Senior Column: It’s Cool to Care


Courtesy of Rachel Reiniger

College is the time to unlearn “cool” carelessness.

Rachel Reiniger, Former Digital Editor

College teaches you a lot. Everyone knows the cliches: self-discovery, independence, career opportunities, the list goes on. But the lesson that truly changed my college experience is not as widely talked about: the best thing you can do in life is care more.

We start out life knowing this and somehow lose it along the way. In elementary school, the harder you tried, the more you were rewarded. You add more stickers to your classmates’ Valentines, sign longer notes in the back of your neighbor’s yearbook and make your best friend a matching friendship bracelet.

Middle school slowly introduces the concept of perception. Cliques ran rampant, and cattiness followed suit. Suddenly you enter high school learning it is no longer cool to care.  

Then college comes, and you’re told, “Put yourself out there!” “Say yes to everything!” and “Leave your door open and chat with anyone that passes by!”

I quickly learned freshman year would be much easier if I had been thrown in as a first grader. No guards up, wearing my heart on my sleeve, probably in a sequin High School Musical t-shirt.

Instead, I, like many others, let the stress of being perceived as “too much” hold me back freshman and sophomore year. I was too scared to ask the same person to dinner two nights in a row or send a text afterwards saying how much fun I had.

There comes a point in college when you realize it may not be about finding a new identity, rather, it’s about dismantling the one you wanted in high school. Maybe it’s even reverting all the way back to elementary school.

Yes, we all want to hang on to that idea of entering college with a fresh slate and a second chance at reimagining our cool, mysterious image. You know exactly what I am talking about, “Nothing phases me, I can’t remember the last time I cried, and I am totally not the jealous type.” But college is a time for facing the inevitable: you care.

Embrace being the person who cares and feels deeply. Invite that friend to dinner every night. Send the text. Say exactly how you feel. Share personal things. Ask personal questions. Hand out valentines. Sign yearbooks. Make friendship bracelets.  

It is not easy, and sometimes it is not fun. It’s definitely not cool or mysterious.

But, I would not advise doing college any other way.

I am leaving Villanova knowing there are people who have seen all parts of me (the antithesis of the middle school cool girl) and still want to be my friend. They answer my personal questions with intent and vulnerability. They tolerate me sending sappy text messages and even wear the friendship bracelets I’ve made them. They have seen me after a perfect first date and sobbing after a heartbreak.

We should all aim to have the same pure drive we did in elementary school, to be the person who never stops caring. Both the risk and the reward are feeling deeply. The risk is hurt, but the reward is people who better understand you’re hurting.

I am forever grateful that college taught me it is okay to be the person who tries hard and for introducing me to the people who are always there when it doesn’t work out.