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To Girls Who Are Going To College, as published in the Youth's Companion (June 8, 1905)

Helen Keller is seated alone studying geometry at Radcliffe College. Keller has a board on her lap and her hands are touching rods that are arranged in a triangular geometric pattern. She is wearing a dress that appears to have a dark satin-like upper body, with a wool-type fabric bottom part.The outfit has sleeves that are tight from wrist to elbow and puffy from elbow to shoulder. The flouncy collar reaches high up her neck. Her hair is lightly pulled back into a single braid with a bow just barely visible.

Helen Keller studying geometry at Radcliffe College.


"To Girls Who Are Going to College"
by Helen Keller

You have come up out of the primary school, through the grammar school, through the high school, and this beautiful June morning finds you standing where the brook meets the river. The care-free days of childhood are past, and the mystery of an unknown life awaits you at the threshold of the college which you will enter next September.

It is fitting that you pause, serious and thoughtful; for you have not passed this way heretofore. The time has come when you must put away, with loving hands, the playthings of your childhood, the familiar habits and immunities and companions of your protected girlhood, leave solicitous friends and guardians, and enter, through the college door, upon the larger responsibilities and joys of womanhood. Your life is before you, "so various, so beautiful, so new."

The power and delight of unknown coming things are filling your minds with glad expectancy. You are ready to walk erect and fearless in the ways of knowledge. You have resolved to go to college, and you stand prepared to make your resolution a living fact, a visible bodying forth of the purpose that is in you. But you must first lay aside anxiety of mind and distrust of your powers; for knowledge is holy ground, and joy alone shall lead your steps aright.

You Also Shall Help.

It is often said that usefulness is the end of life; and so it is. But happiness creates and inspires usefulness. If you have many gifts, and the power to understand, even if you meditate night and day how to promote the welfare of the world, it shall profit you little if you have not joy. Take up joy, then, as you stand before the gate of your student life, and enter fearlessly. Think that the college you have set your hearts on holds all good things in her hand. Believe that in her halls your dreams shall be realized. But do not forget that the great gifts which you are about to receive from your college bring with them great obligations, and that your larger freedom is a sacred bondage to great ideas.

In college you will be brought face to face with nearly all the fundamental questions of life, and you will learn how many men have tried to solve them. Hitch your wagon to a happy star, and you also shall help to solve them. The world needs your intellect, your scholarship, but most of all your hearts- hearts that are loving, brave, hopeful, happy.

Does all this dream of high privilege and noble service seem far above your circumstances, beyond the reach of your strength and your powers of mind? Remember that Senator Hoar said, "Much of the good work of the world has been that of dull people who have done their best." Many a girl who thought herself mediocre has won high honors in college.

Fears and regrets have no place in the vocabulary of youth, whose spirit sets its white and shining wings toward the purple shores of the Promised Land. Be happy, talk happiness. Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others. There is enough sadness in the world without yours. Rebel against the hardness and injustice of things as much as you like. It is always well to keep your fighting edge keen to smite the wrongs wherever you meet them. But never doubt the excellence and permanence of what is yet to be. Never doubt that this is God's world, and that it is brought nearer to Him by the right work of the least of His children no less than the mighty works of genius. You are no less necessary to the world's uplifting than Luther and Lincoln.

A Vision in Your Souls.

Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your souls, and you shall make your home, your college, the world correspond to that vision. Your success and happiness lie in you. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer trappings. The great, enduring realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Work without joy shall be as nothing. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Perhaps in college you may meet with books which suggest to you that it is noble and comely to be unhappy. Many clever people have found many reasons for unhappiness. Some learned men have peered between the curtains of life's tabernacle, found it empty and a cunning sham, and in the dimness of their spiritual sight they have gone away grumbling, never suspecting their own blindness. From their conclusions turn to Stevenson and Browning, read Saint Paul's epistles, learn that the tabernacle is a temple wherein God abides.

Think, read, study diligently day by day, and the severest tests of your knowledge shall find you prepared and confident. Do not lose sleep over the prospect of examinations, or fret above the printed page until you cannot read its lessons clear. Even if you do not win academic distinction, remember that it may be more worth while to help another girl perform a difficult task than to win a high mark yourself. It is less important to do justice to books than to be honest and kind and generous in your relations to your fellow students.

Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight. True education combines intellect, beauty, goodness, and the greatest of these is goodness. When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.

To go to college is like going to a strange town to live. Your fellow students are of all sorts and classes, and often seem to have nothing in common with each other, except the desire for approbation, sympathy and love. If you understand the complex diversity of a college community, you will be spared many disappointments in your freshman year. When you find yourselves forlorn and homesick for a time, you will not feel bitterly towards the other girls because they do not follow you about the campus, or stop you on the stairs to offer you their undying friendship.

The freshman is often painfully aware of qualities of mind and heart which should place her high in the council of her class, and she is surprised that others are so slow to recognize them. But you will find your place in college as surely as water seeks its level. Only you must not sit and mope, or stand outside your class and criticize its officers, athletics and clubs. You must throw yourselves into the midst of its activities and discover where you can be useful. To be a leader in your class requires the same qualities that are required to be a leader anywhere. It is not so much genius that availeth as energy,industry, and willingness to make personal sacrifices.

From the Books.

Learn from your books not only the days lesson, but the life lesson. In all knowledge, in the classics, in science, in history and literature and in mathematics you will see the struggle of man to get nearer to God. Resolve, then, as you stand on the threshold of your student days, with an enlightened optimism to consecrate your education to the service of others. When your thoughts become pessimistic, when it seems as if all men were deafened by the tumult of trade, blinded by self-interest and greed, turn the pages of your history of England, and you will find that the ideas which shaped the Anglo-Saxon race were not mean or sordid.

American history, too, is filled with heroes and martyrs who joyfully pushed aside ambition and gave their lives to the common weal.

"Are men blind?" they cried. "We will open their eyes. Are they deaf? We will unstop their ears. Are they hungry? They shall be fed. Are they cast down and oppressed? As God liveth, they shall be free!"

The world needs more of this spirit of service. There is still many a desert place where the sun of love and the light of truth have not shone. The occasion waits for every college graduate, in the joyous erectness of youth and vigor, to answer, "Lord, here I am; send me."

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