Too often those of us, removed from our undergraduate life, proffer “advice” to younger students in order to make their path less ominous, more satisfying. And while much of that kind of advice giving can be either insanely self-serving or inanely illuminating, I wonder, what advice would you give to yourself as a new student?
That question, with the gift of chronology and life lessons, can prove valuable indeed.
Here are a few that I would have posed to myself, had I had the sense and courage to do so:
1. Why are you in such and all-fired hurry to “finish” the degree? Can you not take the extra literature class and learn about the influence of Shakespeare on great American writers? What about the extra biology course that teaches you “green” before you ever knew it was a word? Take time to smell the curriculum.
2. Seek others and listen to their stories. We all know that storytelling is a mightily powerful tool, and to not engage in authentic storytelling is a HUGE missed learning opportunity.
3. Explore the world. Take the semester off and go to Europe. Better yet, enroll in a course that provides the benefit of adding depth to the transcript. Had I traveled abroad as a young student, my world would have been exponentially richer and more rewarding.
4. Acquire the thirst for learning. About everything. If social science is your affinity, discover the world of science and math; if learning about keeping your body fit is not your cup of tea, try a new genre like yoga or tai chi.
5. Find your confidence gene. As a shy freshman, I had no idea how to make friends, mingle in a crowd, or have a firm handshake. And while those may seem minor life skills, from my experience,they say so much about a person.
6. Know that you don’t know it all. This act of humility is also an act of curiosity. Faculty know more than just their content; they know many of the insights to navigating life.