A Bunch Of Words About College: Noel Purcell’s Senior Column

I had this really long thing written.

It was about 4,000 words, which might’ve been my longest post ever at OS, detailing how thankful I was for everyone I’d met on my path here and how I’m sorry if I didn’t include your name because I wanted to be as extensive as possible but so many people helped me along the way. I went into deep detail about how difficult my freshman year was even with the help of P4 and Shorey, how I struggled with depression and anxiety, and how I was all ready to transfer to Fordham. Then, how I stayed and fell in love with this place.

I typed at length about how incredible a man my father is, and how nothing I can do will ever repay what he has done for me. I wrote about my little brothers and my mom and my friends at home. I waxed poetic about how Alpha Kappa Psi gave me everything when I had nothing, including Erroll Davis the best friend I made in college, among a whole host of incredible people. I talked about how Dylan Beil was the older brother I never had, and how he still motivates me to be better every day. I had hundreds of words for Bill DiFillipo, who lobbied Kevin Horne to hire me to OS and changed my life again. I talked about how I met the people who shaped who I am and what my experience was. People I can’t imagine the last four years without. I wrote about my time in UPUA and made a good joke about how, if readership numbers mean anything, nobody cared about my time in UPUA anyway.

I talked about studying abroad in Fiji for two weeks with the Goon Squad, and how incredible that experience was. I wrote about the Phyrst with Tim and Ted and Greg and Zach and Melissa, and about rapping along to Kanye with Mike and Ben, and to people like Shaker and Pat who never went here but were so important to me over the last four years. I wrote a love letter to my pledge kids in ETau, the people who I was given the chance to have a direct impact on. I wrote about how each and every one of them makes me proud in a different way, and how bright all of their futures were. I name dropped no less than 100 people, places and events. There were inside jokes and lots of references and a bit of wit and some humor to go with raw emotion.

Then I re-read the whole thing. It was really awful and heavy-handed. If I turned this in to Kevin last year he would’ve told me to fuck off. It was all so lengthy and sappy and sentimental for the sake of it because, fuck, it’s my senior column so I may as well get it all out right? Nah, I deleted that shit. That’s not how I write. So instead I’m gonna go with a couple pieces of advice. Some of them will be cliché, hopefully it’ll make you laugh a couple of times, maybe it’ll piss some people off, and then I’m gonna get out of your hair. That’d be a far more fitting end to my college career. Good? Cool. Let’s do it.

  1. Find a couple of things you care about and dedicate your time to them. The organizations you join and the people you meet and the connections you make are vastly, vastly more important than your GPA. But don’t screw up that last one too hard. Like, Bs get degrees is a good motto if you do it right.
  2. Get a house. Trust me, get a house.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Or even at all, really. Take yourself very casually and you’ll be better off. But also don’t let anyone walk all over you. Find a balance. Wow, that came out like shit. Oh well no going back now. But yeah, my entire public life as a writer and private life as an idiot has been built on being rather sarcastic and not taking myself super seriously, and it’s a nice way to do it.
  4. Fight for the stuff you believe in. Whether it’s the Board of Trustees (fuck PS4RS), or whether it’s the relative value of the Phyrst over the Gaff. There’s a lot of value in standing up for what you know, deep down, is right. Even if someone on the internet calls you an asshole for it.
  5. Learn to forgive more easily, you and everyone around you will be better off for it.
  6. Take some 4 a.m. trips to Denny’s with your friends in varying states of mind. There’s nothing quite like it.
  7. I’m not gonna tell you what orgs you should get involved in, or what to do specifically because that’s stupid. I’m not gonna tell you to join OS, because maybe you hate writing. I’m not gonna tell you that you need to study abroad, because I never did. I didn’t want to leave State College for a full semester, and I am perfectly happy with my decision. Do what you like, not what people tell you you should like. If you don’t enjoy THON and think football is dumb, but you’re really into planning concerts, then do that. Just don’t join The Collegian.
  8. Piss some self-righteous people off. It’s great fun.
  9. Have an impact on other people, either directly or indirectly. There is no greater privilege in this world than someone telling you how important you are or what you have done is to them, especially when you did it out of love or respect. People are the most important things in the world, even more important than Naked Egg’s breakfast.
  10. Tip well. People in the service industry in State College get screwed over a lot.
  11. Learn from those around you, because their lives and experiences will shape yours.
  12. If you’re still an undergrad, I’m only like three years older than you, so don’t take my advice as some wonderful grand truth. I’ve screwed up plenty and will continue to, so don’t let people tell you they have the solution to everything.
  13. Take some leadership positions and give back to groups that have given you so much. It’s frustrating as all hell, and just as rewarding.
  14. College is scary. Graduation is scary. But the anticipation is pretty much always worse than the event itself, so just suck it up and do it and you’ll be glad you did.
  15. In that vein, don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from trying. If you think a girl is cute, give it a shot. If rejection is the worst thing that happens, so be it. Rejection sucks but wondering what might’ve been is worse.
  16. Learn to cook. It makes college and life way more interesting, and you’ll eventually get sick of eating Pita Cabana three nights per week.
  17. Don’t live in Lexington House or the Meridian.
  18. Don’t overextend yourself. Enjoy what you have, and do what you’re best at. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time wishing you were doing something else.
  19. Stay informed, because willful ignorance is the worst kind of ignorance.
  20. If you’ve done enough for a group of people younger than you, to the point where they call you “dad,” you’ve made it.
  21. Be better.
  22. Sleep is the cousin of death and you can sleep when you’re dead, but if you schedule right you can sleep until noon and still do everything you want.
  23. CAPS needs more money.
  24. If you need help, whether it be psychologically or otherwise, try to seek it out. It’s hard to admit that you’re not right or you’re not good at something, but it’s worse to struggle with it.
  25. Support Penn State basketball, even if it makes you want to throw up all the time.
  26. Topless Taco Tequila Tuesday.

I could write a long thank you letter to every single person and organization who helped me along the way, and how incredible every opportunity I’ve had has been. I could thank OS for giving me a voice, even when I may not have deserved it. I could write about the honor and privilege it has been to attend this great university for four years, and then make a joke about how everyone says “honored and privileged” when they get on an executive board or get a THON position or whatever on Facebook and how annoying it is. I could write about the great hands OS and AKPsi are both in now, and how I know those coming after me will make them both better places.

But nobody would want to read that shit. Plus, I’d never get everyone’s name included who deserved it. I have so many great memories trying to write them all would be hard as hell. So instead, I’ll leave you with this, and then you won’t ever have to pretend you enjoyed reading my last article ever again:

Penn State is the greatest place in the world to spend your college career. About this, I now have no doubts. You’re about to have, are having, or have had, the college career all of your friends wish they did. You can do anything at Penn State. So, do what you’ve always wanted to do. The plan might not work out exactly like you’d hoped it would, but you have boundless opportunity. Embrace it and take advantage of it. The door is open just by stepping foot on campus, now walk through it and make your dreams come true.

Just don’t sit in your fucking room, dicking around on the internet, pretending the world is out to get you. Make your own luck, because the world isn’t just gonna hand you your best friends and your résumé because you’re a nice person. Make yourself important to yourself, and everything else will follow.

Thank you for everything, Penn State. It’s been as real as real can be.

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About the Author

Noel Purcell

Noel Purcell is Onward State's Features Editor. He's a senior Supply Chain major, but is going to law school at some point in the future and masquerades as a writer for now. He continues to disappoint his ancestors by being a complete Irish stereotype. His email is [email protected] because there were no other Noels before him. His ex-wife got the good half of his bio in the divorce settlement.

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