Freshman year of college could be one of the most freeing times in one’s life or one of the most difficult. Going to college represents adulthood, freedom and exploration. It marks the time in one’s life when one must truly rely on what one has learned. For some, however, it is the time wherein one finds oneself detached and flung from the world one once knew. Separated from family, friends and community, some find that the first year of college is incredibly disorienting. It is in this transition that one either finds one’s way or one finds oneself lost in a sea of confusing environments and harsh realities. However, despite its difficulty, your first year of college has the potential to be the greatest single year of your life, if you choose to maximize it.
Opportunities, choices, and alternatives, these are the words that come to mind when I consider what it’s like to be a freshman in college. The world, in many ways, will open up to you like it never has before. Almost instantly, upon arrival to your college, you shed many of the confines of your dependency on your parents and family and trade them in for the freedoms of a life wherein you’re truly responsible for yourself. You must feed yourself, wash your clothes, and get to class on time. You must be proactive about forming bonds and developing friendships and you must decide for yourself what to study and what career to pursue. No longer will you be able to fully rely on others for the answer to life’s everyday dilemmas. And, in all this, you must focus on exploring your passions and cultivating your academic interests. To this end, it is most important to be bold with your actions and sure of whom you are.
I have found that the best way to find yourself in college and, for that matter, in life, is to say “yes” to it. That is to say, when presented with opportunities that seem risky or paths that seem difficult and uncomfortable it is imperative to be bold and dive deep into that which presents itself as a chance to explore what interests you. If you are to get the most out of college, you must join the clubs that speak to what you care about, you must apply for jobs and positions you might not get, and you must meet and interact with those whom you might otherwise never talk to. Only then will you be able to orient yourself in an effort to focus on a future that is bigger and better than your current reality.
College is not a where so much as it is a what. That is, the college experience will render that great fruit which you yourself have planted. No matter where you find yourself in the coming years, remember that the only way to truly maximize any experience is to completely and totally apply yourself. The degree to which you participate is the degree to which you will find a reason to keep moving forward in your collegiate pursuits. As is the case, I implore each and every one of you to make the most of your academic experience. To expand your mind is to expand your world. And to commit yourself to your education is to commit yourself to a life of impact.
Michael is a graduate of Pasadena High School and a freshman at Stanford University. He is attending his dream school on a full-tuition scholarship thanks in part to the support he received from CAP. Previously, he was a legal assistant at the Figari Law Firm, a student advisory board member of the California Judicial Council, and lead of four programs at PHS. It is his desire to direct his extensive knowledge and experience regarding high school and service towards efforts that will not only bolster CAP, but enhance each student’s experience with the program as well. He is a firm believer that education is the great equalizer that transcends race, religion and creed. In this way, we make the world a better place one student at a time.