Do you have an approach to college? Have you thought about what your goals for college are? I didn’t. For those of you who are just starting to apply, who have just stepped on their campus of choice for the first week of classes, or who have just switched their major for the first time, remember this: you must be bold in college. When signing up for classes, meeting new people, or deciding what to do in the summer, be bold.
I was frantic the last two years of my high school life: writing essays, deciding whether to apply to 7 colleges or 12, traveling on the weekends or breaks to tour college campuses with my father who was probably just as stressed and anxious as I was about what my decision would be as I was. I never asked myself when I made my college decision about what I wanted my lifestyle to be like or what I wanted to do after college and whether the colleges I was considering would be able to help me get there. The phrase “professional development” never crossed my mind. I can confession now that I made my decision based on branding, on reputation, and on the affirmation of my parents and high school teachers.
Throughout college, I had the traditional experiences and then created many of my own. I went to classes, did my homework, crammed for my exams. I pulled all-nighters, went to parties, slept over in my friends’ dorm rooms. I lived in dorms, moved out of dorms, work-studied, got a real job. I had a great time doing these things, but upon graduating, I realize that those years and months when my life revolved solely around the campus and my classmates actually taught me the least out of all of my four undergraduate years. The best thing that ever happened to me is when I realized I was bored going to the same house parties, bars, classroom buildings, and club meetings.
I became bold. I had started academic and social activities on campus since the first month of my freshman year. I found my own internship the spring semester of my sophomore year through cold calling and finding connections/references. I sought a good research mentor my sophomore year: took a whole semester e-mailing professors and graduate students and going to interview with them until I settled on working in the lab of the professor I have now worked with for almost four years. I completed a minor outside of the college of Arts & Sciences, which my major was in. For all of these experiences, I had to hassle administrators for overrides or to enroll in independent credits after the add/drop period. I had to cudgel faculty members to sign my paperwork for my internship as an advisor. The entire struggle to create my college experiences outside of the structured programs at my university taught me more about myself and being an adult than anything else did at the time.
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