Home > Random > Seven Semesters: A balancing act.

Seven Semesters: A balancing act.

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The fact that I graduate in five months is mind-blowing.  In fact, I am a bit panicked right now trying to think of ways to make next semester worthwhile.  Throughout the past seven semesters, I have realized this: college is not all about grades, books, and the GPA game. Nor is it about non-stop partying, as the misguided Asher Roth tried to convey in his hit song, “I Love College.”  It is, however, about balancing academics with extracurriculars and trying to throw in a social agenda where it can fit.  Oh…and finding time to do laundry (clean clothes are important).

As one New York Times article astutely points out, ‘the promise of “Go to college, get good grades and then get a job,” isn’t working the way it once did.’   Students must push hard to not only make good grades, but also to become devout members of campus organizations, avid supporters of community endeavors, and leaders of any and all worthwhile pursuits.  All to prove to potential employers that they are indeed worthy of being hired.

Most college students decide to incorporate at least one or two non-academic activities into their busy schedules.  I recently read a U.S. News & World Report article which outlines the top ten paid job experiences that any college student can have in order to prepare for a “real-world” job.  While I do not have “real-world” job experience as of yet, I do believe that certain jobs and positions that I have held throughout college have bolstered my résumé in a way that appeals to potential employers.  I can only hope that these activities have also offset my less than spectacular undergraduate GPA,(which, unlike that of students at some schools, most likely did not incorporate any sort of inflation) especially since they played a large part in its downtrodden fate.

Some of the jobs listed in the U.S. News & World Report article, such as working as a bank teller, seem a bit difficult for an actual (inexperienced) college student to obtain.  However, some of the jobs that are listed are fairly easy to secure (particularly at the school which I attend) and are also very helpful for the “real world,” in my opinion.  For example, the slide show that accompanies the U.S. News article mentions that being an On-Campus Tour Guide is one of the best jobs that a student can hold.  I must point out that at my school, being a tour guide is not a paid position.  The students that partake in giving tours do so out of a shared passion for our Mother, so dear.  Clearly, being a tour guide has many advantages.  First and foremost, I believe that my experience as a tour guide has allowed me to appreciate the history and traditions that create the fabric of life at Wake Forest.  I know many facts and figures which my colleagues do not (such as Tribble having bomb-shelter built into the basement).  From a less personal perspective, being a tour guide has taught me, among other things, to publicly share my college experience.  I am able to share the positive and the negative about Wake Forest with prospective students and their families with hopes of providing a true glimpse of what life at the Forest is like.  I have received many e-mails and fielded numerous telephone questions from prospective students who have toured the campus at some point or another, asking why they should attend Wake Forest over X, Y, or Z University.  I have never been able to give these prospective students a firm answer since I have not attended any other school, but I have always been able to succinctly explain why I chose Wake Forest and why I believe the school would be a fit for each of these inquisitive (not to mention worried) students.  The answer is never the same, since each student is unique.  This ability, to encapsulate more than three years of my life into just a few concise statements, is invaluable.  Students don’t want to hear about why I love every nook and cranny of our beautiful campus, or a detailed list of why our academics are superior to other schools.  They want quick, hard facts that will be helpful in making their final decision on where to spend the next four years of their life.  Similarly, employers (especially in the legal field) dislike “fluff” in any sort of conversation or writing.  Most “higher-ups” have very little time to read between the lines and prefer a black & white answer to any questions they may have (for example, regarding an report conducted by an analysts).  Additionally, being a tour guide has helped me learn how to think on the fly in a major way.  As you can imagine, tour guides get asked very interesting questions, especially from parents.  Being able to successfully field these questions while keeping cool takes quite a bit of skill (imagine having to answer, “Do students get away with underage drinking on campus?” in front of 30 strangers, 17 of whom are adults).  Being caught off guard is something all veteran tour guides are accustomed to, and answering an unexpected question becomes an opportunity rather than a burden.  Finally, I’m sure that my future employers will be glad to know that I can walk my entire campus backwards, unlike many of my peers.

Supposedly, public speaking is a very large fear for many people.  Extracurriculars are a great way to target and overcome this fear, if it’s one that is on your list. Something that I actually started doing in high school and continued in college has really helped acquiesce this fear for me.  That activity, Mock Trial, is one that I support whole-heartedly.  Not only does Mock Trial help with learning how to eloquently address unfamiliar individuals, but it also provides a great insight to the world of trial law.  Though there are many aspects which are different between Mock Trial and actual trial practice, one of the staples which binds the two worlds is the use of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which all collegiate competitors must be familiar with.  Knowing these rules is only the tip of the iceberg.  One must be able to successfully apply and manipulate the rules under stressful competition conditions in order to be a successful competitor.  For attorneys, arguing and overcoming objections improves spontaneous and creative thinking and also helps develop a true grasp of the rules.  While bolstering knowledge of the litigation process and helping individuals conquer glossophobia, Mock Trial also teaches participants that individual hard work can result in significant gains for a group.  Mock Trial practices at WFU are generally two hours each and are held at least twice per week.  This effectively adds the extra course load of one class to each members’ schedule, assignments included.  Since teams are scored collectively, each member must put forth his or her greatest effort to prepare in order to succeed at tournaments.  This being the case, the level of preparation for each individual directly correlates with the success or defeat of the entire team.  Since many professionals spend time working with others and working in groups, it seems that this aspect of Mock Trial should be advantageous in the “real world.”  Overall, Mock Trial has been my favorite extracurricular activity throughout college, and I expect that I will take a lot away from it when I begin working in August 2011.

Another great experience is to become deeply involved with any campus organization.  Learning how an organization works and devoting oneself to that organization shows employers something they always look for: dedication.  But more specifically, any sort of leadership role in an organization is probably most helpful for résumé padding purposes.  Hopefully potential employers will at least raise an eyebrow when they see the leadership roles I’ve had in various organizations on campus.  Why would they?  First, they know that it takes a LOT to (successfully)  lead an organization composed primarily of college students, whether that organization has ten members or 100.  Planning events, scheduling meetings, and implementing goals and policies are all actually all very stressful and difficult executions, as any campus leader will tell you.  Additionally, being a leader requires a lot of compromise.  The president of an organization may want to lead the organization down one path, while the vice president may want to go down a completely different one.  This being the case, the two must come to a consensus on what is best for the success of the organization (this is a very simple example; usually scenarios are much more complex).  Evaluating the long-term goals of an organization and working alongside others to achieve those goals is a great lesson I learned through my involvement with the executive board of Mock Trial during my senior year in college.  Some of my friends have also expressed that it is necessary to “go the extra mile” if you are heavily involved with an organization, whether you are in a formal leadership position or not.  This requirement portrays a glimpse of the hard work that is necessary to excel in the “real world.” It can also help an individual explore areas that he or she may be interested in pursuing after graduating.

This is probably the longest post that I’ve created so far on this blog.  I think it’s fitting.  College is a milestone.  It’s wild to reflect on how much I’ve grown throughout college and how far I’ve come from being just another kid in a small town (all thanks to my parents, of course).  The most important thing to do during these four years, which is almost inevitable in college, is to put yourself out there and get involved.  If you don’t like something, you’ll know that for the future.  However, if you never give it a shot, you’ll never know if it could have been your home-run.

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