By Liem Ho
Everyone has been told at some point in his or her life that “we learn from our mistakes”. While many believe that students enroll in college, attend classes, and complete required assignments, getting an education is more than simply completing degree requirements—it is recognizing and learning from the mistakes made that allow students to truly grow. As a result, in an effort to help enhance the college experience beyond the academic level, here are four questions students should ask themselves throughout the course of the year, and answer after final exams. The responses may be tentative and change drastically over the years as many college students, especially those with no prior work experience, may change their mind after taking certain classes or having certain experiences. However, it is important to reflect upon these experiences as they are ultimately what make the modern collegiate experience a rite of passage—not just academically, but also personally.
How did you do this semester? When asked this question, many may be quick to assume that this means academic performance. While grades and GPA are important, semester performance goes beyond academics. Physical health, mental health, and professional development are other important personal aspects that need to be considered too. A stellar GPA may only be necessary to get to the next step in professional or academic development, whereas consequences involving physical or mental health may last a lifetime.
What can you do to make next the next semester better? There always can be improvements made to semester performance. Tactics and personal habits can be developed to enhance performance the following semester. For example, in terms of staying on top of assignments or being organized, buying a notebook and making to-do lists or creating a structured schedule helps ensure that things get done. Large dry erase calendars can also be used to track deadlines. There are many simple tools that can be used to help stay organized and keep in check with assignments. In terms of mental health, perhaps finding a support group or making an appointment with the counseling center for routine appointments may be a step in the right direction. Overall, addressing personal problems or causes for setback in the previous semester and making an effort to resolve and prevent them will make the next semester better.
Where do you want to see yourself 5 years from now? Idealizing, or being considerate of the future is important because it gives all occurrences in the present a form of context and a sense of purpose. While a definitive answer to everything is not necessary, it is also important to not avoid thinking about the future as ultimately, the time and money invested in college will go towards personal growth and professional development. The proper departing steps must be taken in order to arrive at a desired destination.
Are you happy? This is the most important question. Happiness is ultimately important as it is a motivator which goes beyond the simple feeling of being content. Without it, it can significantly reduce quality of life in various aspects, some of the more obvious ones being mental health, but also it can rub off and impact others as well. If one is not happy, sometimes all it takes is a simple change of circumstance or situation. However, in order to recognize the necessary changes, it is important to answer this question. Students completing their undergraduate careers need to understand that the choices made in this present time will impact their future. However, it is also important to note that sometimes the right choices will not result in immediate happiness, but are necessary to get to the position that will make them happiest.
These questions, when read, might seem like common sense. However, there exists a vast amount of students for whom this is not so. For example, some students simply enroll in college and choose a certain major because of a familial or societal expectation—perhaps some students feel this is necessary to make their parents proud, whereas others may feel they need to get the financial support they need. However, many of these students would much rather study a subject they are much more passionate about, or they are not even sure of what they want to study. In some cases, students are capable of fulfilling this request and will excel in the selected major, whereas in other cases, some students simply lack the conviction or inspiration to succeed in a certain major, or even in college in general. College is an investment, but when the best choices for the individual on his or her own are not made, it sometimes becomes a waste of time and money. It is critical for a student to self-reflect upon their yearly performance and progress in less of an academic way and more of an experiential way in order to make their college experience the best it can possibly be.