By Dante Munnis:
When you are 17, one of the biggest life changing thrills you can experience is getting accepted into your dream college. After all, it’s not just like you apply one fine day, and then a week later, you get admitted. The importance of college is something that’s put in your head from a pretty young age. I think I was around 12 when I started thinking about it and it pretty much became the driving force during my high school years.
Of course, it is not just any college you’re looking at, we’re all seeking for the ‘dream school experience’ and in my case, the school turned out to be The University of Wisconsin.
Well, to be honest, it started with the football stadium when I was around 16 . I always loved Camp Randall Stadium and being from the midwest, the Badgers were a natural team for me to root for. On top of that, I liked the images of the campus they showed during the games and that was enough for me to go online and do a little research. I checked out the school’s academic rankings (among top 10 public universities of the nation), tuition cost, scholarships, and the various academic programs it offered and excelled in.
The next step was a little road trip I took to Madison the next summer to see the town and campus in person and from that point on, I was hooked. The city was great, urban but with the heavy college-life feel to it, the grounds of the school were beautiful, and there was a serious thrill about the sheer size and scope of a university which was home to 45,000 students. Factoring them all in with its very competitive Football and Basketball teams and academic reputation (even though I had no idea what I wanted to do my major in back then), I knew I wanted to be a Badger.
So now that I’d zeroed down on my dream school, I suddenly had a razor sharp sense of focus, and after spending too many hours of studying for my ACTs (American College Testing) and doing everything I could to pump up my G.P.A. (Grade Point Average), I applied during the summer of my Junior year. And two months later, I was accepted.
And then life began changing.
Not right at first actually, because I still had to wrap up my final year of high school. It didn’t even happen during my freshman year of college to be true.
Don’t get me wrong, my first year was a blast. Everything was new – you no longer had the parental units watching your every move, and you’re suddenly able to do things like going for a run at midnight on a Tuesday and then finding yourself at a house party on a Thursday.
But this wasn’t anything I would have called profoundly life changing. And to be honest, the first year is still pretty much a blur to me.
However, during my second year and the two years that followed, life at my dream school began to impact and alter me in some pretty profound ways.
For starters, I began thinking about my health and taking care of myself in a way that I probably could never have imagined when I was younger. Gone were the nice and neat daily school days scheduled from 8:15 am to 3:57 pm, the set dinner times at 6:30 pm, and bedtime by 10:30 pm. Now life seemed to go on for 24/7. With times ranging anywhere from 8:00 am to 10 pm and various ‘social activities’ happening every day of the week, I for the first time became aware of the need of sleep and daily workouts in order to keep myself from losing against the oddball lifestyle of college. That new-found health consciousness is something I’ve taken with me to this very day.
Another major change came when I became financially aware. Yeah, I knew what a dollar was back in high school, but I never had to really think in terms of a budget. The money I made from working was easily more than enough to pay for my CDs, movies, and computer games, and I’d never had to think about running out of dough before the end of the month.
But now I was effectively on my own in college and I had a sudden realisation of what true expenses were (rent, electricity, going to the market etc.).
This was all for the better, though, because from that point on I saw the concept of saving money in a whole new light, one which has helped me control my expenditure and differentiate between my wants and needs during the post-graduate life.
My dream college changed my life more when it taught me to become more aware of how others felt. I learnt that the things you say and do can affect people in ways I’d never known before. Listening to my friends’ problems, doing more to verbalise my own thoughts, and dealing with a variety of personalities helped me a lot to get a better grasp of how individuals often see the same thing in very different ways. Knowing that made me far more adept at seeing other people’s perspectives, which is a skill that has helped me greatly during my adult life.
Finally, going to my dream school taught me to push myself. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re tested by those who are just as much or more talented than you are. And being in a place with a ton of really bright people, who had their own gifts and ambitions, made me dig deeper into myself to find out just how sharp, strong, or mentally tough I could be. Discovering that I could be something more, had the most profound effect on my life and from that point on, it is what has made me braver and more confident and enabled me to face tough challenges in life.