5 Things I Wish I Knew Before College…

Confessions of a 12-year Undergrad

5) You are going to fail at something…

It was 2005. I just started my junior year at SIUC after transferring from a local community college. That is as romantic and dramatic as it gets. I failed, and failed hard. I tried to hang on and could not do it. There are a million things that I am not skilled in, but I failed something I loved, and it deflated my self-esteem.

Maybe I am not “smart enough” to be a psychiatrist. We simply are not born with a finite degree of intelligence. We are malleable and moldable creatures with potential. Through changes of major and a complete career change, I never became “smarter”, but I have become a more competent student.

4) Everyone questions their life choices around midterm…

I remember when I shower cried over math. Every term led to some deep introspection about my life choices. I considered dropping out more than once. I stopped out more-than-once. Do I need to keep trying? Why am I trying? What else can I be good at? Are there enough points left to save my grade? All of it.

Students face this crunch in cycle. I have seen it happen. When you feel all alone and on the edge of failure, reach out. You are not in it all by yourself and no one wants to see you throw it away.

Side note: Study! With an open book now an then. It helps!

3) What you learn outside of the classroom is just as important as what you learn inside of it…

I spent several years as loosely engaged as I could manage with my campus and the strangers on it. I spent just as much time keeping my academic life separate from everything else.

It’s Thanksgiving and you have a plate full of food, but you are the type that does not want anything to touch. You have to spend more time consuming the structure and dynamics  of your plate that you can’t enjoying what is offered. Hopefully, you figure out that the turkey tastes good with the gravy on your potatoes, that cranberry sauce is amazing with the turkey, and the gravy can go just about anywhere with no complaints. (I am still clean eating! This illustration is fantasy as much as anything right now!!)

I was in graduate school before I figured out that engaging with my campus was beneficial and that there were a plethora of opportunities for growth supported by a world of people that literally only want to see students succeed. I spent a lot of time figuring out that my life inside and outside of academia was symbiotic. One feeds the other and vice versa. What you learn inside the classroom is just as important as what you learn outside of it.

2) Success takes time…

A lot of it. There is no race against anyone else. What you offer cannot be duplicated. Chill. End of story.

1) Do not mistake confidence for competence…


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