Advice from your future
Trying to decide what to do with your life isn’t easy. We asked our Granta Academy team: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
At aged 16-18 everyone is asking you – What are your plans? What do you want to study? And most of all, what do you want to do with your life? That’s a LOT of pressure. Find out what our team would say to their 18-year-old self, if they could travel back in time. It might help the present day you.
Jessica Edwards, Director of Studies:
“Stop taking yourself so seriously, and stop worrying about what everyone thinks of you. In particular, don’t waste your time on people who make you feel like you’re not good enough, and try to remember that the behaviour of those people is caused by their own insecurities, not your failings.
“Your friends for life will turn out to be the ones who made you laugh from the start – find them, and stick with them. They will make everything more bearable, and it will be the seemingly insignificant moments with them that you remember the most fondly.
“You are afraid of trying too hard, because you are afraid that you will look silly. You probably will look silly, but you should do it anyway – you will miss out on amazing things if you don’t.”
Maria Copot, Study Skills and University Application Guidance Tutor:
“I’d tell my past self to take it slow, and to not be so hard on themselves. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and burning out at the start won’t do anyone any good.
“I used to overwork myself to an unhealthy degree, to try to take on all sorts of positions of responsibility and part-time jobs, and go out of my way to please every authority figure, as I had been taught that that was what led to being a successful adult. This made me incredibly tired, stressed and chronically unhappy. This is unfortunately a problem that I see many young people around me facing.
“With time, I learned that it’s ok to take a break, ok to stop for a second and take care of myself. My value as a person is not defined by my grades or by how many hours I work. Remember that you are more than what you do: allow yourself that extra 20 minute break if you are feeling overwhelmed, and don’t automatically blame yourself when things don’t go as planned. You are good. You’ll be ok.
“I’d then take a step back, give my past self a meaningful look and say ‘And don’t worry about that boy that doesn’t like you back – it won’t matter soon’. I’d then dramatically disappear into a cloud of smoke, off to some really cool time-traveling adventure.”
Paola Velasco Herrejon, Economics Supervisor, sharing answers from University of Cambridge Clare College alumni:
“When in doubt, take the plunge! You will regret it more if you don’t even try. And, if you are afraid, think of what could happen if you stay in the very same place.”
“Transform your limitations into challenges.”
“Make mistakes! You will learn faster.”
“Find work where they allow you to take risks and are prepared to support you in case things don’t go as planned.”
“Change your path, career or partner if your heart asks you to do so.”
“Be kind to yourself, give yourself a chance to feel fear, to rest, to have fun.”
Alex Hobday, Study Skills and University Applications Guidance Tutor:
“To my 18 year old self I would say: Taking some time to stop, think about what your doing, and plan for the future is always time spent well.”
Adam Daniel Schumacher, Managing Director:
“I would tell myself to choose friends carefully, travel and see the world, believe in yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself and be patient with yourself.
“Always learn quickly from mistakes and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Build healthy habits when young because they are much easier to keep that way and harder to start as you get older.”
Justin Crane, Head of Cultural Activities:
“There’s a lot I could say to an 18-year-old me but I wouldn’t be telling him to change direction, or warn him away from things, more likely to be aware of what’s going on, take time, breathe…
“At 18, you don’t need to have all the answers or an exact career plan. Take an agile approach to life: if something isn’t working, move it about so it does, and if it still isn’t working for you then move on to something that does.
“Take all the training that is given to you, learn from others and always self-develop. People’s perception of ‘perfect’ is subjective so you will never make everyone happy, so don’t worry about it. Be kind, be good, be loving.
“Matthew McConaughey was once asked who his hero was. He answered, ‘my hero is myself in 10 years’. 10 years later he was asked if he was now his own hero. He answered, ‘No, my hero, is still me in 10 years’. Always push for the best in yourself and that will bring out the best in others.
And always remember, that all the best stories come from people that tried.”
Need some space, experience and guidance to help you discover what you might like to do next?
The Granta Academy runs two-week summer courses held in a University of Cambridge college. University of Cambridge undergraduates and graduates teach our classes and workshops so you can really experience life at a top university.
You choose your subject, with academic skills workshops included in every course. You’ll also meet people your age from all over the world and explore Cambridge, one of the most famous cities for learning.