By Jacqueline Wibowo
Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2014
A couple days ago, admission results for my school came out. It was strange to think that exactly a year ago, I’d gotten the good news and began the 6-month anticipation period leading up to orientation. It’s even crazier to think that I only have a quarter left of my freshmen year. So, this spring break, I took some time to jot down a couple things I’ve learned this past year.
1. Getting in is just the beginning
For me, high school was so focused on getting into college, and I realize now that I never thought much about what I would do once I actually started college.
No matter what school you end up at, success is never just handed to you, and you have to take the time to figure out what you want to do in the future. Now, I’m not saying you have all four years of your college life mapped out, but it’s definitely helpful to take some time off Netflix your senior summer and at least get an idea. Even if you don’t stick to it, at least you won’t be overwhelmed by all the different possibilities and will have some sort of direction.
As for me? I came in as a potential English major and then considered everything from Computer Science to Communications to Psychology – you name it. I ended up going off the classes that I enjoyed the most and narrowed it down to Public Policy and Economics (for now at least).
2. Campus groups are a great way to get exposure to new fields
A key difference between high school and college extracurriculars is the expected time commitment. While in high school, it was very possible to do a million things at once, in college, it’s better to find just one or two things that align with your interests and stick to them.
I’d always loved singing as a hobby, and so I did something that I never imagined I would do – I tried out for a cappella. I ended up joining Testimony, Stanford’s Christian a cappella group, and have made some of the best memories and closest friends through it.
I also decided to try joining a pre professional group. Although I had no experience, I’d always been interested in business and marketing, so I applied for Stanford Marketing. Through working as an Associate for the group, I’ve gained skills that will help me if I actually decide to work in the field.
3. You learn to love learning for the sake of learning
While I feel that college classes are significantly harder than high school classes, I also feel like I’ve learned more in just two quarters than I have through all my life. Since I’m taking classes that relate to what I want to do in the future, I’m very interested in the material and want to do well not just for the grade, but also so that I can perform well in whatever job I end up in.
College classes teach you self study and set your own learning schedules, and because of that, your capacity for learning increases. I like to block out a couple hours each day where I go to the library, free of distractions, to do my work. It definitely helps to have a schedule so that you can find a good balance between your academics and your social life.
4. You figure out the best fit for your social life
After four years of high school with the same people, it’s really exciting to come into college with a fresh start, and the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. Living in a freshmen dorm has been so great because you get close to your housemates so quickly. My closest friends come from both inside my dorm and outside, from the students groups I am a part of.
In fall quarter, I remember being stressed at times because there was so much going on socially, and I didn’t want to miss out, but I also didn’t want to fall behind academically. But, as I said before, you figure out what schedule works best for you, and eventually you find a balance of work and play.
I think it’s so important to figure out what kinds of social environments you are most comfortable with. Partying isn’t for everyone, and sometimes a night in with a few friends is just as fun as a night out.
5. Try to form healthy habits early on
After a couple months of dorm food, it’s easy to fall into the trap of eating instant noodles and pizza on a regular basis. While these options are cheap, they’re obviously not good for you. When you’re not getting enough sleep and also not eating healthy, you won’t feel energized throughout the day, and are more prone to higher stress levels.
Early on in the year, it’s a good idea to find healthy alternatives – yogurt, oatmeal, fruits, etc. This way, you won’t go hungry, but you’ll also be doing your body a favor.
6. You do you
For me, this one is the hardest thing to do, but also the most important. With so many opportunities in front of you, and so many people around you who seem to know exactly what they’re doing, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other people. You have to pause and remember that each person is on his/her own path. You also have to decide what defines success for you personally, and measure your progress based on your own expectations rather than other people’s. Keep asking yourself if you’re happy and if you’re fulfilled – if you’re not, it might be a good time to reflect!
Jacqueline Wibowo is a college freshman at Stanford University in Stanford, California. Originally from San Diego, California, Jacqueline was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2014. Learn more about Jacqueline here!