Sunday, January 23, 2011

From a Stanford Sophomore

Sorry for the late reply. I just checked this email today, and I've also been on vacation for the past week. This is in response to both of your emails.

So I am now a sophomore at Stanford, with a year of college experience under my belt. How do I feel so far? Absolutely fantastic. What is the difference between high school and college? I would never want to relive high school again. However, I wouldn't mind a second shot at being a freshman in college, if that means I can stay here longer.

It feels great to be a sophomore. I am better acquainted with the campus and its rhythm, and the systems and routines of Stanford. I think that is what freshman year is all about. Everything is fresh and new; being truly away from home for the first time, meeting new people and making new friends, exploring everything the institution has to offer. Nobody goes into college knowing exactly what it is going to be like, and that is actually really important to remember. Sometimes, it seems like your peers are so much more knowledgeable, much more poised and sophisticated, absolutely immersed in college life after just a few weeks, but a lot of the time, they are just as confused as you. For me, freshman year was a chance to just make a niche for myself in the school. I now realize as a sophomore that there was so much more I could have done, so many more programs and resources I could have taken advantage of, but I do not regret anything. While those who wanted to overachieve (more power to them!) and participate in a bunch of clubs and even declare their major, I decided on a more slow-pace schedule, although I did have crew as well, that suited me.

I just got back from a week in New York, where I actually visited Malcolm Carson at Columbia University. His college story so far is a lot different from mine, and that is the way it should be. I think that is the one thing to remember for those who are about to finish high school and start the journey of college. Freshman year is a chance to start a fresh foundation for your story. Don't be afraid to be unconventional. Ask questions. Abuse your RA or advisor with them. Join a student group that excites you. If you don't know what you want to major in, take classes that interest you - that is what I did my entire freshman year, although for me, it seems to have backfired as I am now interested in so many things I can't seem to decide on just one (I did decide, however, to minor in education!). My favorite quote that fits nicely here is, from Herb Cohen, "If you don't know where you are going, you can never get lost." That has been my philosophy for college so far. I may not know exactly what I am doing, what I am majoring in, what truly is my passion, but I have been paving a road for myself this entire time, and I know I am on my way somewhere, unknown but not at all lost. Some of you will be like me, very confused, and others will be more sure of yourselves. Either way, freshman year is the time to start letting it all out, working hard and playing even harder. Good luck to the Class of 2015, at whichever school you are going to!

Jennifer Kuang

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