America is the land of promise, the greatest country in the entire world–these are facts we already know and love. You can be anything your heart desires when you live here, no matter who your parents are, what your family’s income level is, or what nationality you are. This country is full of dreamers and achievers, and we’ve been told we could do whatever we wanted since we could talk. “Dream big!” they told us, right before they asked what we wanted to be when we grew up.
“A doctor!” we answered. “A pro athlete!”
“A marine biologist!”
We decide upon something and we allow our ambitions drive us through middle and high school. They keep us in line. Our goals ensure we keep our GPAs as high as possible so we can get into a good college and become successful. In our graduation handbooks, they ask “Where Will They Go?” and right next to your name it says you’ll be a writer, an engineer, or a famous singer, just as you always knew you would be.
But don’t be fooled, Class of 2018. It won’t always be easy. College academics are no joke. You were placed in Biology 210 because you excelled in high school biology, but so did everyone else in the room. You may have aced all your 500-word papers in high school, but now your professors expect you to write 10- to 12-page essays on “a contemporary issue of your choosing,” and arguing for or against your topic in a coherent manner overwhelms you. “Difficult” might be the wrong word, because college is more than just hard or easy–but it’s like nothing you’ve experienced before. College is, well, different.
Maybe, somewhere along the way, you’ll find yourself struggling. You’ll work your ass off for a C+ in biology and take chemistry three times before you get the B you need to qualify for organic (where good people go to die). And maybe while you’re doing that, you should take a moment to realize that the social work class you’re taking for a general education requirement is all you can talk about. Debating different child-rearing techniques excites you in a way that you didn’t know you could feel excited. Maybe being a doctor actually isn’t for you. And that’s okay.
For the first time in your life, really, you have this amazing opportunity to try on a million different hats to see which one fits the best. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You can explore different things to find out what you love, so find it! That’s what college is about: finding yourself and your passions. Take every class that sounds interesting to you and figure out what you’re good at. If you can do a good job at a job that makes a good you, you’re doing it right.
The point is, Class of 2018, you may have gotten it right from the beginning. You may want to be a doctor, or a marine biologist, or an engineer, or a writer, or a singer, and if you truly want that, by all means, be the best at it you can be–but don’t be too stubborn to realize that you might have gotten it wrong. Don’t let your expectations of the future get in the way of your real path. It’s not about the expectations or the people who expect them of you. It’s about you. Being passionate and excited about what you do will make you the most successful. Dream big, but don’t be afraid to change your mind when it comes to your dreams.