THE BRIDGE TO COLLEGE
My Growth In College … So Far
I had been living a life I was told to live. I worked hard in classes, attended resume-building extracurriculars and clubs, diligently went to swim practice, did my homework and my chores, even slept a little ... but it was lather, rinse, repeat. Still, I was content and unquestioning, doing what I was told because that was the only way I knew to live.
Then, after 18 years of being stuck in a cycle, I was thrown into college to figure out the rest of my life, all by myself.
Freshman year was essentially a maze of frantic twists and turns. I was given freedom of choice, but all I knew was that my parents were engineers so that seemed like the right path to take. Then, after finding engineering too dry for my taste, I switched to marketing and graphic design to fuel my creative mindset. I joined a sorority and made friends. I joined a student organization that produces a magazine about fashion and lifestyle. I learned easy recipes for cooking in my dorm room and went to the gym in a semi-successful attempt to take care of my health. Basically, I took a year to get a grip on life.
At some point, I realized that the most shocking aspect of my new world was that I actually had free time now. I was given the freedom to do whatever makes me happy, but that was an overwhelming concept for someone who didn’t know herself yet. What did I want to do? What do I actually like? What do I want to learn? These were heavy questions, and the uncertainty weighed like an albatross across my shoulders.
After pondering what I knew and what I didn’t know about myself, I landed on the first step of my growth process: educating myself on politics, the economy, and finances. The next step was figuring out where to start.
Were there friends or clubs at my school who could teach me about these subjects? Maybe. Probably. There were online resources to browse through my college’s organizations, but there were 82 pages with 12 choices each. Having over 950 choices was overwhelming. I was looking for a more personalized learning experience that I could explore on my own.
I landed on something beyond my campus: podcasts. In the second semester of my sophomore year, I dabbled in many podcasts about the economy and politics before landing on The Wall Street Journal, which seemed relatively neutral and focused on facts more than opinions. This was what I was looking for.
In order to grow financially, I sought advice from my parents and my grandparents about investing and saving. With their guidance and my own research, I decided to open a Roth IRA and learn how to read stock market information. I found myself in a position to buy my first stock share ever. More importantly, I had made that second step towards personal growth.
I felt proud of myself, but not for making money. It felt good that no one had to tell me to learn about investing.
Since leaving my hometown and being dropped into the middle of a dormitory two years ago, I am now indulging in things that inspire and intrigue me. I feel more independent, more sophisticated, more intellectual, and more mature. I can see and literally hear myself growing up to become the person I want to be.
College is not really about preparing for a job. It is about preparing for life. I now see this four-year experience as a bridge between youth and adulthood. Now that I am in the midst of it, I am realizing that universities are essentially hubs of resources to which I have access, at least temporarily.
My personal growth “journey” doesn’t stop here. I am now ready and excited to go back to college and use the resources that lie at my feet and display before my eyes. I have identified new goals for next semester: I want to meet people beyond my sorority; I want to learn how to sew my own fashion; and I want to educate myself about the world’s religions.
I have realized that the difference between high school and college is that no one is pushing me to be the best I can be anymore. That is my job.
Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com