As I write this, there are about 27 hours left until the Early Action/ Early Decision Common Application deadline. I had a feeling the deadline was coming up because I’ve been oddly reflective for the past few days (maybe my Facebook Memories helped with that a little). My senior year of high school, from October to March, was definitely a rollercoaster, and anyone who’s been to Six Flags with me knows I’m not a fan of those.
Last fall seemed to stretch on for years. While I was applying to colleges, I felt like it was just me and Microsoft Word against the world, and that’s why the title of this post –– my very last one for this website –– is so important. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but the college application process forces you to be selfish, to brag, and to own up to your mistakes with no idea if it will pay off in the end. When it does end, it’s easy to get caught up in your own head and think maybe you were being selfish for spending all those hours writing essays just to move hours away from your family and go to school.
The title of this post is “Where We’re Going” because I wanted to remind myself not to feel that way. Sometimes I find this difficult to come to terms with, because I’m the one that has to drag myself out of bed and to my 9:30 lecture, the one taking the tests, writing the papers, and so on. I try to balance this with thinking about why getting my degree was so important to me in the first place. When I let my mind wander, it’s less about a piece of paper and more about people.
Where are we going in the future? This starts as small as my family and hometown community. What can I do with this education to thank them for providing me with the knowledge and guidance it took to get here? On a campus of 37,000 students, I am also constantly deciding what it means to be a part of the campus community. There are so many ways that I can choose to actively participate in my education. This applies to voting in the Associated Students of Madison freshman representative elections, getting involved in political organizations, being vocal about campus policies, issues, and everything in-between. Perhaps most importantly, where are we going as a nation, and how can a bunch of college students make a difference there too?
Right now, I’m focused on making it through the rest of my first semester, even if some people call it the easiest one I’ll have here at UW-Madison. According to the Pell Institute, in 2011, 46.8 percent of students who identified as first-generation college students from a low-income background dropped out of college before completing their Bachelor’s degree.
Almost 50 percent –– that statistic drives me crazy, and it could scare me as well if I let it. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t some days. But the good news is that through all of this I am not alone. I remind myself of something my anthropology professor told us at the beginning of the semester: that the role of his discipline is to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” My job is not to be an expert in going to college within two months of being here. Instead, I choose to see everything as a learning experience, whether that opportunity is a movie night with my learning community or attending a guest lecture.
“Having dreams is free. So I collected them as I got older, and one or two silly dreams grew into great, spiraling towers of imagination,” copied and pasted exactly from my Common Application personal statement last year. I can’t help but think how real that quote continues becoming. The first semester is already coming to an end, and if I don’t keep an eye on the time, graduation will be here before I know it. It took ambition and support from others to get here. I’m determined to give the next three and a half years here the best I’ve got, and hopefully, Madison will treat me well in return.