By Austin Holmes, Sustainability Office.
Graduation is around the corner for me. It has been a long haul, these past five years. I have learned a lot and grown immensely, and I don’t regret a thing. Even though I have no regrets, there is certainly information that would have been helpful along the way. If I could go back and give a little advice to my formal self, this is what it would be.
- Don’t feel like you have to rush through your education, but make sure to plan ahead.
In my time at the University of Utah, I have bounced around from English to Philosophy to Anthropology to Environmental & Sustainability Studies and International Studies. It is totally fine to be undecided in your major, especially in your first couple of years. However, it is important to make sure that you are always planning ahead. For example, I recommend completing general education requirements right off the bat, which is what I should have done earlier to make my transition into a major more seamless.
- Don’t be afraid to engage with communities that seem different to you (or ones that appeal to you).
One of the most important things that you can do in your time experiencing college is to reach out to groups and to participate in events within and beyond your own community (however you define that). Be eclectic and partake in a diversity of things, especially if you don’t imagine yourself doing those things. Remember, if you do it and end up not liking it, you have lost nothing, but if you never do it out of apprehension, you may rob yourself of memorable experiences and/or meeting life-long friends.
- In addition to the second point of advice, don’t hesitate to take courses that are outside of your realm of knowledge.
Some of the best academic experiences I have had were because I tried something I knew nothing about. If something grabs your attention or interests you, seize the opportunity! Taking advantage of this is much more difficult later on in your academic career, especially once you declare your major(s). If you haven’t found a path for yourself, this is the best way to find it. Additionally, if you have found a path, perhaps there is another out there that would possibly appeal to you more. Does astronomy sound interesting? Take it. Environmental communications sparking your creativity? Take it. Qualitative statistics or global demography? Take it. The point is to try it, and be open to what it yields.
- Finally, once you do decide on a path—you can always change that decision— and declare a major, make a checklist of everything you need to accomplish in order to graduate and include a timeline for how long it will take you to do that.
One of the main troubles that I have had as a student was mapping out what I needed to do long term. To save yourself this trouble, and the pain of finding out about extra obligations last minute, plan. Start by making an appointment with an advisor and drafting a checklist (this could be something like a spreadsheet in Excel) with a timeline to complete everything. Trust me, this will keep you on track and save you a lot of hardship down the road.
No matter what you end up doing, just make sure you enjoy your journey through this chapter of your life. It will be over far quicker than you can imagine. I’ll see you all on the other side, seeking careers and such. Except for those aspiring for a doctorate degree, you’re going to be here forever.
Austin Holmes is a sustainability ambassador for the Sustainability Office.