Tighty wighties or boxers, or do you go for the boxer briefs? How about the European butt huggers? Undergraduate years are like experimenting with the pair of drawers that your going to be most comfortable with (I limit this to the Brothers, analogizing for sisters on this point seems highly inappropriate, even for me!)
If you went off to college then you should be focusing on your grades. Make sure you understand your learning style (see Academic counseling or places like UCSD’s OASIS) so you can make the most of your learning experience. You want to do good in your classes, so you get more free time and also get opportunities to intern (experience based learning is the reality of our economy today). I say this bit of advice to all my mentee’s- don’t worry about CHOOSING A MAJOR the first year and half you are at college. If you went to community college or to a four year institution, plan your first two years around the general education courses you need to take along with the transfer classes needed to go from a junior college to a university. (if this is not making sense go read my post on Senioritis)
The planning you do at this juncture is critical and as always be proactive by making these plans in consultation with your parents, counselors and if you are blessed with a mentor, use that person for input and advice. Impress your parents at your maturity and desire to involve them in the process. Regardless your transition from high school might be rough, so I always say play it safe and take the bare minimum of courses needed to be a full time student. In the end you will want to socialize and do things that are new/fun and its best to manage all of that in a way that doesn’t affect your grades.
If you are a science major, than you need more “well rounding”- if your in the humanities and social sciences, well so is like 60% of the folks at your school and most of them are unemployed or struggling or worse competing for very limited Masters and Ph.D. programs. You will need to be “well rounded” regardless what your focus is. Unless your absolutely brilliant or are majoring in the four careers that isn’t faced with unemployment- best you work with what your good at and build up some exceptional skills and experience.
This is where you need to find consistency, discipline and a passion toward an arch of activities that will
a) help you get transferable skills
b) provide life experiences and
c) help you gain an edge over your competitors.
Pre-med folks, honestly, everyone goes to volunteer at a “hospital”, so get smart and think about something unique. Here is a hypothetical “pre-med student” to help you understand my point:
You like swimming- might of swam on your high school team maybe?- and you are pre-med, looking to stand out? Go be a lifeguard, get advance first aid training and teach kids how to swim in your spare time. That, right there is an arch that brings together your personal passion, your career aspirations and your academic work. You get transferable skills, you showcase leadership skills, you indicate your ability to empathize and work with what you will find to be challenging experiences and if you’re lucky some European guy wearing a speedo will need mouth to mouth resuscitation and you, you my friend, will be the one to give it to him. BAM! You saved a person life and now can speak to that experience in your medical school application. If you got your academics in order and you achieved decent success on your MCAT your a shoe in, hopefully, to an American Medical school.
What the hell am I talking about? Well to really draw it down to simple, basically I have provided you with- an amazing resume, a means to keep your grades decent, showcase your ability to have consistency, discipline, focus and growth (its not like you will become a swimming instructor over night…); you get an amazing personal statement (While serving as a life guard I learned that my passion for swimming allowed me to save a persons life. It is with this passion that I am applying to your EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE MEDICAL SCHOOL because you offer me the best opportunity toward my professional dreams of becoming a UNDER PAID AND SEVERELY UPSET PEDIATRIC SURGEON); you get a good source of “alternative, but strong” recommendation letters, you diversify your life experiences as long as you have some of the traditional stuff but all of this is grounded on your passion, that thing that really makes you happy in life.
So as college students dont fall into the trap of doing what Muhammad X and Fatima Y gone done, find an arch in your life that you can develop separately but bring neatly together toward your professional aspirations. Also challenge yourself to do things that you might not initially feel like you are going to like, those make some of the best personal statements. Don’t get peer pressured into cookie cutter learning styles and plans, go at your own pace and make it worthwhile- taking five years instead of four and doing a study abroad program is WORTHWHILE. You working in a science lab playing with flies? Well so are so many others, so you better work on trying to get published or do your own unique research. If your pre-med consider not doing the hum drum Biology major, go into Economics if you like money and business and development.
Also, by January you need to figure out what you’re doing in the summer besides taking summer school. You need to build your resume and resume opportunities fill up fast. The first two years should be of planned-controlled exploring, but you should hone in on your major by the end of that period and more importantly have internship opportunities lined up that are going to help you in that major and toward a career goal. Also always be flexible with your plans- shit happens, say Alhumdulillah and suck in some air and figure out how to move along.
You will want to socialize, you will face drama due to that experience. The experience will put your morality to the test, along with your values and principles. You will question everything in life eventually. *****looking for yourself, feeling lost, confused, etc***** You will feel like a zombie (trust me, being an Undie is nothing like being in graduate school so don’t over emphasize your experience, the world will not cry for you). You will most likely behave at your worst. Your world might just utterly stop making sense. You will talk fast all the time or will take a back seat, when you do talk you might always say the wrong things. You will find new sense of pride in your culture, nationality, heritage or you will run screaming to the hills from all that. Its to be expected- but you should find a way to manage this-finding-yourself-process or else you will loose yourself in it, but I do admit, its probably the best part of a college experience.
You need God. You’re now in a place where all you have are the principles and values you were raised with. All around you are different lifestyles, different norms and values that will challenge the core upon which you are built on. You will either reject and create a bubble, reject and embrace this new world; stumble awkwardly through the mess or find a way to thrive while embracing your core values- that choice is also yours.
Take refuge in God, stay God conscience, be cognizant of peer pressure and anytime you feel like doing something you will regret don’t struggle with yourself, I say run to God and seek refuge with God. Don’t ask for patience or perseverance or determination to overcome the tests and trials and temptations, ask God to grant you the grace to see yourself through the test, provide you with the Mercy of his refuge, acknowledge your desire (for X) so that you can ask God to provide you with what is better for your eternal life (REMEMBER THAT PART, this whole life thing isn’t about you being here, but rather it is for you to do your mission, God entrusted you with it, those things that count toward your afterlife).
Finally surround yourself with people who will bring the good out from you and encourage you to do the right things, you can’t shelter yourself, in fact, I highly recommend not doing that because when you get to working full time, you’re going to be in for a real surprise, but definitely don’t throw yourself out into the deep end of the lake when there are dangers you just are not aware of.
Disclaimer about the MSA- I just told you to hang out with Muslims, and part of college Muslim life is the Muslim Student Association (MSA). I am an MSA-head, guilty of being a former vice president at my school and all sorts of other MSA activities-for-the-greater-good-of-the-Ummah. While the MSA is amazing and necessary and critical, there are limits and there are just down right things that are more important than the MSA. You should go to the MSA because its a community (you get great advice on classes, notes, tests, books…the company of good people); Ramadan and prayers on campus. Halaqahs and other social events. The MSA will enrich your life, will add drama to your life, will provide you with some of your best friends for life. You will want to help out, eventually some of you will want to run for leadership positions- which is wonderful. (I am speaking to the MYLP Alumni)
But all of you MYLP kids have a degree of activism that I believe should outgrow the MSA within the first two years of being there. Do your thing and move on to other leadership positions outside of the “Muslim bubble”- dont get stuck there, make friends with other folks, be leaders in other causes, leave leadership of the MSA for the non-MYLP folks.
For those stumbling onto my blog who are Muslim, know this about the MSA: you need to figure out what the MSA means to you, what you have to offer the MSA, but more importantly what the MSA has to offer you. If the equation does not equal out you should be asking yourself why are you involved in its activism and if the answer to that question is that “its fee’sabilillah brother” then I can’t help you. You need to help yourself, nothing here or anywhere else will be of use to you because the blind answer to my question is not one that understands themselves very well.
Robert Frost has this oft repeated and very much cliched poem, I want you not to just know it, I want you to live it, experience it, embody it. If you don’t want to be mediocre then I am telling you to be one with the poem. If you want to survive, indeed, thrive in the new economy and the globalized world then you need to hustle, what I present to you above is your hustler manual. Go forth and learn not to get by, but rather how to challenge yourself to become a better person, overcome those challenges (or learn from the failure) so that you can ultimately thrive as leaders.
Go back to the main MYLP blog post.