An Open Letter to Millennials Pursuing Higher Education

Dear Millennials Who Are Pursing Higher Education,

Congratulations on getting accepted into a post-secondary institution!

Whether you chose to go to your ‘dream school’ or not,  higher education is a place wrought with innovation and discovery. For the next 3-5 years of your life, you’ll be part of your school’s community that may be brimming with new faces and blatant (or not-so-blatant) opportunities for you to meet and conquer respectively.

Although, The “university/college experience” is not like the movies.

Not everyone joins sororities/fraternities and some people are just not into that ‘dorm life’. But just because you can’t pursue a ‘scare major’, that doesn’t mean you won’t get to do some amazing things during your studies!

Because your university/college experience will be entirely up to you.

There is no ‘right’ way to tackle college. And it doesn’t matter if you decide to live closer to school or commute from your hometown every morning; what you get out of university will be what you put in. For every risk you take to every chance you wager, may bring you a load of experience and tons of insight. You may find out some neat things about yourself in the process.

and try not to OBSESS over grades too much.

Stellar grades are pretty, and a pristine GPA is absolutely gorgeous too. But rarely does the workplace ever ask you what grade you received in first-year linear algebra, or why you only got a B- in organic chemistry. Maintaining good grades are important, but so is your social sanity.

Robert Patton, Americas Vice Chair of Advisory Services at Ernst & Young,  perfectly sums up the importance of maintaining relationships while balancing a career, which can be easily applied to school.

Results come and go, but relationships last a lifetime. Invest heavily in your relationships and you will experience blessings and accrue an amazing return on your investment over the entirety of your life.

Even during your school years, there’s moments when you need to ditch the all-nighters and spend time with those that matter. Once in a while, call your family back home, or grab some fresh air with a roommate. Textbooks can’t comfort you in times of need and it’s unlikely you’ll share any fond memories with excellent midterm grades. But people can do all those things.

ALso, it’s okay to not know what you want to do in life.
Image via Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Are you lacking direction? I am too. Image via Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Do you want to know a secret? It’s common for graduates to not know what they want to do after college.

So don’t fret if you can’t figure out what you want to do when you finish up your first few years. Take a few classes that are unrelated to your major, join some clubs, and attend some student events. Chat with some professors or people who have their careers ‘set in place’, and take advantage of your school’s career centre and any on-campus opportunities, if they can help you excel in any way. You’ve payed thousands of dollars to come here, so why not squeeze every penny out of it? 

There’s a holy trinity involved in searching for your ‘ideal career’: contemplating, hard work, and networking.

But UNFORTUNATELY, ANYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG, WILL GO WRONG.

I’ll be blunt; there is always a chance you can fail, and I’m not just talking about an exam or course.  Isn’t it one of the worst feelings in the world? To invest your heart into something, only to have it crumble in your hands?

Failure is more common than you think. Fortunately, failure has the potential to change us.  During your stay, acknowledge the possibility of working towards something that may not work out for you in the end.

Eric Sim, a Managing Director at the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) suggests collecting ‘failure stories’ from famous entrepreneurs, like the late Steve Jobs, which can help us attain a sense of perspective of how we should ‘bounce back’ when failure hits us to the ground.

Don’t take them too hard as long you have tried your very best. Failures make you a more interesting person. Learn from them and move on. Follow the stories of Apple’s Steve Jobs and Alibaba’s Jack Ma and see how they fail and bounce back.  

Nonetheless, you’ll find that HARD WORK (MOSTLY) PAYS OFF.
Image via Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Evolution didn’t pull an all-nighter, and neither should you. Image via Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

You may be able to pull an all-nighter for your biochemistry midterm, or you can half-ass a 12-page essay in 2 days. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Working diligently on any project will reap its own benefits. If you want that promotion, or you were thinking of starting a college club, you’re going to have to work for it! Remind yourself that you are allowed to have your head high up in the sky, but your feet have to be rooted to the ground. So climb up that proverbial ladder.

Ultimately, YOU WILL CHANGE IF YOU LET YOURSELF DO SO.

You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way! —Dr.Seuss

During your studies, you may be contemplating studying abroad, moving out of your parent’s place, or taking that interesting course that is unrelated to your major.

It’s only in my senior year when I realized that it’s often the hardest decisions we make that will change us, and you are supposed to become a different person when you leave this place.

Novel experiences will enrich, challenge, and reward you. And with novel experiences comes a pang of fear for the unknown. While you may be anxious to do so, seriously consider these options, and possibly take these chances, because they will change you. Acknowledge your fear of the unknown, but also remember it’s a feeling affiliated with taking a road ‘less traveled by’.

So STAY safe, work hard, and have fun!

Whether you are coming right out of high school, or have taken some time off before returning to  post-secondary studies, make some memories here!

Some say this is the ‘best time of your life’, so enjoy yourself and stay safe. When you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it. Meet new people and constantly challenge your personal life philosophies.

You’ll find that there’s so much to learn, and a lot of the learning process doesn’t come from a textbook or a 50-minute lecture. Your learning curve goes beyond the intricate concepts of photosynthesis or the integral laws. It’s about identifying you who are, and who you want to be in this world.

While you should acknowledge your destination, savour your (rather short) higher education journey!

So go forth and Carpe diem during your future studies, fellow Millennials!

All the Best,

-A Former Undergraduate Student


Renee C. has received her B.Sc. in Honours Life Sciences at McMaster University. She loves educating others about different topics in science, and has developed a passion for scientific outreach. When she’s not writing articles for Hemtecks, she’s either volunteering or checking her social media accounts every 20 minutes. Along with Tiffany (Tianhemtecks), she also facilitates the blog’s Facebook page. 

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