Letter Home: College 101: building yourself from the ground up

Letter Home: College 101: building yourself from the ground up

Kristin Lam, Class of 2015

If nothing else, college has taught me one thing so far: I definitely had a romanticized idea of what my first semester experience would be like. I thought it would be this amazing, fresh start at a school I was absolutely in love with in every way. Instead, the beginning was not magnificent and did not take place at one of my dream schools.

I was forced to come to terms with the latter part starting when college admissions decisions rolled in last spring. Initially I really struggled with the crushing feeling of not being good enough; I was rejected by three out of the four colleges I applied to. I tried to put a positive spin on it but felt dejected and frustrated. And it sucked. A lot.

Life continued on though, and I realized several doors of opportunities and possibilities opened in place of the ones that closed. Many alternate paths after high school exist despite how we often get our minds set on an ideal path. Wherever the starting point is – a UC, CSU, private, community college, the military – things work out and it’s possible to make the best of it.

Of course, I’m not saying that beginning and adjusting to that ‘new chapter” of life is effortless. At Bear Creek there is a great sense of belonging and familiarity within multiple circles. Friends, teachers, clubs and sports are just a few of the faces and activities we become accustomed to over four years. Reputations of some sort are built because the student body is only so large. At a college campus with a population of over 30,000, however, it’s easy to feel lost and like nobody special in a sea of strangers.

Building myself from the ground up again seemed to be a daunting task. After knowing everyone’s name in the spaces I was involved in during high school, checking out club meetings and practices where I knew absolutely no one was nerve-racking. And somedays when I was stereotyped as nothing but a shy, quiet Asian girl, my shoulders curved forward and self-confidence levels ebbed away. Still, I kept pushing myself to put myself out there. I think I’ve found my niches, and I know now how great an opportunity the first semester is, despite its challenges.

College truly is a chance for exploration. Since less academically rigorous general ed requirements generally fill first semesters, there is a lot of time to try things out. Getting into activities, programs, and subjects that were not previously accessible is crazy exciting. Being inexperienced or less knowledgeable or skilled just means that there is so much learning and growth potential in the area. But it’s okay if a new thing isn’t a good fit; you’re not obligated to stick with it to prove a point. And you don’t have to feel pressured to continue something just because it was a major part of your life before. It’s okay to let go; you’re not confined or defined by the things you associated yourself with in the past.

College really can be a time where you work on finding yourself and becoming the person you want to be. Whether that means embracing aspects of identity that were kept in the closet or developing passions and aspirations, supportive people and welcoming communities are out there to help along the way.

Everything does not fall into place immediately or without some effort, but college can be great. For now, enjoy high school because it isn’t such a bad place to be. You might even miss it.