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A love letter to my fellow first-years

| Monday, May 3, 2021

I think it’s safe to say that almost every Notre Dame student was raised to have high expectations for both themselves and those around them. I think it’s also safe to say that we also tend to be our own worst critics when we don’t quite meet these expectations. The transition to college from high school has never been easy for anyone. We all struggle in some way, whether that’s through homesickness, social problems, academic performance or anything else you can think of. While in high school we might have been straight-A students or social butterflies, these characteristics don’t always persist in college. This isn’t an easy reality to accept. The enormously high standards we’ve set for ourselves makes failing seem like the end of the world. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t and it never will be. In fact, failing is absolutely necessary if you are to ever truly succeed. 

First of all, let’s just acknowledge the year we’ve had. I think far too often, people don’t understand the true impact the pandemic has had on our academic careers. When talking with adults, I’ve heard comments like “It should be easier! You’re doing everything online!” Well, no, it wasn’t easier. COVID-19 came with severe challenges including mental distress, isolation and physical illness. These factors can’t be taken lightly. In a normal year all of these same factors remain, but the pandemic has heightened and intensified each one. Even making it through the first semester was an accomplishment in itself. Let’s not even begin to mention the fact that we have had virtually no breaks at all, excluding the overextended break we had from December to January. If I were to list all of the possible aspects of this academic year that have been increasingly difficult due to the pandemic, this might become the longest column you’ve ever read. I know that you all have had first hand experience with these challenges, so just for a minute, keep those in mind when you read the next paragraph. 

Give yourself a break. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it. You’ve done your best. No two people are exactly alike. There is absolutely no use in comparing yourself to others in a time like this, because we all respond to crises differently. While you may know someone with a 4.0 GPA this semester, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should have a 4.0 too. It is vital that you understand the reality of this complex situation we’ve found ourselves in, and that you allow yourself to grow from it. I firmly believe that if you didn’t make the grades you wanted this year, meet as many new people as you hoped or love Notre Dame as much as you thought you would, that’s okay. Some of us may be nervous to take a look back at the semester, but I want you to know that you did your best, whether you believe it or not. Your best and the next person’s best aren’t the same. Doing your best isn’t just a matter of working hard. Doing your best factors in your mental health, your social experience, your physical wellbeing and so much more. Therefore, the next time you think about comparing yourself to the student you know who seems to have done perfectly fine this semester, just know that you have no idea all of the other things they went through. A 4.0 GPA doesn’t guarantee a nifty social life, and a lot of friends doesn’t guarantee an easy academic transition. Give yourself a break. Cut yourself some slack. Show love to your fellow first-years, because at the end of the day, we’ve all just made it. We’ve got two minutes in the fourth quarter, freshmen. Finish strong.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kelsey Dinvaut

Kelsey Dinvaut is a current freshman at Notre Dame. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Digital Marketing.

Contact Kelsey