An Ode to Being Impractical in College

Today, I’ve been thinking about how bizarre it is to be a senior and just how different I feel now vs. three years ago (when I was so freaked out about college move-in, I hyperventilated into a Jimmy John’s sandwich).

I’m older and wiser now, but I’m still great at imagining dystopian versions of my future. The duality of man/college student is the capacity for both incredible calm and incredible panic.

But I’d like to preface this post with: If you’re not in college yet or new to it, you’re going be just fine.

And if college is nothing new, then join me in a panicky sprint across the Quad. The slow-moving zombie of adulthood is creeping just a little too close. (But I also have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be just fine.)

No matter which of these two camps you fall into—new to college or college savvy—hear me out.

This year, join an extracurricular or take a job or volunteer just because it sounds like fun. Not because it seems practical. Not because it fits perfectly into your ten-year plan or has a nice spot on your CV/resume. Just for fun.

You might be thinking, “Hey, I do fun stuff!” Cool, man. I’m glad. But I’m talking more making a commitment and less “I went bowling last Friday, and it was a good time.”

Sophomore year, I decided that I needed to fill in my free time with something nice. I needed something beyond the classroom that didn’t feel mostly like a means to an end.

I thought back to my babysitting days.

I think kids are really cool little people. I enjoy hanging with them, and I always have. So I went to Quad Day and joined the Illini Mentor Program (IMP). Now I mentor every week of the school year, and I can honestly say it makes every week better.

However, just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. In these past few years, I’ve built two totally different relationships with two totally different kids. One who didn’t like me very much, but who needed someone to listen to him and respect him. The other, again, not my biggest fan, but who thought my jokes were funny eventually.

I have the distinct honor of being a part of their growing up. In turn, they remind me every week just how little I know (like, nothing) and how much more I have to learn (a lot).

Having fun like this has always had distinct benefits, too. It’s made me a better communicator with all sorts of people, not just kids. I’m a better problem solver (because kids present you with a lot of problems to solve). And I get kids in a way I didn’t before.

They were just benefits I didn’t expect.

And I get it. Your time is valuable. Your time in college has a literal price tag. But you should fill it with at least one thing that you do just to feel good. When you make a commitment out of something you enjoy, I think you commit to being a better, healthier person.

Plus, it might end up being the thing you always talk about in job interviews or the source of some of your best college memories.

You deserve all the great experiences in college, so I’m begging you, be impractical!


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August 19, 2016, 6:03 pm

I think these are wise words. I hope the incoming freshman class takes them to heart! Thank you, Maggie, for providing this valuable insight!