Like most SDSU students, I have spent the last two weeks trying to mentally recover from the longest semester of my life. Between binge watching Avatar and trying to tan in the Central Valley heat, I have had a lot of time to reflect on not only the end of my sophomore year of college, but the last two years of my life in general.
Young me had a lot of expectations about college- finding new friends, exploring a new city, and most importantly, getting the freedom I’d craved for all of high school. Since then a lot of those expectations have become my reality, but I have also learned many things I could never have predicted before I gave my parents that good-bye hug in front of Tenochca my freshman year.
Although I definitely don’t have everything figured out, here are five things that two years of college experience has taught me.
1. You Get What You Give
This is a great song but also an incredibly accurate phrase for describing how to be successful in college. The coveted freedom being away from home provides also removes most of the accountability traditionally provided to you by parents, teachers, and coaches. A professor will not know your name if you don’t talk to them, and no one will yell at you for skipping class. For the first time, your success relies solely on how hard you’re willing to work. Here are some things I have found are really worth the effort- as long as you’re willing to put the time in.
A. Office Hours
Even if you feel comfortable in a class, office hours are your friend since a good relationship with a faculty member can lead to connections, research, or a letter of recommendation.
B. Find a Mentor
SDSU’s mentor program has been used by a lot of the members in WSS and most of the people I have talked to have found it very worthwhile. It is an easy sign up that can lead to a lot of opportunities.
If that doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to send emails to local professionals in your field or even have your parents put it out there on Facebook. Whether you take advantage of connections you already have or create them yourself, as long as you put in the effort you will be able to find a mentor that works for you.
Here is a great article by NPR that gives more details on this process: Tips For Finding A Mentor
2. Someone Else’s Success Isn’t Your Failure
College is by no means a one-size-fits all experience. Some people I know are on track to graduate in three years, while for others it may take five. Your roommate may have picked the right major the first time around, but you might be on try number six. It is easy, and understandable, to look at people around you and feel like you just aren’t measuring up. However in the end, you will get where you need to be and no amount of wishing you were someone else will get you there any faster or help you grow as a person.
3. Grades Are Important, But Not Everything
I received the lowest GPA I have gotten in college this semester and as someone who wants to go to professional school, I was extremely hard on myself at first (some tears were shed and threats of changing life plans were thrown around). Thankfully, my mom calmly reminded me that although grades are important, they aren’t everything. This is something we have all heard, but it is extremely easy to forget given how competitive fields in STEM can be.
It is vital to remember that although what you see on the Web Portal matters, your life experiences outside of the classroom are just as valuable. For example, this semester I got more involved in WSS, found a volunteering position that really matters to me, and truly realized what I want to do with my life- all things a class alone could never have given me. Your GPA can help get you in the door for an interview, but the way you are able to speak about what pursuing your passions has taught you is what will truly set you apart from other candidates.
4. Write Things Down. Seriously.
I am known amongst my friends and family for being on the forgetful side, so this has become essential to me. However, even if your memory is better than mine, it can be easy to forget that one time you tabled for your club for an hour or got a card from that random person at the job fair. You never know when you’ll need to pull from experiences like this for an application, interview, or project- so compile them in a place that you can easily access.
Whether you want to use a notebook, a google doc, or an excel spreadsheet, here are some things that keeping track of now will make your life much easier later.
1. Volunteer hours
2. Professionals or faculty you have talked to (Name, contact info, etc.)
3. Jobs you’ve applied for
4. Projects you did well on that you can present as samples of work
5. Important moments
Whether the experience was personal or professional, if a situation teaches you something about yourself, jot it down. This is as helpful for practicing self awareness as it is for interviews.
5. Look Forward To The Future, But Remain Present
I have spent most of my life constantly worrying about what comes next. In high school, it was getting into college. In college, it has been getting into medical school. However, the onset of COVID brought most of my plans to a temporary stand still. It has been hard to accept at times, but it has also taught me something really important.
I have always viewed life as this uphill battle towards the peak of success, getting my dream job. However, in reality things will never really be that linear. Life is more like a series of waves than it is some long climb up one particular hill. Some times in your life will be great, and some times will knock you down so hard you just want to be ten years old playing ball wall again instead of a 20 year old attempting to be an adult. It is good to focus on your goals, but it is even better to learn to enjoy what you have now.
Life lessons aside, I hope all of you are enjoying your summer. If you want to watch a great movie that will illustrate point number five and take you back to simpler times, I’d highly recommend Surf’s Up. It is 50 times better than Happy Feet, and I am willing to argue about it with anyone that disagrees.
As always stay safe, and remember to wear eco-friendly sunscreen if you decide to get some tanning in!