Navigating Career Paths and How to Find Your Niche in College

Author: Vishal Dubey TL;DR:

Have an open mind! Trying out experiences in each of the potential paths you’re considering can greatly help to discover what genuinely excites you.

In my freshman year at Duke, I took classes in Computer Science, Political Science, Creative Writing, and even Theatre. Taking these classes really helped me decide what I wanted in life and shaped how I approach situations, whether that’s exercising more creativity in my daily life or being able to physically project and convey my voice.

An anecdote which I always use is that in my Spring semester of freshman year, I was enrolled in Theatre while having to give weekly presentations as part of a school club. At the beginning of the year, the feedback I got on my presentations was something along the lines of being a little “shy” and not as “engaging” as I could’ve been. As I performed skits ranging from Shakespeare monologues to Geico commercials throughout the semester, I noticed that the feedback which I received also changed in a positive way. The people around me even noticed that I had started presenting with more confidence and poise than I ever did before, and it was due to my acting class.

​Taking classes outside of what you think you’re going to study can greatly help you improve your own skills in unanticipated ways. ​While I didn’t end up majoring in theatre, I found a new passion for analyzing the logic behind words and discovering the differences in the way human’s perceive sound from the class. Following this, I might even end up double majoring in Philosophy, Psychology, or Linguistics with Computer Science. Regardless, an open mindset is always beneficial and can help you pursue your own passions in college.

Once you find a subject or particular class that you like, a highly underrated course of action is to actually speak with the teachers about the tracks and applicability of the degree you want to pursue. Alternatively, go to the Career services at your school or even speak with upperclassmen and seniors who are prepped and ready to join industry (or grad school) full-time.

Quick aside about premed: As a high schooler, parents sometimes put tons of pressure on you to choose a career path immediately. Such a task isn’t and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It needs much more thought, care, and planning than simply choosing pre-med since being a doctor “sounds cool” and would make your parents happy.

Throughout my high school career, I was pushed towards premed by my own parents, eventually adopting the path as something that I thought I wanted (even though I despised biology and chemistry). Don’t be stressed over choosing whether or not you want to be a doctor when you’re applying to college.

As you approach the college application and search process, my greatest advice would be that you shouldn’t decide your future schools based on what you (as a 17 or 18-year-old) think you’re going to be in life.

​That being said, don’t disregard your academic passions, but rather, try to strike a balance.

Stress and Costume Management

Author: Ritesh Chandrasekaran:

Juggling a social life, meaningful extracurricular activities, and school is something that only gets a lot harder in college. For me, sometimes I get so involved in coursework and club organizations and research and my internship that I forget some of life’s more human moments. It is hard for me to sometimes justify prioritizing my own mental health and social life against activities that I know will help my medical school application stand out.

​My stress only heightened when I took a step back and to look at all the social identities that I have: a friend, a son, a grandson, a nephew, and a boyfriend, then you throw in researcher, intern, student, member of this organization and member of that organization. Part of being a human means finding a balance between all of your social identities or in this case let’s refer to them as different costumes. ​

It’s tough to admit but this is something that I am not good at but I’m working on it. It’s not the idea that I don’t know how to have fun because I do, but rather I could not tell you the last time that I went to go visit my high school friends at their respective colleges rather than for holidays.

​It’s hard to convince myself to go to Gainesville for one weekend rather than sign up for a volunteering opportunity. And I see similar things in my day to day life, I’ll get so caught in my assignments I will skip dinner and forget to call my parents.

This only adds to my stress levels because then I start to feel not that great of a friend or a son although my academics were still fine. I just was not feeling that happy and I did not know what to do.

Then I got some well-timed advice from friends and family. If you look at all your social costumes and think of them as your clothes in real life, you’re not wearing them all at the same time, you would look goofy and people would call you crazy. You wear your clothes one outfit a day, then you wash them and then re-wear them down the road. Approach life like that. Nobody will ask you to spend 24 hours out of the day with them but rather just 1 or 2 hours.

It’s okay to put the books down and grab lunch with a friend. Schedule some you time into your schedule too, something that is wholly you. If you like to paint then make it priority to have that outlet, if you like to run then get back into it and just run and relax your mind. Whatever it may be, just find something that will reconnect you with yourself. Maybe even once a month a Facetime your high school friends and call your grandparents in India on the weekends.

At least that’s what I started to do.

And I found my productivity skyrocketing and my stress levels a lot lower. I wasn’t trying to do everything at once but rather I try to wear a different costume occasionally rather than just forgetting about it all together.

The last thing I will say is that this is something that everyone deals with because everyone is constantly adding new and new costumes to their wardrobe. Soon you’ll be a husband or wife, father or mother, and whichever profession you choose. And the priorities will rearrange here and there but the key fact still remains. Don’t forget to be human.

You’ll make mistakes for sure but learn from them, grow from them and wear your costumes one at a time.

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in College

Author: Tanuj Prajapati​:

​Going to a university in a completely different state when you don’t know literally anyone can be pretty scary admittedly. However, it’s the perfect opportunity to establish yourself and have a completely fresh start. In the big city of Houston, there are so many people to meet and get to know. Networking is huge especially in this stage of your life. As I met more people, it started to become super daunting learning about their achievements in High School and/or throughout college. When comparing them side-by-side to my own accomplishments it sometimes felt like I didn’t deserve to be where I was.

Allow me to introduce Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which you doubt your own accomplishments are constantly afraid you will be exposed as a fraud. In layman’s terms, you feel like you got lucky and start doubting your self-worth and accomplishments and are afraid everyone will think that as well. It started to become difficult for me juggling my academics, my extracurricular interests, and the desire to prove or establish that I meant to be at Rice. Often, I’d find myself running on 3 to 4 hours of sleep (and I don’t even drink coffee) trying to do all of that, sometimes not even that well.

Sometimes I’d try to be someone I wasn’t and it became exhausting.

At some point, I went to one of my O-week (Orientation Week, a lovely Rice Tradition) advisors and talked about my struggles of being afraid to be myself. She told me that it’s completely normal to feel like that and was something she struggled with during her own Freshman year at Rice. She told me that all the judgements you think people have about you are all made up in your head and this fear of not being accepted can be conquered by just talking to people and asking their genuine opinion. After that, you can really begin to channel out those falsified, made-up judgements and begin to really be yourself without a single care in the world. ​

It was difficult to do that admittedly, trying to ask people what they thought of me weeks after meeting them for the first time. But surprisingly, it went extremely well and it really showed me how accepting the people in my community really were. At that point, I was able to drop the facade for the first time since I came to Rice and I truly began to have fun. I became a better version of myself, a version that wasn’t afraid to try new things like run for student government. Eventually, I won an award honoring new students who gave great service to Hanszen (my residential college) in their first year and even won some money for it. I met amazing people, people I could call family. I truly felt like I was at home, well a home away from home anyways. My grades began to pick up since I stopped pouring energy into my brain which overcomplicated every social interaction.

​But most importantly, I could be myself.

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in College

Author: Neha C​:

​If someone had asked me where I wanted to go to college at the beginning of senior year, I would have answered confidently “definitely out of state.” I was one of those kids that applied to an unnecessary amount of colleges. I think my final count was around 20 schools. Now, after personally going through those extremely stressful essay-cramming couple months, I HIGHLY recommend any future applicants to not apply to that many schools.

I applied to all these schools just hoping to get accepted and did not stop to consider many of the other factors, like money. At the time I did not realize how much college tuition was. If I was to sell my kidney on the black market, I still would not be able to pay off my 4 years of undergrad tuition at many of the top private schools I applied to. Being a prospective premed student, I applied to many top pre-med schools like Johns Hopkins, Rice University, Vanderbilt, and in March, I was extremely excited to be see my acceptance letters at these incredible institutions. But, right after viewing the virtual confetti explode across my computer screen, I saw the tuition and fees letter right after. Then, most of this excitement faded.

Realistically, it would be impossible for me to go to these colleges without incurring thousands of dollars in debt, especially since I am aiming to go to medical school in 4 years. My parents, being supportive as always, were willing to pay for my tuition, but told me the decision was mine to make. I spent days thinking about what I would do. Eventually after many stress-induced childish breakdowns, I came to the decision that I want to save money on undergrad tuition, so I can spend my money on medical school instead (since everyone knows med school breaks your bank account).

I talked to many pre-med college students and medical students before coming to a decision. They helped me realize that the name of institution is important, but how I use my 4 years in college is even more important. At that moment, I decided my state school, the University of Central Florida would be the right choice for me.

Obviously, I’m only a freshman with a week of online college experience, but I think I will be really happy with my final choice.

​This is just my personal experience, and everyone is different, so take time to think your options through, consider all the factors, make a decision, and don’t look back. You’ll do great :)