It’s Okay Not To Know (And Other Inevitably-Evident Truths)


When I first started my college career, I didn’t really know what to expect. I am a first-generation college student, so I didn’t have the experience of my parents or family members to lean on. I couldn’t look to the people in my own house for guidance or answers when it came to the things I needed in order to adequately prepare for my first semester as a college freshman. Because of this, I often found myself stuck looking for answers in all the wrong places. I went to orientation, and there was one message that everyone conveyed more than others: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions!” “If you don’t know, ask!”

I thought to myself, “Well, what am I supposed to even ask? What if I can’t even define the confusion I’m experiencing? Who am I supposed to reach out to when I don’t know anyone here?” Granted, I met fellow students and peer leaders who I COULD’VE reached out to, but I was just too embarrassed. Too embarrassed to admit to people I barely knew that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and too embarrassed to tell someone I didn’t understand a single thing about the college process.

My day of orientation was a day full of misunderstanding and discouragement that ultimately ended in my leaving without even registering for classes. I didn’t have the courage to confide in someone to tell them my struggles. I felt too stupid, too insecure, and I felt like I was the only person in the world who just didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I mustered up what little courage I DID have to come back to campus (albeit a month later) to meet with an advisor and get some clarity.

Patty was my go-to person my first semester. I went to her for anything and everything, and she was the first person to make me feel like I belonged. After my first semester, I was a whole different person. She pushed me to take classes that ended up being transformative and set me on the path I’m on now.

I applied for a peer mentor student job halfway through my second semester, and started working that summer. Ironically enough, I was tasked with helping incoming students make that transition from high school to college, just like I did. Three years, four major changes, and three different job positions into my college journey, and I find myself on the way to a career in higher education with a passion for education and helping students attain their goals.

I realize you’re probably wondering why you read this seemingly pointless story, and what it has to do with, well, anything. Two things: I’m a story teller and can go on and on about the most pointless of things (my colleagues can attest to this), and more importantly, if you’re feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing or haven’t a clue about this whole college thing, you are far from alone.

It is 100% okay not to know. It’s perfectly natural to feel confused, overwhelmed, embarrassed, anxious, and even scared. I felt all of these things. Even now, I have days where I look myself in the mirror and question every decision I’ve made from August 2012 to now. The difference between then and now is I made the giant leap and admitted the fact that I did not know, and actively searched for the help I so desperately needed. I found that one person who would help me out in my first year, and I went on to be that person for other students.

It is perfectly fine if you need someone to guide you through each and every piece of the puzzle. You’d be amazed at just how many people, as a student, are at your disposal. One thing I love about First Year Success is the outlet it provides for students to be that mentor, and the ease for students to connect with them, and also one another.

Lastly, it’s okay to second guess yourself, because it means you care enough to make the right decision. Sometimes the special people in your life think they know what’s best for you. Our loved ones often have good intentions, but you’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of you filled with forty-plus years of work (Joy!), and that could go one of two ways: “Thumbs up,” or “thumbs down,” basically. But no one knows you best, and it’s also okay to question the decisions others may want to make for you. Except your advisors. You should listen to them.


Horacio Borja-Duran

Family Outreach coordinator


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rich Kessel, PhD says:

    Well put! As a professor with a daughter in college, I’d like to add that everyone struggles with the transition to college. Everyone! Whether you are a first-generation college student or you grew up in a house full of academics, you are going to be confused and feel lost. Let’s be honest, there is so much about university life that makes no sense. So don’t think you can figure it out on your own (logic will get you nowhere). I received countless texts from my daughter wondering what the heck she was supposed to do about this or that, until one day they stopped. They stopped because she, like you, had the courage to ask someone on campus; someone who has become her “go-to person.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sara Sanders says:

    Your perspective on starting school is absolutely terrifying for me. To think that it takes a plunge, something that pulls you completely out of your comfort zone, to help you realize your passions in life, is enough to make my body lock up and my heart race. Thank you, Horacio, maybe I need to take some more risks and be a little more uncomfortable in life.

    Liked by 1 person

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