Last night, I reflected about how I started college and my adult life over five years ago! I have learned so much about higher education, the economy, and life since then, so I decided to blog five tips for college kids. In case any of our readers out there are about to start college or are in college right now, here they are:
1. Major in something that really holds your interest. For those of you who are planning on going to medical school or law school, you can still major in whatever you want and get that MD or JD. Not only do admissions committees at professional schools value diversity and life experience in the pool of applicants, college may be your last opportunity to take classes simply for the acquisition of knowledge. You are living amongst distinguished scholars in one field after the next, and it is their privilege and purpose to impart their knowledge onto you. This is your chance to make leaps and bounds intellectually and to refine your worldview.
2. Steve Jobs was right. Forget about the well-worn path, and do what you truly believe is great work. Kara Dioguardi, a judge on American Idol, went to Duke. In her memoir, she wrote about spending much of her time trying to fit into the pre-law crowd and developing an eating disorder. However, she had a critical moment at Duke that changed the trajectory of her life. One day, when she was in Duke’s student center, she watched a man start vomiting blood and collapse while his infant son shrieked beside him. That man died right there in front of McDonald’s while unconcerned Duke students pushed past. Dioguardi wrote that she wanted to yell, “Doesn’t anybody in this place care about a tragedy?” That day, she made the decision to forget about law and focus on music. Dioguardi ended up becoming a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose songs have appeared in over 159 million albums worldwide (Wikipedia).
3. It’s not too soon. It’s too late. When I was 18 and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, people told me I had plenty of time. I now know that those people were wrong. No one should feel bad for struggling to figure out their interests, skills, and goals, but I advise everyone to approach the task with a sense of urgency (but not panic!). College is quite a short period of time when you consider that in four years, you are supposed to figure out your identity as an adult, develop all the basic skills you need to exist on your own, and launch a career in a new city by yourself. Wherever you are in college, the time to get started has already passed.
4. Don’t get stuck in a clique. When I was in college, the president of the university sent the student body an email warning students not to get sucked into what he called “myDuke.” At the time, I read it and pondered it, but ironically, following the advice got pushed to the end of a to-do list that involved a routine of classes, work, and hanging out with a tight-knit, familiar group of friends (including the girls on this blog!) – now, I’m connected to most people in my graduating class only through a Facebook news feed. It’s possible but more difficult to establish relationships after graduating, and there are so many interesting people I wish I had gotten to know better when I had the chance. I don’t regret spending a lot of time with the same people because I established close relationships, but I wish I explored more groups and created an even more diverse set of friends. So, lose the security blanket! Take risks in making new friends.
5. If you don’t like college, that’s okay. It only lasts four years, and the so-called “real world” lasts for the rest of your life. Many of my college friends didn’t like the school we attended or didn’t like the world of academia. They drove themselves crazy wondering what was wrong with them if college didn’t turn out to be “the best four years of life.” I loved college, and in my case, it did end up being the most fulfilling experience I’ve had so far. However, I believe the real glory days are still ahead of me. Even if you end up disliking college, remember that you have the rest of your life to have the time of your life. Do you really want it all behind you when you are 22?