The task of applying to and getting accepted into college can be a challenging one. Deciding how far away you want to go, what type of loans you can afford, writing essays and taking campus tours can be an arduous process. It’s not easy deciding where you will attend school for the next four years. Some say that deciding is the hardest part. It’s not. Deciding on college may be difficult, but what you do with the opportunities you are given is what counts the most. After all, college is supposed to mold you into an adult and assist in determining what you want to be when you grow up.
I always found that question interesting. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
I find it interesting because we are often asked this question at a time in our lives when we are unsure of what the options actually are. It’s kind of like asking someone what they want to order for dinner without telling them what restaurant you are going to or allowing them to look at a menu. Therefore, there is a good chance that this question, which we have been asking younger generations for years, is fundamentally flawed. Therefore, you owe it to yourself to change the question. You owe it to yourself to ask “What type of person do I want to become?”.
When you begin to think about this question, the entire narrative changes. You are no longer holding yourself to one job or industry. You are no longer forcing yourself to select an occupation based on a job description, or how much glassdoor says it pays. Instead, you are looking inward, towards your interests, dreams and desires. Do you want to be someone who helps people? Perhaps, you want to protect or heal people. Work with your hands. Build and create. Always be creating this person in your mind as you tackle the different aspects of college.
Unlike high school, not every college instructor takes attendance. Furthermore, you are allowed unexcused absences that do not need to be explained away by a doctor’s note or a parental phone call. You can take advantage of this by doing just enough to get by. You can attend the bare minimum of classes. You can attend class on 3 hours of sleep and simply count the fact that you showed up as a victory, regardless of how much information you actually retained. However, passing a class and learning the material are two completely different results. Is the type of person you want to become someone who takes the easy road or the challenging one?
A college class schedule usually contains a significant amount of free time. Every minute of this free time does not need to be spent studying in the library. It’s important to take time to unwind, make friends, and socialize. It’s also important to prioritize those social activities along with the responsibilities that you were sent to college to carry out, such as studying and homework. Furthermore, it will be difficult to become the person you have created in your mind with a low GPA and limited knowledge base.
The thought of working without getting paid does not seem too appealing. Factor in that internship hours is time that could be spent playing video games and eating pizza and it becomes even less appealing. Most colleges only require 1–2 internships to graduate. However, who are you trying to become? If the answer is someone who is financially stable with the knowledge to do great things, internships are the first building block towards becoming that type of person. You never know who you will meet or how that connection may lead to a job opportunity down the line. Always be looking for new ways to learn and new places and people to learn from.
This is the big one. If you take nothing else away from this post, this is it. Attending college comes with opportunities that, if taken advantage of, will lead to valuable experiences, a better career, and the fast track to becoming that person you have been building in your head. Colleges often bring in guest speakers, lecturers, and alumni onto campus to dispense their real-world knowledge to anyone who is smart enough to listen. Attending one of these optional events may mean walking across campus in the freezing cold or putting off getting ready to go out at night. That being said, you never know what bit of information may lead you down a new path, ask a different question, or solidify the type of person you want to become. Another opportunity open to all is the college career center. This is a department dedicated to helping you craft your resume and cover letter for when you are ready to graduate. Taking advantage of this service, and the intelligent staff who work there will only serve to benefit you down the line by making you feel more comfortable in interviews and ultimately helping you find a job.
I would never tell anyone not to have fun in college. All this post is saying, is that remember why you are there. You are there to become the best version of yourself possible. By proactively approaching every aspect of college thinking about this person, you will make the best decisions possible and eventually build a life you are proud to live. So, before you enter college, or take another step on campus, ask yourself “What type of person do I want to become?”.
Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.