Fellow members of the Class of 2019, take a deep breath and slow down.
As the first official month of school draws to a close, take a moment of your limited time to sit down and enjoy being at the bottom of the college hierarchy. Since we’re just starting our college journeys with endless possibilities, rather than running to reach the finish line, being at the bottom is supposed to take off a little bit of the pressure.
Yet, as the leaves begin to change color and the weather begins to cool down, the “overachieving freshman” plague is spreading. Within weeks of moving in, some freshmen have already signed up for an overwhelming number of student organizations, found full-time internships and have a class load heavier than some of those of juniors and seniors.
However, when you place a group of talented students together, it’s only natural that the scent of competition begins to brew. But as a cohesive class, we should fight back against this plague – for the sake of our health and happiness.
It is time to take a step back. The freshman boy who sits next to you in your microeconomics class might already have an internship with a major investment bank, or maybe the freshman girl in your molecular biology class already works at GW Hospital. But resist the urge to compare yourself to others. There’s no harm in taking your first year of college to find yourself, rather than getting lost in the desire to overachieve.
As the pressure begins to build, colleges have started to see an upward trend in the number of students feeling depressed and overwhelmed. We lose sight of our goals and passions because we constantly feel the need to be better and be the best at what we do, instead of running the race at our own speed.
For me, the first few weeks of school were about finding the places on campus that made me feel comfortable and settled. Whether that was auditioning for dance groups, going to office hours to build relationships with professors or taking late-night walks on the National Mall with new friends, I pushed myself a little everyday so I could cross the bridge between high school and college.
I joined GW Chamak, an all-girls, South-Asian fusion dance team where I have met some of the kindest and most diverse ladies. I also began volunteering for D.C. Reads, a local tutoring program, because I didn’t want to break away from my passion for community service. Even though I’m still nervous about freshman year, going at my own pace has made me excited about my future at GW.
In the midst of the chaos that is freshman year, we often lose ourselves. Rather than four years of academic and social adventures that ultimately make us who we are, college has become an arena in which freshmen compete. We try to build the best resumes, snag the best internships and have the highest GPA. But you don’t have to do all of that right away.
Michelle Steiner, director of undergraduate advising, said that “as with any significant period of academic and professional development,” students might feel pressured to do well and be involved in a lot on campus.
“We always remind students to keep that healthy balance in mind,” Steiner said.
Sure, it’s fine to sign up for a ton of organizations’ email lists and start making a spreadsheet of your dream internships. But no one should expect freshmen to dive into everything all at once. We need time to adjust to a lot of things: more rigorous academics, a new type of social life, a big city. Once we’ve done that, we can move on to building our resumes.
“Opportunities such as internships and research are much more enriching when you have enough self-awareness under your belt to understand what you are looking for in these opportunities and why,” Steiner said. “Being able to answer those questions results in making better choices that more fully round out your academic experience.”
So the next time someone brags to you about all the world-changing activities they are engaged in, put on your metaphorical earplugs and simply ignore them.
Taking four classes instead of five, having a once-a-week job or fully participating in only two or three clubs doesn’t make you less successful than any other freshman. It just means that you’re taking the time to learn about yourself before you burn out, rather than the other way around.
Meghana Aghi, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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