It doesn’t feel like so long ago that I spent my first few hours at Drexel University holed up in my room because I was too afraid and awkward to venture out and meet new people. But when I look back at the past four years, I realize just how much I’ve grown. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things is the most important thing you can do in college. You’re not here at Drexel to close yourself off from everyone and spend all your time hanging out by yourself. Do yourself a favor and explore the student organizations that interest you, find a group of people that you click with and start working towards the goals you want to achieve. Even just stepping outside your room and chatting with your new neighbors will make a world of difference. They are the people you’re going to be spending the next year with, after all.
In addition to that, don’t be afraid to admit that the degree program you picked coming into Drexel isn’t right for you. I spent way too long in a major that I didn’t enjoy solely because I didn’t want to seem like I failed myself by quitting. Talk to your advisor, talk to your professors or department head — find a program that’s right for you and pursue it. It’s OK to change your mind and Drexel has the tools for you to do that. If you think you want to explore other options, do it sooner rather than later by talking with your advisor on how you can effectively explore other studies.
Just like most students matriculating into college I was very eager to take on every challenge I could lay my hands on. I was intrigued by many things and was in the company of people who seemed to be extremely driven to make the most of every waking minute in service of their careers. My colleagues were jumping at research, volunteering and employment opportunities. I felt left behind and overwhelmed until I expressed this concern to my pre-professional advisor. Her counsel remained ingrained in my mind throughout my college career and is perhaps one of the reasons I stayed sane. Seeing as a college career is four or five years long, there will be reasonable time to accomplish most of what one aspires to do. Therefore, there is no reason to rush to take on everything and be mediocre at it all. Rather, take all things in stride and immerse yourself fully in a few valuable experiences. Simply put, quality is better than quantity.
When I started college I was also excited about the prospect of being independent. This college campus offered many of the luxuries of being on my own and I reveled in it. However, I never really understood the value of independence until I took a co-op that paid me just enough to survive through paying my bills and buying food, as opposed to taking a less appealing job and living under my dad’s roof. I had to learn how to accept the cost of good things, and to be responsible for all my decisions. Your college years will be a time to develop into your own, and it will be hard. However, all the challenges you face through college ought to be approached patiently because once the pressure is relieved you will be grateful you were bred in hardship.
To all incoming students, welcome and congratulations! In the next few years of your life at Drexel, you should keep a few things in mind. One, stay true to yourself. Identify and start critically assessing your values. You’re about to grow into an adult, and I promise that it’ll sneak up on you. The decisions you make in the next few years will have a real impact on your life. As you approach them, know who you are. What do you value? What kind of person do you want to be in this world? What do you want to get out of college? Ask yourself these difficult questions again and again, because as you grow, the answers might change. As long as you keep your values in mind, though, you’ll be proud of the person you become.
Two, be active in student life. One of the best things you can do for yourself in college is build your community. Drexel is so fast-paced that it’s easy to lose time for activities we care about outside of academics. Try to find student organizations, events, workshops, community events or volunteer opportunities that help you stay connected to your passions. Being part of a club that lets you dedicate time to activities that keep you happy will help you center and refocus positive energy in your life when everything academic seems overwhelming. Your mental health is so important, and you’ll need to learn how to take responsibility for nurturing your happiness while balancing a busy class schedule. Take it from me that being involved in student life will certainly make this easier.
Best of luck, baby dragons! You’ve got this. I promise.