Rethink Yourself

Questions College Asks

College is your first chance at true independence. But you probably know that already. What you may not know is that there are the huge, ambiguous, hard-to-answer questions you'll face during your college years.

Chances are you've already heard echoes of these questions already. Older people have probably asked you things like, "What are you plans after graduation?" or, "What do you want to study?" You might have some responses ready, but in truth, these questions can get pretty annoying. You may wonder why they're so curious about you and your future.

It's because they know what's in store for you.

They know the opportunities you have ahead of you and they vividly remember what it's like to be in your shoes—nervous, excited, confused, eager. That feeling you get when you have so many choices.

It can be overwhelming. You may not know exactly what to do with it all. This situation reminds us of one of the sculptures on campus, Torn Notebook by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (just one of many world-class sculptures that are part of Sheldon Museum of Art's collection).

Torn Notebook represents the creative process the husband and wife duo used to make art. They would write down their ideas, feelings, anything that came to mind, then tear out the pages they liked and rip up the rest of the notebook.

The most important part: they couldn't get to those final torn-out pages without first filling out the whole notebook.

This is how you will answer the tough questions that come with your college years. You'll fill up notebooks upon notebooks with potential answers, experiences, thoughts, experiments, and leaps of faith. The more your write, the better your final pages will be.

So grab a pen. Let's get started.

Who are you?

College is a completely new and unique environment. You're away from home for the first time surrounded by thousands of people around the same age. Chances are you don't know many of them—maybe a handful at best. No one knows who you were up to this point. Few will care. And that's about as clean a slate as you can get.

What are you doing?

But with such a clean slate, what will you decide to do? You'll have to commit to something—a club to join, a major to pursue, a concert to attend. After all, what you do in college will affect the rest of your life. Some things you decide to do will be deliberate, like a six-hour study marathon, others will be more impulsive, like plucking up the courage to sit next to your crush in stats class. Even the smallest everyday decisions will have ripples throughout the rest of your life. And that's not meant to scare you. In fact, just the opposite. Never again in your life will you have the freedom to do so many amazing, life-changing things. So relax, take a deep breath and dive right in.

Who's with you?

Not everyone is like you. Not everyone is like your high school classmates. Not everyone is like the people in your town. There will be people from all over the world and all walks of life within a couple block radius of your residence hall room—and they're all in the same boat as you. They're trying to answer these four questions for themselves. As you grow together, you'll find people who share your interests and opinions and people who challenge them. They'll all bring great things into your life and you'll bring great things into theirs. These will be some of the greatest friends you make—the experiences you have together and the heights you push each other to reach will create a bond that you will not be able to make at any other point in your lives.

Who will you be?

The answer to this question will be found as you walk across the stage to receive your diploma. Your notebooks will be full to the brim by then. You'll have written as many drafts as you could, because that is what college provides: a space to safely explore your potential, grow into yourself, and fill out those notebooks. The most valuable lessons you gain from college will be about yourself. Those will be the pages to tear out and keep. They'll be present for the rest of your life as you build a career and start to change the world. That's what all those nagging adults with their questions about your future look forward to seeing. They want a glimpse at the success you'll become. And so do we, to be honest.

Until then, keep filling out your notebook. You never know what those final pages will say.