The Challenge of College - What might I gain?
College is a journey (actually multiple parallel journeys) that occurs between high school and taking up your life’s work or vocation. In our society, attending college marks one possible transition into the working world of adults. College can be an amazing time where you change and grow, discover what matters to you, and determine what kind of adult you wish to become.
Most students start college filled with apprehension. That’s a natural response to facing the unknown. Approaching college with curiosity, energy, the drive to become excellent and the ability to be patient with yourself (and others) is a plus. By considering the road ahead as a series of complex and intertwined paths, you can begin college in a forward-looking, intentional way, rather than becoming a “victim” of your experience.
Here’s one summary of the multiple journeys of college:
A journey to new physical space:
- Living away from home, setting up your personal space
- Learning about meals, laundry and living in a residence hall
- Interacting with a roommate and fellow classmates
- Discovering what you need to live on your own and become “your own person”
A journey toward independence in thought:
- Developing into an independent thinker, and a continual (lifetime) learner
- Becoming a critical thinker able to integrate multiple facts at deep levels
- Gaining new knowledge, skills and the application of those skills
- Increasing responsibility for every aspect of your life
- “Owning your dreams” and planning how to get what you want
- Developing achievable goals in multiple aspects of your life
A journey toward a more accurate understanding of self:
- Assessing what attitudes and behaviors you hold, and how they guide your actions
- Moving from “all opinions are equal” to developing supportable informed positions
- Developing a broader perspective on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
- Deciding how you will take your skills and talents into the world
A journey toward a better understanding of others:
- Understanding what we all have in common
- Respecting diversity in all its amazing shapes and forms
- Working to become a citizen of the world
- Choosing how you will help the world become a better place
Each of us comes to college with a unique assortment of dreams, skills and attitudes. Talking about the challenges of college helps you clarify where you are in the process of growth and development. Learning multiple strategies (guiding overviews) and tactics (individual actions) that others have used to achieve their goals can help you decide how to chart a path based on your individual strengths. Hearing about the journey of others ahead of you (upper-level students, faculty, and staff) allows you to see there are many possible paths to the future you envision for yourself.
If you make a commitment to learn all you can (both inside and outside of class), to question all you can (in order to see deeply into the structure and attitudes that surround us all), to dream all you can so your life is rich with possibilities, and to do all you can to “grow into your new skin,” college will be a transformative experience you will remember for the rest of your life.
The Alma Experience provides scaffolding to support learning and growth, guided practice to develop skills, a safe environment for intellectual risk-taking, and people with perspective to help you evaluate just how far you’ve come along your journey.
The changes ahead may seem overwhelming but remember it’s a four-year (or so) saga filled with both discovery and rewards. You aren’t facing it alone. You’ll have your family, new friends, faculty, staff, and advisors cheering you on! And the old saying is true: it’s the journey, and not (just) the destination, that matters.