I still vividly remember the week leading up to my first day at Tufts University – “butterflies in the stomach” would be underselling the sensation. As a grizzled adult, I am tempted to look back now dismissively: there was no apparent reason to be so apprehensive. But as a university guidance counsellor and parent, I find dismissing these feelings not so easy – their roots are grounded in a reality worth investigating.
University is a new beginning, and new beginnings can be daunting. There is a misconception that what one studies in university defines one’s career. In actuality, a typical college graduate has 3+ careers in their lifetime (and 15+ jobs!). And, as I tell my students, in the future they may well work in jobs that don’t yet exist, in markets currently not invented, producing products and services we don’t yet know we need. For many employers, the degree studied is irrelevant, with personal qualities and transferable skills deemed much more important.
Meanwhile, media and society can give students the impression that “university brings the best years of your life,” and/or “university is the time to find yourself.” Needless to say, these beliefs put undue social pressure on the student. I am a big proponent of students being adventurous and trying new things that may not align with their images of themselves, but this does not always result in self-discovery.
All this is not to dismiss the importance of higher education; it’s to say students need to approach their university studies with a growth mindset. University is just one (BIG) step in the journey towards becoming who we are.
So, perhaps the best place to begin is with reflection. Students first need to ask their families, friends, BISS faculty and ultimately themselves, who do I want to become, and how do I want to change the world I live in for the better? The answer to “how will university get me there?” usually follows, but not always. If it doesn’t, don’t fret. Students and families can feel free to approach our HE Team for help with putting those pesky butterflies in the stomach to rest.
Head of Higher Education and Careers Guidance