Reflecting on their past four years at GW, the senior graduates advise freshmen to get involved on campus and learn to adapt to unexpected changes to get the most out of their college experiences.
Stepping away from support systems, deciding what to study, finding community and managing mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, five seniors said college offered a series of ups and downs that taught them to be flexible and adapt to unexpected changes in their lives. Seniors advised getting involved on and off campus through student organizations, building relationships with faculty, and trying new experiences.
Journalism major Izzy Hardy said students shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, but rather focus on pursuing paths that best suit their interests.
“I learned that no one but you will be there to defend you,” Hardy said. “And so you kind of have to step up and join whatever clubs you want.”
John Watson, an anthropology student, described their college journey as a “self-directed and self-guided” experience, in which they had to take a lot of initiative and regularly check in on how well they were doing in their studies. Watson said they learned to independently make decisions that would best serve them in their education and future.
“It’s my future,” Watson said. “It’s my education that concerns me, so I feel like I’ve learned to center my life around me. I have to make my own decisions and my own choices.
Watson said advisors are a key resource for students when building a class schedule with classes that best fit their academic and career goals, and faculty can share internship and research opportunities. that might pique the interest of students.
“My teachers were always creepy authority figures as a kid, but the more you start to see them as people like us, the easier it is to talk to them and they’re obviously so helpful,” Watson said.
At a city-based school with an independent student body and limited school spirit like GW, seniors also learned the need to get involved on campus to meet new people and establish a supportive community.
“I would definitely do more clubs, definitely clubs,” Watson said. “Because like everyone says, I think it’s the best way to find new friends and meet new people.”
Emilia Gorecki, a speech and hearing science major, said students should be proud of their work and their passions, even if they don’t look like their peers.
“If you’re interested, go ahead and do it,” Gorecki said. “Because it’s cool, it’s cool for you, and it’s important to you, so you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling like something is cool or caring about it.”
She said younger students should avoid letting impostor syndrome stop them from taking up opportunities before trying them out on their own, whether it’s making plans with friends or applying for college. an internship or a job.
“Be the person who initiates,” she said. “If you want to do something with your friends, plan it and do it. If you want to apply for a job you like, just apply for this one.
International business scholar Elena Picon said younger students should get involved on campus and take advantage of the opportunities and organizations available to them. She said when it comes to joining clubs, quality is more important than quantity, but exploring academic and social organizations can help students decide what field they would like to work in and provide space for students to constantly foster new friendships.
“Get involved as much as you can, even if you’re not super motivated to get involved at first,” Picon said. “The more I got involved in things, the happier I was as an independent individual.”
Picon said faculty and classes also play a crucial role in shaping students’ college experiences in addition to forging a campus culture. She said she took “breakthrough” thinking classes at GW, which improved her writing skills and encouraged her to think critically.
“I think they helped me question a lot of things that I would usually accept,” Picon said.
International affairs major Sally Kim said that although the pandemic has led to online learning after students left campus, the change has forced her to pause and reflect on the academic journey that she was following and how it would shape her career opportunities.
“COVID has changed everything,” Kim said. “And that was the most monumental thing because it taught me a lot within the college experience.”
Kim said many students, including herself, enter college aiming to achieve multiple goals at once, but then face burnout a few months into the semester. Rather than stretching out, Kim said students should take their time and enjoy everything college has to offer.
“As long as you feel fulfilled and happy, it’s the perfect college experience,” she said. “There is no right or wrong thing to do.”
Kim said that while college is a time for expanding intellectual knowledge, it’s also a time for growth and learning outside of the classroom. With many different organizations and clubs to join, people from different backgrounds to meet, and the opportunity to live independently for the first time, college is also a time to gain important life experiences.
“Go to that happy hour cocktail party or go to that school event,” she said. “I know it’s so easy to sit at home and love being in your pajamas, because I do that all the time. But it’s the only time in your life when you can talk to people in your life. such different horizons.