Focusing on personal growth in college

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Zachary Phillips

As a Freshman in 2011, I came to Chico with a few suitcases full of clothes, a pillowcase stuffed with goodbye cards and well wishes, and a brain burning with ambition.

Barring the occasional breakdown when Adele’s “Someone Like You” came on the radio, I entered my first year with a confidence and fervor like I had never experienced before.

I was ready to “find myself,” whatever that means …

Most students head off to college with similar ambitions. While exploring majors, joining organizations, and reinventing themselves entirely, incoming students are often armored with enough hopes and dreams to block a bullet.

Then classes happen. Grades happen. Ambitions are given a unitary value that must be satisfied before four years are up. Four turns to five. Anxiety sets in, and college becomes a labyrinth that students must escape before the debt monster sniffs them out.

By the time they make it out, how much self-discovery has actually happened?

Amongst all of the paper deadlines, midterms and required readings, it can be all too easy for students to forget that college should be just as formative for themselves as a person as it is for their education.

Issues of integrity, personal beliefs and relationship dynamics are only a few of the interpersonal matters that someone can only start to truly delve into once they have flown their parent’s coop.

How can I find people who are like-minded? How do I coexist with those who aren’t? What do I believe, and why? For what issues will I take a stand?

Despite how crucial these questions are to a person’s individual growth, they are too often sidelined for the sake of book smarts. A’s and B’s and whatever gets degrees often take the precedent over individual development, stifling identity and personal growth.

Society sees the college graduate as a future leader, their degree a badge of honor signifying four to six years of rigorous education. But what good is a college degree in the hands of someone who still thinks like a high schooler?

What good is a college degree in the face of moral dilemmas or systemic injustice?

For the sake of a world whose future leaders will have to do more than simply pass their midterms, it is time for the college student to focus less on their degree and more on integrity.

Zachary Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or @ZachSPhillips on Twitter.