I like to think of college as the last stop on the winding and often tumultuous journey to fully achieved adulthood. And the self-discovery of college is a key factor to consider in this big final educational leg of your trip.
As traditional, or perhaps untraditional, as your journey has been up to this point, it’s led to one final obstacle: college – which is probably the most intimidating and stressful one to date.
Back off the self-imposed pressure
I dreaded every appointment with my guidance counselor. I started to hate seeing family members because I knew they’d ask the typical – slightly nosy – questions. And I and completely avoided the subject with my better-prepared, laser-focused peers.
What I failed to realize at the time is that you don’t have to have it all figured out. I hadn’t even stepped foot on campus and I had already felt unprepared and ill-equipped. I thought I had to have my four-year course plan laid out, my plan of action outlined and my textbooks highlighted and annotated.
The truth is, no one expects you to hit the ground running. Sure, it’s nice to have a general plan, but you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to go above and beyond from the get-go.
Delve into the self-discovery of college
College is a time to explore your options. There are careers and majors that you probably haven’t heard of – from injury biomechanics to therapeutic recreation. Don’t think you’re contracted to the vague or detailed career plan you have when you begin college.
A good way to find these atypical areas of study is to speak to an advisor and to strike up conversation with those around you. Who knows? Maybe gerontology studies is your passion.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Another thing I wish I knew when I began college was to not compare myself to those around me. As a highly competitive person, it was hard for me, and still is, to realize that everyone’s on their own journey.
My goals aren’t the same as anyone else’s, and we’re all trying to achieve different things. Your downfalls might be someone’s talents. The most important thing is to focus on yourself and the progress you’re making on achieving your goals – and accepting that sometimes it’s OK to be selfish.
Try out different interests – and people
One final piece of advice when embarking on your college career is to not limit yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, college truly is a time for self-discovery. And it’s important to embrace the self-discovery of college.
If there is something you’ve always wanted to pursue, be it improv comedy or humanitarian work, this is the time to try it out. Step out of your shell and become the best version of yourself.
This also applies when making friends. Don’t surround yourself only with people who look and think like you. Most of the friends I’ve made in college are people who I wouldn’t have looked at twice three years ago. Meet new people and learn something from everyone you befriend.