7 Life Lessons on Conquering College from a Seton Grad
Let’s cut to the chase: high school is difficult.
Put high school together with homeschool, and you’ve got a major challenge.
I remember a point during my junior year with Seton when I was struggling to maintain my grade point average and moving to a different house with my family. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Fast forward two years, and I enter college.
I had dreamed of going to college and heard many stories of what it was like, but those dreams and stories didn’t match my own experiences.
Here are seven lessons I learned both from Seton and college that have given me a new perspective on education.
1. I’m not perfect and that’s okay.
I definitely make mistakes. While it was initially disheartening whenever I saw a grade lower than I wanted, I was motivated to come back the next day and try harder.
From the time I was small, I understood from Seton and from my parents that even though a perfect score was not mandatory, work poorly done was also unacceptable.
This same philosophy applies in college. When all is said and done, the effort is valued most.
“In life we all make many mistakes.” Pope Francis
2. No one will do it for you.
Let’s be real: I’ve had my lazy days. My parents always helped me when I was stuck on a Seton assignment, but they made it clear to me that for tests and for life I needed to find the answers for myself. After all, no one can go to school or do homework in your place.
In addition, many other exciting opportunities will come to you in life other than academic ones, but again it will be up to you to take advantage of them. An aspiring athlete will not make it to the Olympics unless he trains on those days he doesn’t feel like it. The only person holding you back from becoming your best self and achieving your goals is you. Make a plan and find a way to break out of mediocrity.
“I can clear any obstacle before me…win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.” Elaine Maxwell
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
In my freshman year in college I felt isolated from other students even though I was attending a private Catholic university. It was tempting to force myself to melt into the mass of other students who were loud and outgoing, but I was by nature quiet and studious, and so kept to myself.
Most of my classmates had gone to public schools or private academies, and as a homeschooled graduate, I was definitely a standout from the crowd. But as time went on, I learned that being different was not necessarily a bad thing.
God made me the way he did for a reason. Being a quiet, serious student enabled me to focus on the task at hand and get the work done.
“Let me be myself and I am satisfied.” Anne Frank
4. Work hard and reward yourself.
Working hard is important, but don’t work yourself too hard. Even God needed to take a breather after creating the world! Don’t be afraid to take some time off from your studies.
I find it extremely helpful to make a mental list of all the assignments and tasks I need to complete for any given school week. If I complete them all, I reward myself with some activity: art therapy, an hour of freestyle piano, a favorite dish, a movie night, or a sweet treat I normally don’t eat.
“Without work, it is impossible to have fun.” St. Thomas Aquinas
5. Focus. Eliminate all distractions.
I know how hard it is to focus on the task at hand: I’m in the library on a Thursday night trying to knock out some research, but Instagram is far more appealing than homework. Two hours go by, and I barely get anything done.
Do yourself a favor and turn off your phone! Put it away. Silence the notification ringer. Temporarily block Facebook notifications, Instagram, and video games. If you’re studying in your bedroom, clear off the desk and keep a tidy workspace.
“Focus is a matter of deciding what you’re not going to do.” John Carmack
6. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself,
This life lesson was the hardest for me, and I’m still working on it even as I write. It’s easy to shoot ourselves down, to tell ourselves that we won’t ever be smart enough or good enough to succeed, but we need to realize that without making mistakes we will never learn anything new about ourselves.
Sometimes a couple of deep breaths before a challenging class and repeating “I can!” in my head over and over again are just what I need to keep me on the right track.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
7. Keep the faith.
I’ve saved the best tip for last. My faith has helped make me the person I am today. In fact, my faith was why I chose to attend a Catholic college for my freshman year. But there was a problem. The cost of that college exceeded my savings and my scholarships.
After months of praying novenas, working two jobs, and still not keeping up with expenses, I decided I needed to call it quits, ditch my old plan, and transfer to a public university where my expenses more closely matched my budget.
It was a new and frightening time for me going so far from home and to a different sort of school, bit with prayer and the Lord’s help, I pushed ahead and made a new life for myself. Now I am much happier and give God the credit for that.
“All things work together for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
About Marie Valdovinos
Marie Valdovinos is a 2016 Seton graduate with 5 younger siblings. She has practiced creative writing for almost 12 years. Her other great hobbies include sketching, singing, and reading anything written by Tolkien and Dickens, her literary role models. She credits all her writing skills and current success in school to Seton’s rigorous yet rewarding English curriculum. One of her biggest goals is to be a published author.