by Cassidy Lawson
Do you ever think about how your undergrad experience impacted you as a person? Have you ever thought about how it did or didn’t meet your expectations for what you wanted for your college experience? Some of these questions came into my head this past Saturday when I stepped back onto my alma mater. I took a trip home and spontaneously decided to visit my old stomping grounds, Radford University. RU is only 45 minutes away from my mother’s house and it’s on the way home, so it’s an easy stop for me to make.
As I stepped back onto campus, I couldn’t help but be flooded with memories. I ordered a drink at the on campus Starbucks that I stood in line for morning after morning. I walked around the on campus bookstore where I still remember buying my first semester’s worth of textbooks for. I picked up a copy of the school’s student newspaper that I used to write for. I walked by the residence hall that I was an RA for my senior year… the year where one of the residents in the building took his own life during finals week.
It was as if every experience I had ever had was still there and all my friends were going to turn the corner at any moment. But I quickly realized my friends have all graduated, my teachers are holding class with all new students and my time on campus had passed. All the emotions hit me at once…all the times I cried and laughed …all the times I felt hopeless, happy, lonely, excited, terrified, content, smart, dumb…. they all came back at once. It’s funny how when you go back to someplace that filled you up with memories for four years you really don’t think about the paper you spent all night writing or the exam you were sure you were going to fail; you think about the people you met and how they impacted your life.
I read an article this morning about “How To Measure A College’s Value” in The New York Times. It discussed a student’s college experience and their life satisfaction down the road. Satisfaction is measured by fulfillment in the following areas: relationships, physical health, community, economic situation and sense of purpose. It turns out the factors that determined if a student would be fulfilled by their college experience and post-grad satisfaction wasn’t the branding or prestige of the school they went to. Rather, satisfaction was found in finding a mentor, being involved with a long-term project or organization, or completing a job/internship related to their chosen field.
This goes back to me thinking about how Radford impacted me and if I found the pot of gold at the end of my experience. As of right now, I’m not making 5 figures straight out of college and I’m in way too much student debt for my own good. However, I wouldn’t change my experiences at Radford for anything. I met people that deeply impacted my life. I made a difference on campus by my service, commitment, and loyalty as a student leader. Radford awarded me a Bachelor’s Degree so that I could pursue my M.ED and make a difference every day in college student’s lives. Are there things I wish I could change about my college experience? Absolutely. There will always be the cliché regrets about my college years….I wish I had joined one more student org…I wish I would have tried this and that…I wish I had met more people…I wish I hadn’t treated that person that way. However, at the end of the day, regrets are only going to fog the rest of your memories. You can’t look back and think what if; you have to look back and think, “Wow, I did something that mattered.” Even though I didn’t get the pot of gold literally, I am definitely rich in my experiences. I’ll leave you with the final thought from the New York Times article referenced above by Frank Bruni, “What college gives you hinges almost entirely on what you give it.”
Did your undergrad give you your pot of gold? Do you feel fulfilled and satisfied in your post grad life because of experiences in college?