First things first, congrats on getting into Binghamton University!
I’ll admit BU may have been one of my top choices, but it wasn’t exactly my dream school. I had originally planned on attending Tisch School of the Arts at New York University to study acting and directing, but when life took me in a different direction, I became determined to make the most out of BU. And as someone who’s dealt with all the mental health issues that more often than not coincide with college, I hate to be that person who just parrots “It’s all about your attitude,” but that statement isn’t entirely wrong. You get out of college what you put into it.
I’m in the pretty unique position of being a living example that you can make so much more work for you in college than you think. I’m a double-major (hopefully dual degree come next year) in diametrically opposed disciplines, I’m involved in a little too much on campus and I have still somewhat managed to do well (enough) in my classes. Have I overworked myself at times? Yes. Had that inevitable breakdown come finals week? Absolutely. Faced unnecessary drama? Of course. Would I change a thing about my life as of now? Nope. I’m beyond busy, but going out of my way to find joy in what I do is what keeps me sane.
I think college can perpetuate a culture of suffering with too much work. If you’re not spending hours in the library cramming, you’re lazy. If you’re consistently happy, you’re clearly doing something wrong. There’s this strange superiority those with more “traditionally hard” majors feel toward those considered “easy.” That’s all beyond wrong. Being away from your family and dealing with this newfound independence is terrifying, but it also means you are in charge of your experiences.
Choose your field of study not just based on what’ll make you money down the line, but based on what makes you feel whole as a person. Choose your activities the same way, even if they’re completely opposite to your major. Design your schedule based on what makes you happy, and walk away from things that disappoint you. Apply for opportunities that you feel unqualified for! Try to build a bridge with that established professor who intimidates you! Sit in on a class that you think is cool! Take a break from studying to see friends! Fear is so temporary and even if things don’t work out, that’s one more thing you can cross off your list. College is a time for risks and mistakes; you wouldn’t believe the stories you’ll make by doing what makes you happy.
My other big piece of advice: Don’t be scared of being a pain in the ass. Be persistent! I know you might be scared of annoying people, but calling an office about a job opportunity or reminding a professor you admire about research will be something less painful to look back on than a missed chance.
So don’t be scared of being busy, and definitely don’t be scared of prioritizing your happiness in college. My mom always says, “Sometimes you need to look at all your options, determine which is the most selfish and then do it.” This is your time to try and shape a path for yourself, so don’t be scared of the power you have over your own life — it’s greater than you think. College has the potential to be whatever you want to make it, and you’re the person who can make it great.
Elizabeth Short is a sophomore double-majoring in biology and English.