In college, I was a stickler when it came to sending thank you cards. A jacket from an aunt, new socks from my folks, and, on one occasion, three pounds of gummy bears courtesy of my friend Erin—thank you notes for each! As graduation approaches, it’s a meaningful practice to take a closer look at the people who have doled out immeasurable gifts during college. Remember them with a personal thank you note and maybe a token of your appreciation. You — and they — will be glad you did.
The friend who delivered:
Adulthood comes naturally to some folks. For others, such as myself, making it through the day without misplacing the house key is a substantial victory. That’s why it’s great to have friends who adult well and scoop you up when you stumble. Meg was (and still is) that friend. Meg’s the type of friend who invites you to Thanksgiving dinner even though you accidentally set her mom’s dish towel on fire (true story), who helps you pack up your entire dorm room in 30 minutes (true story), and who offers you her sandals when you lose yours and have to board an airplane barefoot (again, true story). Supportive friends like Meg are pretty special ones to have. Say thank you to the Megs in your life by showing up to their doorsteps with a handwritten note and maybe a favorite home-cooked meal—don’t forget dessert!
The professor who helped me grow:
Sometimes a class feels like something to get through so you can move on to something better rather than a joyous learning experience. More than a few nights (and early mornings) were spent hastily crafting essays or cramming for tests I’d known about for weeks. Good work is rarely produced thanks to four hours of sleep and a limited understanding of materials. When I look back, my favorite professor was the one who didn’t let me slide, who handed papers back with less-than-desirable grades, and who saw through my sob stories. She walked a balance between helping me understand material while fairly holding me accountable for class assignments. Say a special thank you to the prof or teaching assistant who made a difference in your academic career.
The roommate who shared close quarters:
Shared living spaces can get tricky quickly when two or more people have to navigate sleep schedules and cleaning responsibilities. My college roommate Gina and I lived together for three years. Of course there were bumps. I regularly slept through my 5:50 a.m. alarm, clothes had a tendency to creep onto her side of the room, and once I gave a friend a haircut over a rug Gina had just meticulously vacuumed. I still get grief about that one. For the most part, though, we had a blast living together. Celebrate your roommate with something that makes their daily life a little more fun—a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, a monthly subscription box for your household to share (may I suggest Candy Club?), or an enthusiastic handwritten letter about what their support has meant to you.
The student worker supervisors:
One of my favorite parts of college was its unlimited access to food, particularly buffet-style food. For most of college, several friends and I worked for the university’s dining service, which allowed us even more access to food. Most of our coworkers were fellow students, but a handful were non-students who supervised us and worked there full-time. I like to think that my friends and I were imaginative, energetic, and funny, but my guess is that our supervisors had other words to describe us, among them being rowdy. Supervising college students in seasonal or short-term positions isn’t an easy task. Surprise your supervisor with a personal note about what you learned from them and your time working together.. An end-of-semester gift doesn’t hurt either!
The person who opened career doors:
Throughout college, I volunteered as a tutor at a local middle school. Toward the end of my senior year, the volunteer coordinator casually recommended that I should apply for AmeriCorps. She knew I liked volunteering and was interested in nonprofit work. I’d never heard of AmeriCorps, but I liked the volunteer coordinator and told her I’d investigate. It was a short conversation, but one that completely changed my life. I’ve now worked at several nonprofits and have no plans to stop what I’m doing. Send a follow-up email or letter to someone who changed your degree or career path. Let them know where you’re at now and how their advice made a difference in your life.
The family who offered support:
College can be a strange transition period—it’s not necessarily full-blown adulthood, but far from childhood. At times you want independence and the ability to make decisions on your own. Other times, though, you’re really just craving a homemade meal and clean, folded laundry. There are few words to describe the number of immeasurable gifts my family shared with me over those four years of college—hours of Skype calls, holiday care packages stuffed with treats, words of encouragement before hard tests, and, yes, the occasional instruction on how to rid a stubborn stain from a favorite shirt.
It is sometimes difficult to appreciate immeasurable gifts in the moment. Looking back, however, I can see how each of these gifts has helped shape my life. While I’ve always been fond of traditional thank you cards, take a few moments to think about what the people in your life enjoy. Whoever the people in your life may be, try to personalize each thank you to best match its recipient. If they’re anything like my friends, a homemade watercolor card coupled with a mediocre pun and some baked goods might be just the ticket!