Coming from a very competitive school district, I grew up comparing myself to the people around me in all aspects of life, especially academics. I entered college fearing the worst. In such a large community, I imagined all the people who were going to be better than me: smarter than me, with better jobs, more experiences, bigger goals, better ambitions than I have. I was a small fish entering a big pond; a pond full of amazing, ambitious, brilliant fish. I was paralyzed with fear trying to figure out how I would compare to others around me and worrying what others would think of me. Luckily, I found an amazing group of students at K-State that I am lucky to call my friends, including my Sigma Alpha sisters. The problem arose, however, when I began discussing academics and future plans with others.
Throughout my first year of college as I have discussed future goals, ambitions, and plans with my fellow classmates, I found myself reverting to my high school mindset, constantly comparing my path to others. It always seemed that someone had their life figured out more than I did, sending me into a spiral of stress attempting to shape myself into a more “impressive” student, even though I knew I was doing well. At the mention of a friend receiving an internship or job opportunity, I felt a sense of dread; a sense that I was not doing enough with my life. I would scour the internet for days trying to find extra things to do – even if I could not handle them on top of my already busy schedule – just to be able to say I did them. I thought that if a friend took a class first semester, while I took it second semester, I was falling behind and needed to adjust my schedule to catch up. I was constantly worried that I was falling behind, unimpressive, and simply not achieving enough.
What I failed to realize until later in the year was that college is nothing like high school. That statement on its own may be strikingly obvious, but allow me to clarify. In high school, everyone is essentially on the same track: everybody takes the same classes at roughly the same time, in the same building, with the same people for four years. In college, however, no two people will do exactly the same things. There are so many different majors, minors, and certificates to choose from, and so many ways to acquire them. Even if two students have the same major, the path to their degree may be completely different, and it does not make one any better or worse than the other. One person may be on a three year plan, the other on a five. One student may know exactly what they want to do the second they step foot on campus, another may not know until senior year. And all of that is okay.
The biggest thing I learned my freshman year of college is that it does me no good to compare myself to those around me. I learned that just because my friend is doing something I am not, does not mean I am below them. I learned that progress is not linear, and there is no set path to success. I realized nobody else is looking down on me simply because I am on a different path than them. Most importantly, I learned what truly matters is that I have found people who will support me no matter which path I take, and nothing can compare to that.