thing to do. I compared myself to my peers, worried that taking a break would set me back too far. I worried so much about what others would think about me leaving that I didn’t think about what I wanted. I wanted to stop stressing about my future, I wanted to work, and I wanted to take my time discovering who I was. After a year and a half of internal conflict, I finally took a chance and talked to my advisor. The next semester, I decided not to return. Taking that time to focus on myself was the best decision I ever made. I spent some time working a full-time job that led me to meet people that helped me figure out what I wanted long-term.


2. “School will always be there. You can go back.”

In 2016, I decided I was ready to go back to school and get a degree. After a lot of soul searching and not being sure I had made the right decision, I enrolled in the Graphic Design program here at the U. I was nervous about being a non-traditional student, scared everyone would be younger than me and harder to connect with for that reason. I was surprised at how many older, non-traditional students there were in the program. Realizing I wasn’t the only one who took their time to find a career path made a huge difference. Finding my community of peers that all took an nontraditional path was incredibly validating and proved to me that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to find what you want to do.


3. “Finding your passion takes time, and it’s worth it.”

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my time at 2 different schools is that finding your passion takes a lot of time. The only way to find it is to try new things, have new experiences, and move to new places. If I had struggled through a 4-year degree in something I wasn’t excited about, I never would have ended up where I am now. You don’t have to rush finding your passion, and you don’t have to settle for something about which you aren’t sure. The journey looks different for everyone, and that’s okay.


For those of you who need to hear it like I did, “It’s okay to take a break.” It might feel like the end of the world for a moment, but it could be the best thing for you. You can always go back to school when you are ready, or you might find a passion for something else, and that’s okay too. Take the time you need to discover yourself, your passions, and your path in life. You’re worth the time it takes, and so is your future.