I have been a lot of things in my life. I've had the privilege of saying, "I'm a mom," "I'm a friend," and "I'm a professor." What I have realized, however, is that those are titles easy to give to yourself.
I've noticed that I'm a much better mom, a much better friend and a much better professor when I change the phrase to focus on the doing--I am being a mom. I am being a friend. I am being a professor.
We are what we do, and what we do starts with a path. As first-year college students around the country are now discovering for the first time, the experiences we choose in college are a large part of what define that journey. It's where we can truly begin to "be," to sense and see what we can become.
Up until the moment a student arrives on campus, so much of your life has been defined by the roles you are given as sons, daughters, students, athletes and friends. But you are no longer bound by what defined you for the first 18 years of your life.
College offers an environment designed for self-discovery, but you'll be expected to define yourself through action. It's not enough to say you're a student or even just to show up to class; you must make the effort to be a student. To make new friends, you must actively be a friend.
College can be a transformative experience if you take advantage of all its opportunities.
Be a student. Come to class prepared and ready to contribute. Reach out to the mentors available to you. Make an appointment with a professor to talk about your work. Ask about research opportunities. Sign up for an internship or study abroad opportunity.
Be a citizen. Join one of your college's many clubs or organizations. Get involved in student government. Attend campus sporting events. Explore your new surroundings with friends and classmates. Know what's going on in your campus community.
Be a participant in your own journey. This kind of transformative self-discovery isn't easy. It will be eye-opening, exciting, exhilarating... and exhausting. But the discovery, excitement, challenges, memories and lifelong friendships will all be yours, if you make it happen.