Dear freshmen: college is not a checklist

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You have probably envisioned it a thousand times: setting up your dorm, joining all the clubs you promised yourself you would explore, enjoying the legendary football tailgates and searching for the ideal major that guarantees you a financially secure future while pleasing your parents and yourself. The perfect college experience is the American dream of recently-graduated high school teens, defined by a checklist of things that must be fulfilled.

But I’m not here to patronize you with didactic advice about how to spend your freshman year, frighten you with tales of college fun gone wrong or boast about everything I’ve learned while you’re still figuring out how to get around campus.

I am here to calm the nerves of this exciting but also very stressful time. Don’t worry about having the “perfect” college experience. Frankly, it doesn’t matter, and worrying about achieving this probably won’t make you happy. Getting caught up with trying a myriad of new things, meeting more people than you can remember and becoming obsessed with declaring your major will distract you from what is really important: exploring yourself.

You enrolled at the University of Miami because you think it is an amazing place, and I think it is, too. But I can tell you that Miami’s blazing sun is not what makes this school bright. The people of our community – vibrant, passionate individuals with a zest for change and achievement – make the U what it is. These people found what inspired them and pursued it; developed deep, meaningful relationships with few instead of superficial acquaintances with many; took a variety of classes because they learned that acquiring knowledge is limitless; and, in this manner, got to know themselves in college.

Students should strive to mold themselves into profound individuals with an unwavering sense of purpose. Join activities that motivate you, take classes that inspire you and enjoy your free time. A movie and a box of pizza is never a bad idea.

College is not a checklist. Worry less about having the perfect college experience and focus more on experiencing yourself.

Elizabeth Lleonart is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and creative writing.