There is a song by the Rolling Stones (look them up and you’re welcome if you’ve never heard of them) that says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need”.
This song lyric rings incredibly true when it comes to each person’s experience in college. I’ve met with thousands of students over my career and even more alumni from universities all across America. I’m always curious to hear them talk about their college experience. What I have found from doing this almost 20 years is that 40% had an incredible experience, another 40% had an awful experience, and in between there is the rare 20% that don’t have an opinion one way or the other. Now here is the cool correlation after getting to know them better. The people that had a great experience, they are overall, positive people in general. They enjoy life, their job, family, etc. The ones that didn’t have a great experience, seem to still not be having a great experience at life. It’s interesting to see how those line up.
So what am I getting at? Let’s break down the song lyric to better illustrate it.
“You can’t always get what you want.” – This is a truth that will ring true for every single person in college and beyond. This is a life lesson that you will learn over and over and over again. In terms of college, this could refer to several things. Perhaps you didn’t get into your first choice, your major is full, there is a waiting list, financial aid is messed up yet again, etc. There are always going to be stumbling blocks that we have a choice to either stop and concede that life is always going to be a struggle, or we strap on a back pack and climb on over it.
“But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” – This line is for the people that decide they need to climb over the stumbling block and keep moving. So you didn’t get into your first choice, well guess what, maybe the school you did get into is a better fit for you and you didn’t even know it. Your major is full, well you’ve got some options. It could be that your major may be on the cusp of a surplus in the market place with all those people graduating and it’s time to find something else. It could be that you need to make some relationships with your adviser and deans to let them know that when and opening comes open that you want it. People don’t always make decisions based on paper, if they know you and like you, sometimes there is wiggle room. Your financial aid is messed up yet again. Welcome to life folks, stuff get’s messed up. FA is still typically done by humans and they can make mistakes. If you come in screaming, they aren’t going to be very helpful, but if you come in with understanding, it’s amazing how fast it gets fixed.
I’ve met students from all socioeconomic statuses and they all can fall in on the chart. Some in the top, middle and low on the experience rating. The socioeconomics have nothing to do with it. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “what you put in at college is what you’re going to get out.” That’s the truth, if you go in knowing you’re going to have a great experience and you deal with the stumbling blocks maturely and systematically, you’re going to have a great experience. However, if you come in with a chip on your shoulder that everyone owes you everything and nothing ever goes right, guess what, you’re going to have a bad experience. The first sign of something not going the way you “think it should” and you’re ready to blame everyone and bail.
You have a choice to make on which person you will be. College is a great opportunity to start anew. No matter your background or what you think people think of you, this is your shot to make the best of it. You are in control of your college experience. It’s not always going to be what you want. But I think if you try, really try, you’re going to find it’s just what you needed.
As always… Dream It, Believe It, Do It and Win It!
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Dustin Hall has been working in higher education for over 20 years. He's passionate about students, technology and entrepreneurship. Over the past two decades, he has owned several companies and worked at a number of private and public universities. At those universities he has held the titles of; Communications Coordinator, Asst. Dean of Residential and Campus Life, Director of Residence Life, Regional Admissions Officer, Director of Admissions and Adjunct Faculty. He's a big dreamer and doer and lives by his motto of "Dream It, Believe It, Do It and Win It!"