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The College Process: Navigating the Undergraduate Experience Successfully

· Life Lessons

It took me four years to realize that college is more than a consistent strand of lectures or all-nighters at the library. College for me was a revelation and most importantly, a building component of whom I never thought I could become. In hopes of sharing a few strategies for a rewarding college experience, in the following paragraphs, I will outline the three most important things learned throughout my undergrad career.

Striking the Balance between Execution and Cultivation

Allowing myself to grow from the very beginning was my greatest weapon. For me, growth was initially parallel to the attainment of results. I grew obsessed with the benefits that came along with execution and eventually alienated the importance of cultivating relationships. My entrepreneurial drive led me to launch a few ventures; however, like most starting entrepreneurs, I was faced with constant rejection whenever I asked for help. In truth, what kept me afloat was my attitude to prevail no matter the circumstance. The summer prior to my final year, my team and I launched an initiative to teach entrepreneurship skills to underprivileged youth in Ghana. From this experience, I understood that embracing my level of opportunity helped me understand my level of opposition, and thus I prepared accordingly. Upon returning to the states, I switched my trajectory to cultivating genuine relationships and after doing so; things gradually fell into place – leading me to secure more funding in my senior year than I ever did in my first three years combined. The point here is, individuals who flourish are not extremely results oriented, rather extremely intentional in cultivating relationships.

Shaping Your Identity

A mentor and friend once told me “Don’t let anyone define success for you.” Many students in college are attached to the widely acclaimed definition of success, to the extent where failure is rarely or never embraced. My mantra has always been 'get involved, do more, and fail fast’. I view failure as a learning experience, which in itself is a success. During my freshman year of college, I gathered the courage to recite one of my poems in public for the first time. Making that leap forward is what defined the rest of my college career, as it taught me the importance of not living in fear and further laid the platform to explore entrepreneurship. Prior to dabbling in the world of entrepreneurship, I learned the benefits associated with allocating my time efficiently and the importance of taking things one-step at a time. This contributed to the shaping of my identity as I realized that where I spent my money, my time, and my passion were the defining factors of what mattered most to me.

Recognizing the Importance of Having a Community

Personal experience has showed me how troubling it can be to navigate the college process alone. The absence of a community in my freshman year, led to a lot of unnecessary confusion and time wasted. Fortunately, with time I have learned that having a community promotes clarity. For example, most freshmen have a preconceived notion of what college entails until they befriend older students who enable them to comprehend the actual realities of the undergrad experience. Experience has also taught me that the moment you decide to go through your undergraduate career alone, you void yourself from a support system that will hold you accountable when you do not perform to the best of your ability. Having a community also encourages one to discuss fears, hopes, and aspirations, which can easily transform a discouragement to an encouragement. In cultivating a community, one thing that has worked for me is something I call “Conscious Categorization”. This is the process of grouping your friends into three sets: (1) a younger group, (2) the same age group, and (3) an older group. Once you begin to serve as a mentor for group one, as a friend for group two, and as a mentee for group three, you start to blossom.

Four years later, as I sat through graduation at Yankee Stadium thinking about these three lessons, my mind continuously gravitated to the setbacks, the comebacks, the dreadful and the most memorable moments. My experience could have easily gone down south if I chose not to attentively listen and passionately learn from my mistakes. A college education, no matter where it is received, is an enormous privilege and with that, comes a huge responsibility. I am thankful for my experience at New York University, I look forward to the challenges, and I plan to excel. What about you?

 

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- Jephthah Acheampong

Four years later, as I sat through graduation at Yankee Stadium thinking about these three lessons, my mind continuously gravitated to the setbacks, the comebacks, the dreadful and the most memorable moments. My experience could have easily gone down south if I chose not to attentively listen and passionately learn from my mistakes. A college education, no matter where it is received, is an enormous privilege and with that, comes a huge responsibility. I am thankful for my experience at New York University, I look forward to the challenges, and I plan to excel. What about you?

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