For incoming freshmen, the hardest part of college is now over. They’ve applied to and were accepted to THE George Washington University, and really, they should be proud of that accomplishment. As they wade through the glitz and glamour of Colonial Inauguration, they should enjoy this brief stint in the fantasyland of orientation, but also shouldn’t be surprised if, at some point between now and the end of freshman year, they are left in a daze, wondering, “what am I doing here?”
One of the unwritten rules of American higher education is that students should spend their Kindergarten through 12th grade years focused on one seminal document: the college application. Moms nag their children about getting into honors classes so that their application will look better. Dads pressure their kids to get a job, so that work ethic and responsibility shine through to admissions officers. The application is built up to be so important that it seems like everything a high school student does must in some way contribute to it.
Then, inevitably, the time comes to fill out the college application, and later, for some, the acceptance to the college of their dreams (or the one with the best Web site – methods for making this decision are as varied as the flavors at Baskin Robbins). After sending in the deposit, the common reaction is “now what?”
This is where the uncertainty kicks in. After all that build-up, the parents dump their kids off and we all hope for the best. Maybe the run-of-the-mill slacker from high school decides that she is going to prove herself academically and gets straight A’s first semester. Maybe the straight-A student from high school discovers the liquor store that won’t ID him and spends too many nights in the GW Hospital emergency room. Once the application is in and a student accepted, anything is possible.
This is exactly why students, especially freshmen, need to ask themselves why they are in college. By asking this question, it is possible to discover hopes and goals that aren’t always apparent when someone is sucked into the frantic whirlwind of college life.
For students at GW who want to seriously engage in academics, the opportunities are available. A student interested in politics, international affairs or journalism experience is obviously in the right city. And partiers should rejoice as well – GW is home to some of the sketchiest party promoters and is in close proximity to clubs and bars that will eventually fill up all that extra time everyone seems to have on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Regardless of what each student wants from their college experience, it’s difficult to figure out without constant reevaluation and introspection. Interests change and life changes. What we want one day is a distant memory the next.
No one is ever sure of exactly why they are in college, why their life is the way it is at the moment, or what they are doing next week, let alone next year. If they are sure, they are probably too content with their current situation, unwilling or afraid to question themselves or discover their true dreams.
Every college student – from the first day of orientation until Commencement – should constantly ask himself, “what am I doing here?” The answer to the question may never truly emerge, but in seeking an answer, we can guide ourselves closer and closer to the path of our calling.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet’s senior opinions editor. When he figures out what he is doing here, he’ll let you know.