Ask a Fifth Year: Take My Money and Run

Dear Sarah,

I have some friends who graduated from Lawrence a few years back and they’ve already started getting requests to donate money as alumni. I’m expecting to be paying off my student loans well into my golden years, but it got me thinking about what I could do with a donation to Lawrence. If you were to become a donor to Lawrence, what would you want your money to be put towards?

– Dreaming of a Brighter Future


Dear Brighter Future,

I don’t know about you, but I have definitely had this hypothetical question posed in my friend group before. “I’ll donate a million dollars to Lawrence if they put a café in the conservatory.” “I’ll pay for Lawrence to build an underground tunnel system to link all the campus buildings together.” “I would buy enough shawms to start a shawm ensemble on campus; I know Nick Towns would love that.”

There are certainly things I would love to change about Lawrence, but I’ve also realized in the past few months how much there is at Lawrence that I didn’t take advantage of.

Go to concerts. I wish I could go back to freshman year and go to a hundred more concerts than I did. Yes, everyone is busy. Yes, everyone has papers, presentations and lab reports to type up, revise and submit. That being said, the relationships you develop during your time here will ultimately be more valuable than the grades you got on your papers.

Go support your friends at their recitals, their sporting events, their bake sales and their presentations. Go hear as many visiting artists as possible — World Music Series concerts, Artist Series events, poets, visual artists and speakers. Go learn about your craft from the people who are out there doing it right now.

Explore more ideas. Good golly, do I wish I had changed my major before my senior year. I was on a path that I wasn’t excited about, and I ended up needing to do a lot of work that felt like wasted time. If you find yourself inspired by something that isn’t your intended major, go for it. A degree that you love, even if the job prospects are a bit worse, is better than a degree that you hate.

Eat better food. Seriously, folks, just feed yourselves. If you’re starving, everything can wait. With the exception of lab classes and rehearsals where food would get in the way of the learning process, I have never once had a professor yell at me for bringing my lunch to class. Sure, it would be great if there was an additional cafeteria on the north side of College Avenue.

Yes, I would love every building to have a vending machine, stocked with sandwiches and Clif bars, that accepted culinary cash. Yes, if I win the lottery and decide to donate a portion of my winnings to Lawrence, I will likely ask them to make the food truck a full-time service by the conservatory. However, until then, take the extra 20 minutes and go buy yourself a real meal for once.

Yes, there are things I have grown dissatisfied with at Lawrence University over the past few years. However, as much as I enjoy spouting my frustrations from a soapbox, you probably don’t read an advice column because you want to read approximately 600 words of complaints. Instead, here is my final piece of advice: Before you get too lost in hypothetical “if I had a million dollars” discussions, take a closer look at the environment that’s around you and challenge yourself to take better advantage of it.