In life, honesty is the best policy and if you are going to practice truth with anyone, make certain you start with yourself. When I was in elementary school, I dreaded “back to school” commercials because they symbolized to me that it was in fact time to start counting down the moments before I would indeed have to go back to school. In my mind, summer rocked and I was always incredibly sad to see it end. Then college came and that end of summer dread disappeared. I, quite frankly, loved my college experience at UVa and every single solitary moment that came with it. I made incredible friends, shared amazing experiences, served on student council, joined a sorority, made the dean’s list, met the man I am now engaged to marry (16 years later…funny how life works), and learned a great deal about myself and others. If you were to sum up my college experience, I have very, very few regrets. In fact, I only have one. I wasn’t honest enough with myself during my college years about what I wanted in the future and why I wanted it. I sincerely beg of you, don’t make the same mistake.
When I started as a first year, I came in with the attitude and expectation that I would become a doctor-a pediatric oncologist or anesthesiologist to be exact. I had attended a math and science magnet high school, won a plethora of science awards throughout my high school academic career, conducted scientific research in college laboratories under the watchful eye of college professors in Georgia, and attended math and space camps in the summer. Yet, I shunned all the awards and decided on a whim to attend UVa. Something in my gut knew that I did not want to limit myself to one experience or career trajectory so early and by my second year of college I switched from science and decided I wanted to become a lawyer. And so that journey began. The truth is, I can tell you a million things that I did right on my path to becoming a lawyer and there are many that will argue that my path may be the path you should take or at least consider. However, I’d rather explore a different avenue and focus on what I did wrong in hopes that I can prevent you from making similar mistakes during your college years.
I’ll share the first of the mistakes in this article and more in the coming weeks.
Ignoring additional experiences around you in favor of the familiar
Chances are you are involved, or are planning to get involved, with some pretty incredible things this semester. While social media and digital outlets have changed the method of how extracurricular activities are publicized to students, experience suggests that your activities will be highly influenced by your peer group. That reality is not the end of the world, but it may limit your perspective.
It is important to force yourself throughout your college academic (and social) career to make a point of branching out and allowing yourself continued self-discovery via the cultivation of your passions and expansions of your network. That exploration is stifled when you engage in activities that are limited to the interests of your peers. Flexing your independence is not an activity reserved for breaking away from your parents.
It is critical that you explore a variety of activities within and outside of your comfort zone during your college years. This exploration includes broadening your circle to people of varying backgrounds, interests, and beliefs. Your goal is to discover your best you and the best way to achieve that is by challenging your mind, your convictions, and by expanding your network.
While I had a diverse group of friends, I regret not spending more time in foreign language houses with people from my classes and taking advantage of horizon expanders like alternative spring break. I did a lot, and I understand that we can’t do it all, but in hindsight I realize that there is usually room for more. When our plates are full sometimes we just need to get bigger plates.