So it is the middle of July and I am sitting in the lobby of Mason Hall all alone. You may ask, why am I alone? Well, because it is a Saturday. You then may ask, what am I doing at work on a Saturday in the summer? Well, because today was my day to run the Hopkins Preview event for visiting prospective students. You may then finally ask, why don’t I just go home after the event is over? And my response is why are you asking questions of a blog? Just kidding. I am actually currently waiting for our 20 or so tours to get back and want to be available in case any of our visitors have final questions.
As I sit here in the quiet confines of Mason Hall I am pondering the calendar, the events of the last couple of months, and what lies ahead. See for me in my twelfth year of adhering to the abnormal calendar of college admissions, my summers have always been split into two. The first half of the summer begins pretty much right after we have finalized the enrolling freshman class in early May and runs through the middle of July. I take a lot of vacation during this time and when I am in the office I tend to procrastinate a bit too much. So far this summer I have taken two extended vacations to see family, one to Paradise Island in the Bahamas and then a second time to the Florida Space Coast. I also have spent many hours in the office watching sports on ESPN3.com … the World Cup, U.S. Open golf, Wimbledon, and now the British Open. And oh yeah, I do occasionally get some actual work done.
The second half of the summer is when I plan, and for this year that period will begin in earnest next week. I will plan my fall travel in New England. I will plan the consortium travel I will be doing in New England with representatives from Northwestern University, the University of Virginia, and the University of California, Berkeley. I will work with colleagues from UVa and MIT on an educational session regarding the use of social media in college admissions which we will collectively present at the NACAC National Conference in St. Louis. I will work with returning members of the Student Admissions Advisory Board (SAAB) planning the big projects for Hopkins Interactive in the coming year. And I will work on some other exciting projects that I will keep under wraps until the big reveal in the coming months. Basically, during the second half of the summer I only take a couple of mini-vacations, I cut the procrastinating by 75%, and get organized and prepared for the coming admissions and recruitment cycle.
The true representation of the break in my two summers is when I realize I have to turn the proverbial page and close the book on the Johns Hopkins Class of 2014 as it relates to topics on this blog. For the last 12-18 months the primary audience I have directed blog entries to has been the prospective, admitted, and ultimately enrolling members of the JHU Class of 2014. But as the admissions calendar turns to a new cycle, it is time the blog goes in a new direction and begins to address new audience, namely the prospective students for the JHU Class of 2015 and beyond.
But before the next phase of the Hopkins Insider begins, I have one more entry that I want to dedicate to the Class of 2014. This entry does not look back, does not report statistics, and does not provide any important updates. Rather this blog is in the style of an advice blog, my favorite kind of entry to compose. Below I present to all students entering college as the Class of 2014, whether it is at Hopkins or somewhere else, AdmissionsDaniel’s top ten bucket list items to get the most out of one’s college years.
— To be continued —
O.K. truth be told, I started writing this blog this past Saturday but then got distracted as the tours got back and I had a ton of questions to answer. Then I went home and fell asleep. Then I went to see Inception on Sunday and well my mind has been filled with theories on that film for the past few days. Now it is Thursday evening and I just finished enjoying So You Think You Can Dance. I am not tired for some reason, so I decided to finish this blog.
So where was I? Oh right, my bucket list of advice items to get the most out of one’s college years. It is over 13 years since I graduated college and for nearly all those years I have been witness to thousands of students going through the motions of the undergraduate experience. Though in no way do I consider myself an expert on this topic, I do feel that my experiences and observations do make me somewhat knowledgeable on this subject. So without further adieu, here is my advice to the incoming members of the Class of 2014, to help make the next four years of your life the most enjoyable, dynamic, memorable, and worthwhile.
1. Be Worldly
No matter what your future plans entail, gaining international experiences will benefit you. Every student I have known that has studied abroad raves about the experience and are better students for it. With the chance to study during the traditional academic year, as well as during summer and winter breaks, there are no excuses for not gaining a world perspective to your undergraduate education. And don’t stop with just studying abroad. Everyone should strongly consider pursuing foreign language classes, as well as cultural studies courses.
2. Explore a New Subject Every Semester
The biggest mistake I made in my undergraduate years was failing to explore the vast majority of subjects, majors, and classes offered to me. If I could go back and do it all over again I would make it a rule that I took one class every semester from a brand new subject area. Just look at the variety of classes offered to you: Cognitive Science, Biophysics, Anthropology, English, Applied Mathematics, East Asian Studies, Sociology, and so on. There is true value in an interdisciplinary approach to your education and truth be told, your undergraduate years is really the only time in your educational history you will have the chance to explore. Who knows, you may find a new field of interest and something you may end up minoring or majoring in.
3. Journal Your Experiences
I know suggesting to a college student to add another writing assignment to their daily agenda may seem a bit sadistic. However, take my advice; you will truly appreciate keeping a journal of your college years to reflect on in 10, 20, 30 plus years. These will be some of the best years of your life and they will go by so quickly. More importantly, your beliefs and opinions will change frequently during these years, and jotting down your thoughts regularly will be both cathartic and stimulating. Oh yeah, and I recommend this be a private journal, one in which you are honest with your emotions. This is not an assignment of tracking your Facebook statuses or some live blog journal that anyone can access. This is for your eyes only – an experiment in learning more about yourself during the most self-educating time of your life.
4. Do Not Judge a Book by Its Cover
This relates to so many things. Don’t be so quick to judge the faculty, the classes, and the academic challenges. Don’t be so quick to judge your peers, your acquaintances, and your roommates. Don’t be so quick to judge extracurricular activities, campus events, and city-wide opportunities. Having an open-mind and spending time experiencing all that crosses your path before making ultimate decisions will benefit you greatly. You may think that Economics is the most boring subject matter ever, and then later realize that the knowledge gained in Econ classes is applicable to so many other fields. You may think the Quidditch team is filled with socially-awkward geeks, and then find your best friends while chasing the Snitch. You may think that Baltimore is too dangerous a city to explore, and then have the time of your life in Fell’s Point during the Halloween parade. Take chances.
5. Get Involved and Give Back
Allow me to let you in a little secret; college is not just about learning in a classroom. Shhhhhhh. Don’t share this with others. A good part of your “learning” during college happens outside the classroom and occurs in your extracurricular life. Don’t lock yourself in the library for four years; you absolutely will be wasting the chance of a lifetime if you do so. Get involved. Pursue your passions or develop new ones. Try out for the Freshman One Acts. Write an editorial for the JHU News-letter. Join an intramural team. Go to a concert at Peabody. Attend events put on by the HOP. Consider rushing, or find another social network through any of the 300+ activities available to you. And while pursuing your passions, don’t forget to give back to the Homewood and Baltimore communities that you will be taking so much from. Stop by the Center for Social Concern and learn of the myriad of ways you can get involved with service. There is something for everyone … don’t be lazy because you will absolutely regret it.
6. Have Fun, Your Way
In high school you are educated about peer pressure and to avoid it every turn. Well in college there is just an assumption that you have learned to not fall into the patterns of others and establish clique mentalities. However, it can be easy to just fall into a crowd and ignore you own personal proclivities. Don’t do that. Make sure you don’t do that. It is your college experience, and live it by doing what you personally want. Explore the things that you find most interesting. Pursue you own passions. And at every turn remember to HAVE FUN. Having fun should be a core principle of your entire collegiate experience.
7. Use All the Resources Available to You
As an incoming freshman you are probably super excited to use all the resources and take advantage of the opportunities available to you. But as you progress through your first year and on to subsequent years you will begin to forget about everything that is out there for you. It is natural to forget, but I advise you to fight it as much as possible. Make sure to remind yourself to use the Career Center, the Study Abroad office, your Academic Advisor, faculty office hours, the Counseling Center, the Office of Student Life, the Center for Social Concern, the Interfaith Center, the Athletic facilities, and everything else in between. If need be, hide post-it note reminders in your day planner or add them to your bulletin board to remind you to continue to explore the avenues in front of you.
8. Don’t Fall Into Routines
This is another easy thing to do after the excitement of the start of your freshman year wears off. Once you are knee deep in your classes and activities, it is easy to fall into a daily routine and forget to explore new things. I challenge you to make a pact with yourself to try something new at least once a month, and continue this throughout all four years of college. Something new can be anything and everything: go to the general body meeting of a new club, go hear a speaker, explore a new restaurant, go to a concert or theater production, go to a sporting event that doesn’t turn out many fans, try a new route for your jog, go to an interesting professor’s office hours, volunteer, skip to class rather than walk. Just keep changing things up.
9. Be Flexible
Of all the items on this list this is the one I wish someone had told me before I went to college. When I arrived in college I knew I had enjoyed studying history and that my interest was in political science. So that is what I studied, every semester, every chance I had. Even in my sophomore year when I realized I really didn’t enjoy the subject matter, I still stuck with it. I stuck with it all the way through graduation. And now my entire professional career has been in education though I took zero education classes. I loved a sociology class I took as a freshman but I never pursued any more classes in that subject. I enjoyed film and architecture electives but only took a handful. Basically, my academic plan was a linear Point A to Point B strategy. No diversions. No flexibility. And oh was that a bad decision. Be open to new avenues, new directions, new concepts, and new options. Do not close any doors. You may start at Point A and end up Point B ultimately, but your path should have numerous twist and turns.
10. Accept the Fact That You Will Makes Mistakes
OK, yes you are all perfect, you are all amazing, you are all brilliant, and you all will never have missteps in college. Yeah right! Some of that may have been true as you dominated your way through high school, but everyone, and yes I mean EVERYONE, will make mistakes and possible even fail at something (or multiple things) while in college. Be ready for this, and realize that rebounding from a mistake or a failure makes you ultimately a much stronger individual. You will get a bad grade occasionally, you will argue with your roommates, you will have conflicts with a faculty member, you will miss a deadline, and you will face struggles. It is accepting these difficulties, embracing the experiences, and coming back stronger that will define you.
I could elaborate so much more on each of these points, and probably come up with ten more ideas. However, I want to keep these thoughts a bit unfinished so you all can interpret them your own way. Make your own bucket list and stick to it over the years. Add new items as you move along and enjoy fully crossing off items as you complete them. Simply put, make the most of these years … don’t form regrets by letting time fly by, because it will.