This is a college undergraduate CGHS super-senior’s perspective on handling some of the monstrous unknowns of the college years. From my 5-year (going-on-6-year) college experience, studying locally, living with family and commuting saves SO much money. Once one jumps the economic hurdle with financial aid, loans and family assistance, the struggle in deciding what exactly to do can lead to unwelcome self-doubt.
This post aims to give practical advice and encouraging insight for those embarking on formal, post-secondary education.
“P” is for Parents
If one has parents who are willing and able to support a college student, then it is worth putting up with their house rules for a few extra years. I struggle significantly with defining myself as an adult craving independence while under my overprotective parents’ roof. It’s hard (not gonna lie) but I remind myself that I am privileged to have a Hispanic family that wants me at home forever. On the bright side, I receive free lessons in humility I would otherwise miss living alone. Most importantly, I spend more time studying to build a career and less time depending on a low wage job that barely pays to meet daily needs.
Fancy or Not
Going to community colleges and local universities may not give a resume the fancy-schmancy “Oomph” most students are pre-conditioned to pursue. Let me tell you, a fulfilling education can be acquired nonetheless. Nobody looks at where you got your Associates or Bachelors from. Should I repeat that? NOBODY LOOKS! NOBODY CARES! And if they do, they’re snobs who don’t deserve you. As long as it is a nationally accredited school, students who put forth maximum effort receive the resources necessary to succeed wherever they go. An overpriced school will use the same exact textbooks as a less expensive one. You wanna go to an Ivy League? Save it for grad school.
At the end of the day, a university is a business.
If they take advantage of the statistical numbers you provide for them, then likewise take advantage of the opportunities available:
- Apply for an Undergraduate Research Grant.
- Join a club you don’t hate.
- Build positive relationships with the faculty and staff.
- Plan ahead for scholarships
These little things provide the limited experience level of a student with extra fortification.
Fake the Confidence
How does one narrow down their academic passions if there is major indecision? The first thing I did was fill up all of my elective credits to test every department available and see what I liked best. It didn’t work. Time was up and I was still stuck. I liked it all and was at risk of paralyzing my future education. I’ve seen friends drop out simply because they could not make up their mind. Then they got married, had kids, and were dead broke leeching off of some basement… Fear of Falling into their Fate led me to lock in an answer and stay committed.
There is no self-help, quick fix phrase out there to help you decide what to major in. It just takes a surge of confidence.
Study what you love. If what you love has a bad rap for not providing Self-Sustaining Stability (like say: The Visual or Performing Arts), then double major and add something “safe.” Make yourself indispensable for employers by expanding your discipline beyond one rigid academic silo.
I’m studying Art and Communication. I love everything about it. Once I got over the shame-stereotype that my major is not perceived to be as “academically rigorous” as a lawyer’s, I finally treasured who I was becoming. The passion that you have, WATER IT! No one can take that away from you.
Cheese for Dessert
No human can tell you how to define yourself, SO whatever you do…
DON’T define yourself by:
- what your GPA is
- what your test scores are
- whether or not you got scholarships
- where you got accepted
- what Uncle George’s opinion is of your major
- how long you take to graduate college.
- what your “significant other” is doing after graduation
There’s so much more than that. After you really try, relax and have confidence in who you’ll become. Discovering that is — literally — the best.