The College Myth

“How’s college? Do you like it?”, asks every person I talk to.

“Yeah I really like it.” Is my usual response.

A true response would take way longer than the time they have and be much more personal than they wanted to know. The true answer is that most of the time it is great. It finally feels normal and I really like my classes and professors. But 15% of the time it straight up sucks. But no one wants to hear that college sucks. And if you are an optimist(like me) or a mathematician( not like me) my off-handed response of “really good” is an accurate average of my time away at school.

It’s widely said that a lot of a person’s personal growth and development happens during their college years. I don’t disagree. In my four months up at school, I know I have grown as an individual immensely.  Just like those growing pains and growth spurts that you had as a kid, but instead these are emotional growth spurts, both of which sometimes hurt a lot.

People also say “Oh you will make lifelong friends in college.” Or my favorite, “The friends you make now will be your bridesmaids later!” No one tells you that for a while you will feel like you have fake friends and half friends. No one tells you that if you go to a place where you don’t know a soul, that sometimes it gets lonely. They never say, “You will start to wonder if you smell funny before you actually feel as though you have a couple solid friends.”

I think this provides many people with a false expectation for what college will be like. For example, fireworks will not go off in the background when you first meet your roommate and you will not be instant best friends. I know that I was not at all aware of the sub-clauses in those general comments everyone makes about college.  I went into college thinking I would totally have it all together by day 10. Be involved, check. Make friends, check. Ace your classes, check. Grow, check. And by grow I do not mean in your waistline from the freshman 15, just to clarify.

Reality check: man was I mistaken. I never realized how much growing hurt. Being away from everyone I knew for close to 70 days, when I can’t think of a single time that I had spent without the presence of a familiar face before going to college, it hurt.  I missed dinner with my family, doing homework and hearing my parents talk as they were preparing dinner, sharing a room with my sister, good morning hugs from my mom, I missed all of home.  I missed the community of my small group, as I doubted that there was actually a single other Christian on the entire campus. I craved having someone with whom a look could be interpreted to speak 1000 words.

In the midst of this pain though, God always appeared. When I needed to meet another Christian on campus just to be reassured that they actually existed, in a totally random moment, I sat down next to one in a lecture. When it turned out that my dad had to fight a fire and couldn’t come to visit, two of my church friends from home to plan a trip to come visit. When I missed the companionship of my home friends, there was a friend waiting for me – I just needed to open my eyes and look around. God was always there in the pain of growing, and with his help I have grown with leaps and bounds.

I was also vastly unprepared for just exactly how long it would take to feel like I had really good friends. Even though I knew I was going somewhere where I wouldn’t know a soul, I thought, “It’s okay. I have already done this once before in high school when I went back to public school after homeschooling” what I failed to realize is that in high school I already knew some people. And they knew some people. So their friends became mutual friends and my friend circle expanded. In college it’s different. There is only one of me. I can only meet so many people and I can only spend quality getting to know you time with an even smaller number of people. I constantly have to remind myself to have grace with myself. Making friends takes a long time. Making best friends, let alone bridesmaid worthy friends, takes even longer. And in that long time, sometimes it gets a little lonely. But it’s okay. Everyone feels like that.

Give yourself grace, is what I have to keep reminding myself. Do you even remember how you made your last best friend? I know I can’t. Actually other than being nice, how does one make friends? I feel like it just happens naturally. Is there a point in time that marks the transition from friends to good friends to best friends? I think it all just takes time. It takes time to create the shared memories and inside jokes that come with a great friendship. It’s okay, friends will come with time. Hang in there.

I wrote this after first semester, and hesitated to put it up because it seemed really pessimistic, and that wasn’t what I wanted to portray-I knew it would get better, it was just slow going. Looking back on what I wrote after a full year under my belt, I still agree with what I was feeling, but I know it also gets better.  Second semester I found my people-friends I knew were friends.  I joined a sorority (though I never dreamed that I would), track season started, I found a home church, a bible study, and I became better friends with the people whom I had met during first semester.  I knew how to juggle school, laundry, feeding myself, and having a social life way better.  After two months of summer, though I am loving home, I miss my friends at school so much I almost wish school would start already just so I could see all my friends again.  Wholeheartedly, I can say that school is great and I am really enjoying it.

Jumping for joy because life is good, school is over, and its finally summer.
Jumping for joy because life is good, school is over, and its finally summer.

In conclusion, a note to all the incoming college freshman-have grace with yourself.  Realize its a big adjustment, and set your expectations accordingly. Have fun, and know that everything gets better after first semester.  And a note to everyone who says, “College is the best time of your life!”-be careful, you might be creating false expectations in a nervous freshman’s mind.  You might not remember the trials of the first couple weeks, because the good times have washed out all of those memories, but more than likely they were there.

36.4 Pounds of Mail, One Important Decision

In the past one and a half years, I have received right around 36.4 pounds of college mail.  36.4 pounds!!!! Makes me wonder how many trees were murdered in the hopeful, but probably highly unsuccessful, quest to find applicants.

November came and the first round of applications were due.  I had been writing essays all summer, but the date still crept up on me a little.  Never the less, I got them all in on time, and began waiting.  I have never been so excited to receive mail in my life.  Eagerly, after about two weeks, every day, after practice,  before setting foot inside, I would peer nervously into the mailbox, hoping that there was a big fat letter in there for me.  Then one day, two big, fat, official looking acceptance letters came.  It was like Christmas had come a couple of weeks early. I was beyond excited! I knew for sure that I had somewhere to go next year. What a relief.

December and January were filled with round two of applications, the holidays, and family.  A couple more acceptance letters came in, and I was excited to see how my hard work was paying off. In late January, my family took a trip to visit Baylor and Vanderbilt.  We all fell in love with Vanderbilt.  My sister said,” Might as well buy my sweatshirt now, cause this is where you are going.”  She made a bet with me before the trip, that for some reason I don’t recall making, but the bet said that if she called the school I ended up attending, I would have to buy her a sweatshirt. The school and the trip were perfect.  Well, except for the fact that it was 17 degrees the entire time we were there. (Side note: I have never been so thankful for the humidity and 60 degree weather that we had when we got back home). I was so excited to have found my number one school.

February brought more waiting, scholarship essays, more thinking, and a trip to University of Denver with my dad.  Denver was amazing.  My dad and I had a great time touring the campus and exploring the area around Denver.  It was such a nice opportunity to be able to go on a daddy daughter trip.  We were both impressed with the program that DU had, and especially a selective leadership program in which, if admitted, you live and take classes on leadership with a group of 65 other students, and in the end graduate with a minor in Leadership Studies.

 

April has been an interesting month.  I didn’t get into Vanderbilt and Brown, both of which I  was surprisingly okay with.  All throughout my college search and application process, both my parents and my prayer has been that God would guide me to where He wanted me.  Though it stung a little to get those first rejection letters, I decided to not look at them as rejection letters, but as God closing doors, so He can lead me to the right ones.  In the end of April, my mom, sister and I took a girls trip to tour my final two schools: Lewis and Clark College and University of Puget Sound.  We saw the schools, explored some state parks, and took in the sights of Washington and Oregon.

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I got to meet up with the track coach at Puget Sound to talk about the possibilities of running on his track team.  I went into the meeting expecting to be rejected politely because I am a JV level athlete.  Not exactly the kind of caliber that I assumed all college coaches would be looking for.  I was taken aback when he said that he doesn’t look at times for incoming freshman, all he requires is a good attitude and a willingness to put the effort into getting better.  He never asked for my marks and PRs.  And the team was so welcoming and just plain awesome.

By the end of the trip, I had narrowed my choices down to Denver and Puget Sound.  When I got home, I found out that I was wait listed for the leadership program at Denver and there was a technical difficulty with my application for the Honors program at Denver as well, so I wouldn’t know until after Commitment Day (May 1st) if I would be able to participate in those programs.

After some more research, prayer, deliberation, and lengthy conversations I decided last night on University of Puget Sound.  The funny thing about it is that, I applied to UPS last-minute because I thought the campus was pretty, had heard great things about it at a college fair for it and its sister schools, and they offered me a free application.  When I applied, I had no intention of actually attending.  I guess the pounds of mail, billions of emails, and the numerous phone calls each year are successful; they helped put Puget Sound on the radar for me, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

 

My Confession to the World

I have a confession. Well, its more like a giant secret that I have held in so long, so close to my heart, that my parents don’t even know it.  NO ONE knows it.  I have always been afraid to reveal it, because of what society might think. Who am I kidding, it’s not what they will think, it is what they WILL SAY.  We are so judgemental as society, and note I say we because I am totally included in this group.  Though I try to work on it, it just naturally happens; I see someone and instantly categorize them based off of what they look like.  It’s terrible.

Anyway, today I decided, I have had enough.  I will not hide part of who I am any longer.  So here it goes.

I want to be a plumber when I grow up.  There I said it.  I am just so fascinated by how all the pipes work together to deliver water to the various places in a house.  How could someone even be smart enough to think of all that?  And all the work in the dirt, mud, and water sounds right up my alley because I love the mud.  And guess what?  They only work when called and they get paid by the hour AND they get to charge whatever they want.  Combine all of those positives and you have the recipe for my dream job.

Now, I know what you were thinking.  Most people would think, “Okay, but why don’t you be a doctor or go to college first and then decide what you want to do?”  Watch the spoken word video, linked below.  If you are short on time,  just watch the first two and a half minutes or so, otherwise I highly recommend watching the entire video.  It is amazing and brings me to the verge of tears every time I watch it .

TED Shane Koyczan- To This Day

“If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself then get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer, because there is something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit” -one of my favorite quotes from the video

“They asked me what I wanted to be and then told me what not to be.”  This is the epitome of the state of our education system in America.  From day one of kindergarten, the expectation of the student is that they will grow up, go to high school, take a full load of AP classes, go to a prestigious college, and then become a doctor, engineer, or lawyer.  The driving force behind every class, lecture, presentation, and guidance appointment in high school is to prepare students for college.  Look even in recent news, and the Presidency is pushing for higher education(college of some type) for everyone.  The attitude that comes out of this is that it is absurd for someone not to go to college.  Completely absurd, in their minds.

Well, what happens when everyone starts going to college like society is encouraging and calling for?  Many things.  One, we lose people going into the job fields that don’t require a college degree, but still are necessary to keep society functioning.  For example, my dad doesn’t have a college degree.  Yet, he is a fire captain and has worked in the fire service for 17 years.  He is on a National Disaster Management Team and gets sent all over the Western United States to manage the resources(people and machines) when fires and other natural disasters occur.  He may not know how to help me with my AP Calculus homework, but he is one of the smartest people I know.  So, remind me why everyone MUST go to college?  So they can do well in the world? To that I ask what is the definition of doing well in the world, being happy, having money, or something else?  It all depends on the person, whom defines how well they are doing for themselves.

Second, if everyone goes to college, then does it not just become a continuation of high school, and the only way to be competitive in the job market will now be to get a Masters or a PhD?  It doesn’t make sense to encourage every student to go to college, putting themselves in debt, when every job does not require a college degree.

In my case, as I do not actually dream of being a plumber, I need to go to college to pursue a job in the field that I desire.  I hope to major in Biology with an emphasis on genetics, because, in my opinion, genetics is the medicine of the future.  Though I do not want to be a doctor, I do need to go to college in order to even have a chance of getting a job in genetics.

Simply put, we need to stop instilling in our kids that the only way to succeed in life is by going to college.  There are other ways to succeed, and we need to be open to them.  Some of the biggest advancements in our history have come from relatively “unschooled” people.  Maybe its time we stop focusing on standards, and believing that without school education is impossible, and realizing that school isn’t the be all end all that it’s often cracked up to be.  There are several ways to get to the one end that we all desire- a happy life.

Thirteen Memories and Fourteen Hopes

It’s 2014. Where has the time gone?  I don’t really know, if anyone could tell me where my time, especially my free time, has gone please, do tell. Amidst the busyness of the Christmas Season, before the New Year, I have started to sit down and reflect on the past year and hope for the new one.

I say hope for the new year for two reasons.  First, I don’t make resolutions because they are silly and end up getting broken by February (if you are lucky to make it that long).  Why would we want to put extra stress and pressure on ourselves by making these lofty “resolutions” only to be disappointed and lose self-confidence when we break them?  This might seem like a pessimistic view of resolutions, but it is not that I am against people deciding to make change in their lives.  Change is good and crucial to life, but it seems a little absurd for people to try to change ten things about themselves at once.  Why not focus on one thing at a time and not just starting at the beginning of a new year?  Yes, we can “turn a new leaf” with the new year, but let’s not be a new leaf for a month, then go stale, then next year turn another new leaf, and start the process over again.
This year I made a list of thirteen memories of 2013 and fourteen hopes and prayers for 2014.  It seemed like a doable thing this year, but if I make it a tradition, I’m going to have to get creative in 2045.  I had trouble remembering thirteen individual things that happened this past year, Lord help me if I have to come up with forty-five in 2045.
Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Memories and 14 Hopes and Prayers.
Thirteen Memories of 2013
~Seeing my sister get baptized
~Camping in Zion National Park and hiking Angel’s Landing
~ Spending thanksgiving with friends and family
~ Getting accepted to all 5 if the schools I applied to via early action
~ Passing down my legacy after finishing 4 years of cross-country
~ Going on my first missions trip ever, to build a house for a family in Mexico
~ Going to the beach Christmas morning with my family and doing hand stands on the shore
~ Attending my last high school summer camp with my church
~ Cheering on my best friends as they raced in both track and cross country
~ Riding quads with my dad
~ Learning to make pillowcases with my sister
~ Riding bicycles to the beach with my mom
~ Finishing a year-long daily bible study of the entire New Testament
14 Hopes and Prayers for 2014
~ To be quiet more often, listen to both the silence and people
~ A relatively easy transition for my family when I leave for school
~ Take more pictures
~ Less scheduling, more spontaneity
~ God’s direction in schools, majors, life in general
~ Calculus gets easier and makes more sense
~ More time for outdoor adventures
~ Wear sunscreen everyday (every fair-skinned person’s mental goal)
~ Remember my priorities by not stressing out about the little things in life that don’t matter
~ Finish reading the Old Testament
~ Read more classics
~ Discover a new hobby/passion
~ Go on another missions trip
~ Treasure every moment

Width of Influence is Nothing Without Depth

How would you spend your last days?  Though this can be perceived as a fairly morbid thought, like “I have 3 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes, and 54 seconds to live, how am I going to spend it?”  Or it can be an inspirational thought, a change inducing thought, one of great value, and one that can improve your life.

Busy is a DRUG

As human beings, we are always rushing to do something.  Rushing to pick the kids up from sports, cramming to study for that super important final, dashing off to the grocery store to pick up milk and cereal, always going, going, going.  I do this all the time.  I am always squishing everything I can into my schedule so that between school, cross-country/track, church, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes; I have no time.  I relish the days where I am so physically worn down that it is impossible for me to do anything except stay at home and spend time with my family.  I don’t like these days because I like to be sick, I like them because they are a break from the grind I put myself through every day, day after day.  I know you are thinking, “Why don’t you just stop?  Why don’t you just do less?”  Let me ask you to examine your life and your schedule.  Does it look that much different from mine?  I’m betting that it doesn’t.

I really like this video.  It brings up so many thoughts and questions to ponder.  Most of all, this video propels me to answer the question.  How would I spend my last days?  Since I don’t know how many days I have left, just like every other person on Earth, I think about this question in terms of how I will be remembered.  In my lifetime, I want to have meaningful experiences, influence people for the better, and show people that they are loved.  I want to make a difference.  Now I know, that is so cliché.  But bear with me.

If my goal is to influence and make a difference in people’s lives, what am I doing to pursue my goal?  Most of the time, the answer is nothing, really.  I don’t have profound conversations with every person I meet, I don’t appreciate the people around me enough, I don’t listen.  I am a selfish person and 99.9% of the time the world seems to revolve around me.  Is that what I want to be remembered for? Not at all.

I need to STOP going.  I need to embrace interactions, relationships, and people.  I need to realize that making a difference is going to be about the small things, not the big ones.  I need to re-examine my life, look at all the things I do, and think, “Is this helping me influence the people involved?  Am I making a difference here?  Or am I spreading myself too thin, so that I am unable to build meaningful relationships with the people I am around because I am to busy to stop and chat as I am running to the next event?”

The width of one’s influence is nothing without depth.  If I can’t be more that mere “Facebook” level friends with the people I am around, I will be doing less.  My schedule, from this point on, is going to be filled with more free time.  I’m not going to stop doing, I’m simply going to stop going and going. I am going to leave more time for family, friends, and building relationships with people.  I’m going to live as if I was dying because that is the first step to achieving my mission of influencing and making a difference in other people’s lives.

What about you?  How would you spend your last days? What do you want to be remembered by? It would be totally awesome if I had people join me on my mission to have an impact on the world by going from selfishness to selflessness.  Leave a comment or send me an email, let’s influence the world together.

busy-quote

An Open Letter to the Class of 2014

I don’t reblog a ton, but I stumbled upon this just after I submitted my early action applications and couldn’t help but reblog it.

“To the Class of 2014:

It’s been real.

Three years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and I have no doubt that the fourth will go by just as quickly. In fact, November is fast approaching, and it will be gone before we know it. For those of us who have November deadlines, time seems to be working at an even faster pace. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it. Thousands of people have gone before us, and they’ve all gone though it. If they can do it, we, the Class of 2014, will surely be able to do it as well.

But while you’re in the midst of this process, a question that you’ve probably been asking yourself is, “What have I actually done in high school?” The college application season is tough, but the added possibility of feeling less than great when evaluating your accomplishments against those of your peers makes it all the more stressful. To that, I say let it be. You are who you are, and who you are is the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

So what if you never started a club during your time in high school? If you were never a star varsity athlete? If you were never captain of your Mock Trial team? If you were never Prom King or Queen? If you were never that popular person on ASB? Be content with who you are. These past four years have been an experiment in learning, in socializing, and discovering who you are. Take what’s been given to you, and go with it.

The next four years after high school will be an experiment as equally challenging as that AP Chem lab where you would always get 1000% for your percent error, as equally challenging as that AP Physics test that you tried so hard to ace, but you just couldn’t do it. But unlike those labs and tests, it will be fun. Embrace what you have, don’t let it be a hindrance to what you can be. Remember this: the sum of your mistakes is not greater than the potential of your future.

We live in a world that’s driven by success. Success in academics, success in athletics, success in career, success in wealth, success in anything, really. It’s hard to not get caught up in this pursuit of success. However, always remember that your success can only be measured by yourself. The choices that you make, the possibilities that you pursue, the results that you obtain, they are all driven by what you, and you yourself, have chosen to do. Do what you want; don’t let others tell you what to do.

Some of us will go down in history, whether as politicians, actors, businessmen, criminals, or just as overall outstanding individuals. Most of us will not. Most of us will strive to be great, to be successful, to be known, but most of us will fall short of that. But once again, be content.

Be content in who you are, but be proud of this amazing group that you come from. You are greater, you are stronger, you are better than you think. You are the Class of 2014.”

via An Open Letter to the Class of 2014.

When I first looked at the Common Application, I thought “Oh no. I am never going to get into college. I have not done ten different activities plus community service and I most certainly do not have numerous academic awards.”  Then as I sat down and looked at my résumé and thought about all the amazing things I have done in my life, it dawned on me.  Colleges need a variety of students to create the “diverse campus” that they all brag about.  Colleges can’t only accept the people who do every activity possible, because though they would have an involved student body, everything would be half done because the people involved are stretching themselves so thin.  They need the athletes, the nerds, the social butterflies, the musicians, the quiet thinkers, the teachers pets, the volunteers, and the categories keep going on and on.  Whatever category I fit in to, a college would want me to add to their community of students.  I realized that I just needed to be proud of what I had accomplished and let that shine through in my application.  I needed to capitalize on what makes me unique.  Once I found the passions and uniqueness that I wanted to highlight, the applications became so much easier.  Good luck Class of 2014, and don’t stress out too much, because it will all work out in the end.  You will find a way to be happy wherever you end up going.