As my last semester at the University of Rochester begins and my senior year comes to an end, it is bittersweet. It is terrific and terrifying to be entering the professional world in less than a year. It is great that I'll be able to start the next chapter of my life shortly, but sad that I will inevitably be leaving behind some of what has been a great collegiate experience. I feel extremely lucky to have the friends I have never would have met outside of Rochester, I'm happy to have had an awesome few years, and proud of all that has transpired—most of which I never would have seen myself doing.
And all of this has come about through not only my doing, but through the advice and guidance of others along the way. Being such a diverse campus, I've had the opportunity to receive such a wide variety of great guidance, and it has been hard to pick out exactly what has been the best. However, I've thought about what has been the most beneficial for myself at the University of Rochester and what I wish I knew three years ago.
- Don't talk yourself out of success. Entering college, I was encouraged to think that college was about more than academics—and it definitely is—but I now think this advice may have sent the wrong message. As a freshman, I was okay receiving Bs in classes and knowing most of, but not all of, the material. I knew I was growing as a person and used that as an excuse to accept lower grades. Which fits into a larger picture: don't talk yourself out of success, especially early on. It is hard, but try not to come up with excuses such as, "I didn't do well on this test because I had 'another obligation.'" Instead, recognize that the path to success isn't always an easy road. Understand the challenges you faced, why they prevented you from being as successful as you had hoped, and come up with a plan to improve for the future.
- Think about your future early and often. What do you want to do after graduation? Do you want to go to law school? Do you want to jump right into the working world? Where do you want to live? These are all big questions. They are questions which don't need a 'correct' answer and whose answers are likely to change. However, the earlier you start thinking about these, the easier it is to plan. For example, say you think about it and decide you really love biological research but are not sure what specific career path you want. That's fine! You've made the first step. You can now try to work with others to take more steps in the right direction, such as talking to the folks at the Career Center or the Office of Undergraduate Research, both of which I wish I had utilized more.
I've started heavily using the Career Center this year, and that is the best practical advice I could give any underclassmen to set themselves up for success in the professional and working world. When I first went in, I felt so under-prepared that I was embarrassed to go back. But I eventually did and they have helped me more than I would have ever thought with my résumé and searching for jobs/internships.
- Become yourself. I've said this before in previous posts, but I'd like to emphasize that in order to be successful, you should strive to not only be yourself, but become yourself. An important aspect of college is trying and being exposed to a wide variety of opinions, thoughts, actions, beliefs, and ideas. Some of these are bound to be things you've never considered before. Don't take these unfamiliar concepts and brush them off because you don't know them. Do the opposite; embrace them. Consider everything that you come across and put your own spin on it. Really take the time to think about things. Through doing this, I can almost guarantee you'll find something new you love and would have never even considered before.