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Measuring success: College is more than your GPA

By Madhura Nadarajah

8 a.m. lectures where you show up 15 minutes late because you were up watching The Bachelor; 10 a.m. lectures where you show up 10 minutes late because the line at Starbucks was too long and meal exchanges at the Rathskellar are still not a thing; permanent bags under your eyes from all those late night study sessions, or even the ritual Thursday dollar beers at MacDinton’s. All the stress, laughter, irritation and joy that college brings will come to an end in less than a month. With graduation quickly approaching in the next couple of weeks we, the graduating seniors, are preparing for life after UT. Whether we’re applying for jobs, attending graduate or medical school, or even heading back home for some mental relief, we can attest that college shaped many of the decisions we are making now. In fact, while schooling is very important, an education is also shaped with what you learned past the textbooks.         

Perhaps the most essential advice college taught us all is to be yourself. Comically, these words have been plastered on bulletin boards since kindergarten, but the idea of being yourself will continue to develop. While we have been accustomed to these words since a tender age, they take on a whole new relevance in college. College is a conflagration of various people with various interests and beliefs that are not mutually exclusive of another. For example, just because you are a hardcore up and coming business tycoon does not mean you cannot also be into poetry. College is not about forming singular identities like high school tends to produce, e.g. jock, band geek and student government folks. Rather, college is about helping students embrace and form their multitudes. One of the best ways to figure out your interests is to join clubs and to introduce yourself to people of other backgrounds and other majors. That way, you not only take a break from your specific academic focus, but you learn things about the other disciplines. On her experience with the leadership program ELITE, senior communications major and advertising and applied dance minor Jennifer McElroy said, “[ELITE] provided me with much hope and excitement for what I could do as a Spartan in my next four years. It equipped me with basic and useful leadership skills and information, [and] provided me lifelong friends that I still spend time with today.” Everyone should keep in mind that while it is great to join groups or clubs because your roommates are in them and you want to know someone, an important thing about growing up is doing things on your own.

However, doing things on your own does not mean behaving like a loner. That is why the next important thing that college teaches you is the importance of communication. Whether on a professional or social level, proper communication is necessary because it faces matters head on without any blunders. Professionally, proper communication through formal emails or meetings will help students be viewed as novice career individuals and not naïve college students. Socially, issues are bound to arise with roommates, friends, sorority sisters or fraternity brothers because people have various opinions and perspectives, so communication is key. While confiding in a mutual friend is great and cathartic, do not masquerade trash talk as venting. The former is not only petty and immature, but frankly way too reminiscent of high school behavior. “I have seen firsthand how simple misunderstandings and assumptions can snowball to extremes without communication,” said senior exercise physiology and musical theater major Lauren Biggs. “Be comfortable enough to be uncomfortable and reach out. Step out of your comfort zone.”

Most importantly, do not forget to live in the moment. Many of us assume the future will bring us the happiness we dreamt of as a child. For example, a successful career, a nice car, perhaps even a family of our own. While it is important to set future goals and aspirations because they provide ambition, do not forget to exist in the present moment and enjoy the things you have now. It may seem hard to do while constantly being worn down by exams and a low budget, but remember you are in  college. Exams are stressful but the classes will provide you with knowledge that will bring you one step closer to your career. Having a good time can take place anywhere. Whether it is having lunch with your friends at the cafeteria or riding bikes on Bayshore, the only thing you need to have a good time are friends. Especially as UT students, it is hard not to be happy when you wake up and are surrounded by palm trees and beautiful weather. “Coming to UT was the best risk I ever took,” said senior biology major Adrien Markus Almonte. “It was more than a university, but a place of pure development and happiness.”

If we graduating seniors learned anything outside the textbook, it is to be ourselves, always communicate and enjoy every present moment. What we learned in the classroom is extremely beneficial, but it can only bring success if it is applied with the knowledge we’ve gained through our experience as college students.

Madhura Nadarajah can be reached at madhura.nadarajah@spartans.ut.edu.

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