The Crusader Online

September 13, 2013
Vol. 55 No. 2

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Student leaves 'small pond'

The high school experience is typically remembered positively largely due to the "big fish, small pond" status. You may be an Advanced Placement student, the school senate president or the high school quarterback, but that bliss is bound to the pre-grad position. And then comes June, when gears shift to the workforce, military, or, like us, we forfeit our big fish status to experience a university education. That's a huge shock in terms of status, flopping from bass to bottom-dweller, and not all of us maneuver the transition so well. It's tough. We're creatures of consistency, and sacrificing that spot on the food chain you've comfortably inhabited for the first 18 years of your life seems almost stupid when you think about it. Not to mention that this time comes just months after your signature gains exclusive power on legal documents.
A lot of us here were A-listers for a class, hobby, sport or community and this big pond can be a lot to tred. Suddenly As are Bs, homework doesn't fit in between classes, you need both hands for practice and your BFF can't help you win class president. Your social network has to be built from scratch. Your parents aren't telling you what to do, or if they are, they can't enforce it, and you don't even know what you want to do with your life yet.
Frequently it feels like an ambush. Even as mere college freshmen, we feel pressured to make a quick and concrete decision on a major, and it's easy to slip into your high school high-tops It takes a conscious effort to realize the opportunity you have here. After all, the point of college is competition-to be challenged-because challenge is the most frequent mechanism of change. It's not always so easy to see at first, but every interaction you have is an opportunity to shape yourself and what others think of you. This formula gets raised to a second power when no one on campus knows you yet. The only marker people have to judge you by initially is your appearance or your Facebook page. And although we are biologically wired to use such schemas and make inferences, we do have the opportunity to consciously decide how much of that schema we really want to follow.
But appearance schemas aren't the only set of mental maps that are tested over our collegiate careers. Most of us can probably recall facing more complicated questions-is truth or happiness more important? Is it ever okay to cheat? Only by challenging yourself physically, emotionally and/or mentally can we develop as people.
Now not everyone on campus necessarily faces all these challenges in college. Some high school sports stars are still college sports stars, some high school 4.0s still effortlessly get the college 4.0 and maybe your freshmen year roommate is still the same egotistical jerk, but I believe it's the people who do get challenged and make it a priority to challenge themselves who are the luckiest ones of all.
We learn how to solve problems, develop who we are, who we want to be and realize what we're capable of. There's nothing more impressive or useful than being able to adapt during challenges because if you haven't confronted a change or a challenge yet, you're bound to hit it after your four years.

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