Of the memories that I have from the time after high school graduation up until the end of my freshman year, a few moments at Bama Bound stick out in particular.
I can vividly recall the sense of amazement and pride that I felt while walking around our beautiful campus. This school’s infrastructure, like many other institutions’ of comparable size, is grandiose and carefully designed to serve the student body.
Unlike any other form of ID that I have ever owned, I became increasingly aware that my ActCard was a key that granted access to a bountiful array of resources and opportunities. To list a few things, that little piece of plastic enables me to rock climb and lift weights at the recreation centers, access books and research materials through our library system, and of course, watch the most highly touted team in college football play at home on Saturdays. These are just the transactional points of use for that card; in addition to receiving a first-rate education, you can develop career networks and benefit from the guidance of a powerful institution that shares your best interest. In my case, that key’s expiration date is on May 4. Ultimately, we are all tasked with the same question of how to maximize our fleeting four-ish years of college.
If you are still a freshman on the meal plan, you will soon be faced with something that remains a challenge for me to this day: grocery shopping. In order to do this successfully, you would be wise to dedicate at least 15 to 20 minutes toward drafting a list of things you want to eat. If not, like me, you may walk into the store with the sense of optimism and pride that comes with such forms of adulting, only to learn later that perhaps you should’ve bought fewer flaming hot Cheetos and more peanut butter to use on the increasingly stale bread tucked in a back corner of your cabinet.
Similar to the items at a supermarket, the resources available to students are diverse and overwhelming. As an economist would remind you, each possibility comes with an opportunity cost, namely your time. You simply cannot check every box while you are here, nor will you be well advised to even try. When I began college, I was counseled by many to maintain a balance; this buzzword permeated nearly every piece of general advice that I received. Balance is essential, but in order to make good use of that wisdom, you must decide what you want or expect from college. While most students are here to develop themselves academically and professionally, others find college as an opportunity to party for four years, all the while creating and developing new relationships. That is perfectly fine; after all, the social benefits of college are just as special and exclusive as the academic opportunities.
My parting wisdom is not particularly original or profound, but I believe it would have served me well not too long ago. To ensure that you are not left holding a diploma and a metaphorical loaf of stale bread upon graduation, you need to think deliberately about what fulfills you and what you will need to be successful in the future. Understand there is no cookie-cutter approach, as each person’s wants and needs vary tremendously. Finally, and most importantly, you must follow through on the agenda that you have for yourself with your end goals in mind. Or as Robin Williams would say, “Carpe diem!” for there is no substitute for execution of best-laid plans.