The official blog belonging to Anthony Kwok
Nowadays, it's become the norm for American children to go through the education system from age 4 to 18 and after they graduate, they go to the college of their dreams or go to their last choice because they got rejected from the Ivys, or an UC school, or Stanford, or Cambridge. Can I beat this dead horse any more than I already have xD? Whatever the case is, American parents push their children to go to college but the lifestyle is completely different from what life in high school is like. So here are 10 things I wish I knew before I went to signing myself off to tens of thousands of dollars of debt and locking in the next four years of life to the same environment, living that evermost exciting college life. Keep in mind that this is my opinion and there is no consequence if you disagree but I hope to provide some insight to those who are going to college in the future/near future. These tips are for anyone (1-5 are general tips, 6-10 are college specific), but particularly those who are about to enter college.
1. Focus On Building Yourself
As cheesy as this sounds, one thing that I wish I knew was to focus on myself. In life, it is okay to be a bit selfish. To elaborate, I want to give a reality check, it is you who is on the chopping block in life. It is your ability (with luck of course) that gets you those internships, those co-ops, those study abroad opportunities, those future jobs, it is you who ends up experiencing what you experience in life. Focus on building yourself, upgrading yourself. I'm not saying you cannot have friends but when your friend gets an internship at Google and you are busy trying to look for something to do in the summer, do a self reflection, are you happy with where you are now because ambition comes from not being happy where you are now Self-motivation and self-discipline is something that is very difficult to maintain in college, primarily because you will have a lot of new experiences and not all of them will benefit you as a person. I want to make one thing clear and this is the harsh reality, everyone is both special and not special. No two people have the exact same personality (at least I hope so), but in life, you are measured by creativity, ability, and attitude. If I'm looking to hire someone in the future, I need to see a reason to hire you, whether it is an internship, co-op, or a full time job. We are raised as children that we are special, that we're meant to make an impact on the world that we'll become the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Well you don't magically become that person in one day. There's a Chinese quote that I'm going to reference, and it is an important one. 一步登天 (Yī bù dēng tiān). This in English literally means "One Step Reaches Heaven". The meaning is that if I want to reach for the sky, if I want to touch Heaven, I can't do it by taking one step. If I want to become the the person I want to be, I cannot do it without dilligence and hardwork. When you look at the world's most successful people today, you only see their successes, you do not see the blood, sweat, tears, stress, and pain that they go through. Everyone in life has stress, sure the levels differ between person to person and some stressors are less relatible to others but the people that stand where they stand, they're where they are because instead of taking that stress and letting it drag them down, they convert it as motivation, it becomes part of their self drive. Why the rags to riches story, despite being overused and corny as is, represents the story of many of the world's most influential people. You are at the most vulnerable point of your life when you've hit rock bottom or at any low point in life because it is in that moment when you decide whether you're going to fight for your life or wither and waste your life away. I believe that many of us and by us meaning Gen-Z do not know how to handle stress in a healthy manner and we resort to the easy way out, which doesn't solve the problem at hand. You have that ugly five page paper due for that English class and instead of doing it a little at a time, we wait till the last moment, procrastinating, subjecting ourselves to things like pulling all-nighters and stressing that we won't fit that word count where it would be a lot easier on us if given a week to write that paper, we spend every day writing a little bit of it at a time. Procrastinating doesn't change the fact that the paper is due, it doesn't mean you won't have to worry about it, it means you won't have to worry about it in that moment but the problem is still there. This can be applied to practically anything else in life. You're not going to write that paper if you don't have the dilligence to consistently work on it. You're not going to lose weight by going to the gym for one day, working out for eight hours. You lose weight by consistently going to the gym, going for 30-60 minutes each time you go. Any goal you have in mind, anything you want to accomplish, will not get done without that consistency. There's an old saying that most adults will not remember what they learned in school and the reason why is because they don't use that knowledge consistently. Remember that consistently does not mean constantly. It is okay to take breaks, it is okay to relax and enjoy TV or play video games, but you have to know how much time is adequate for entertainment and that is where the self-discipline comes in. It's not only breaking the bad habits (which are hard to do by the way so I don't blame you if you haven't broken them) but having the dilligence to stick to good habits. Temptation is everwhere my friend, knowing what's good for you in the long run and sticking to things that benefit you dilligently is how you develop a healthy lifestyle. These three speeches, one by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's, one by Robert Kiyosaki, and the third by Simon Sinek have motivated me throughout my college life and I, to no one's surprise, watch these videos consistently. These three men lead very different lifestyles and yet, they speak of similar things. It's because they know the secret and it's painstakingly obvious. Building yourself will not only benefit your self confidence, but change your outlook on life. you will become a much happier person in the long run. So take that step to do things that benefit you, that make you more attractive, physically, emotionally and most importantly, mentally. A sickened mind is worse than a sickened body. Understand that you aren't going to improve unless you put that time and effort in. No pain no gain.
A saying that I go by is that smart people learn from their own mistakes but the smartest people learn from other people's mistakes. I want to first start by saying that I am not perfect in any way shape or form. I am sharing this because this is what I wish I could tell my past self, but I can't so I share this knowledge with you. Start exploring new things, figuring out if this is what you want to do. Building yourself also means building confidence, which builds a deceisive attitude. Many people spend their time in college, wasting time, money, and resources on figuring out what they want to do. If you don't know by the time you graduate high school, I strongly recommend going to community college, picking up a broad set of classes and taking the time to figure out what you like and don't like because ultimately, you want to graduate and figure out where you want your life story to continue after college. College is that intermediate stage between real life and childhood. Reality is that you will eventually end up being a law-abiding citizen (hopefully), pay taxes, bills, health insurance, etc, and become an independent person. Your expenses never stop coming and the time in college is meant for you to prepare yourself for what's next in life. The sooner you know what you want for your future, whether it's going to grad school, getting a job, or something else like joining the military or peace corps, the better position you are in when it comes to your future. I am not going to make you a millionaire, whether you end up being a millionaire depends on you. The most important aspect to whether or not you feel like a million bucks or actually are a million bucks comes down to you. I want you to understand that what you do now is where you end up in the future. So figure out what you want and after that, focus on doing whatever it takes to get there.
Now this is one that I struggle with personally and the people who know me well know that this issue has tainted me down to my very core. This is the biggest mistake I believe traditional Asian families do. Most traditional Asian parents will compare their kids to their relatives' kids or their friends' kids, even pitting their own kids against each other. Life is not about living to other people's expectations, it's about living to your own. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "Life is only worth living only if there are goals inspiring one to live." You should compare yourself to your past self, compare yourself to who you once were with your present self. Set realistic, timed goals and slowly work towards them at your own pace. Then after that designated time, you look back and see if you're happy with the progress you've made. If you're not, then change how you approach the next goal. If you properly timestamp your goals, you will see by the time you've reached the next timestamp whether or not you are happy with the progress you've made. The point is that instead of comparing yourself to other people, who have a completely different situation than you, compare yourself to you, that way you're seeing yourself on that stage and not anyone else. As someone who's recovered from this habit, I want to make it clear that it is of utmost importance that you stop comparing yourself to others, because you'll always find yourself coming up short. Teddy Roosevelt says so himself that "Comparison is the thief of joy." Steven Furtick says "The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Realize that you will have your moment to shine, just hope it isn't like Sarah Palin whose fame came and went in 15 minutes and became an afterthought (It's a joke Sarah, don't take it personally). Believe in yourself, I firmly believe that one of the things that sprouts in higher education is arrogance and the development of superiority/inferiority complexes. It is easy to get discouraged in college, pick anyone around you and there will be something about them that you wish you had in your life and there will be something about them that hasn't happen in your life and maybe you wish it will never occur to you (like the loss of a loved one). Everyone is different, I understand that this isn't something you're going to accomplish in one day. In fact, none of the advice I'm going to give will ever be accomplished in one day, that's what I'm trying to convey throughout this whole post. Comparing yourself to others only harms yourself. You are writing your own story, not anyone elses. So, focus on your story and see where you'll take yourself.
This is something I've recently discovered. In my experience, wisdom comes from two things, patience and experience (no pun intended). I do not want you waiting until you're 50 to start completing your bachelors degree but also, there is no rush to finish your bachelors at 16 years of age (believe me, those people exist). Your golden years are from 19-35, these four years that are used to complete your bachelors degree are going to be one of the most important four years of your life. My advice is to live your life satisfied. That means every night you lay down on your bed, about to fall asleep, take 15 minutes to reflect on whether or not you feel satisfied of how your day went. If you feel like your day wasn't productive, then assess what changes need to be taken to change how you feel about your day. The same goes if you feel like your life is too hectic. Understand that anything new in life will be difficult to learn. Just like when you were a baby, the most difficult thing for you was learning how to crawl, walk, and speak. It all comes with time and improvements only show with time. I will say this time and time again, "The only reason why anything is difficult in life is because you are not familiar with it". It doesn't matter what it is. Math is hard because I haven't developed the familiarity to make it easy for me. It is so simple to merely say it but the time it takes for familiarity to develop isn't that simple. Most babies master walking at 14-15 months, where it is perfectly normal for a baby to master walking at 17 or even 18 months. Imagine doing algebra or calculus for 18 months straight, I bet you will become proficient at it.
No one is self made, believe me. No one ever gets through life alone. Life is hard and if it weren't, there would be no point to life. If humans were autotrophs and all we needed was water, sunlight, and nutrients (simplified to get my point across, I can hear the disappointment in Biology enthusiasts), we would have no need to struggle to make money, or work as hard as many people do. Thus taking the time to appreciate the people that helped you where you are can lead a long way. Long lasting relationships are built through consistency. (see the pattern here?) Your friends aren't really your friends if they've never stuck out their neck for you. A lot of people are taken for granted, especially parents, who spend everyday relentlessly battling the harshness of reality so their children don't have to suffer as much. Time is also something a lot of people take for granted, everyone gets the same twenty-four hours in a day, learning to use that time (because you can't go back into time) and not wasting it is something a lot of people do. The time with your relatives, your friends, perhaps your lover, your teachers, friends, etc. Your time is most important but their time is as well. Meaning when you're out with your family, spend that time with your family. Same goes with when you're on a date with your lover, same rule applies when you're in class, the professor is taking that time to teach you. I'm sure many teachers are bored with teaching the same subject every single day for every school year so understanding the situation someone else is in will dramatically help you with connecting with all kinds of people. Porter Gale famously quotes that "your network is your net worth". Do not establish or maintain relationships with people that do not benefit you. Those that harm you are not worth keeping around but also understand that very few people in life intentionally want to hurt another person. A lot of time, ignorance and lack of experience cause many people to unintentionally hurt someone. Thus, being empathetic and openminded will help you build relationships that are meant to last with all sorts of people. Your support system is as important in your success as you are.
This one is something I want to stress. There are a lot of resources that are available to students that most students don't utilize. You're going to be attending the same campus for the next four years (many students do) so familiarity is something that should be developed. Knowing where certain buildings are like the library, the student lounge (called the Union at UIUC), the campus hospital, where the dorms are, the different quads, what buildings are what (ie, English building, Altgeld Hall is unofficially the Math building at UIUC), where the Greek life is on your campus, where the Financial Aid Office is, where the campus bookstore is, etc. Also, one thing that is very important is to read the class syllabus, because it provides important information like when assignments are due, the professor's email, where office hours are held, etc. It is also important to know where campus tutoring is held and where the counseling center is. Knowing where to get tech support is helpful as well. Learning the campus bus system and downloading the official campus bus app will also benefit you.
Outside of your classes, you will most likely be joining campus clubs, more formally known as Registered Student Organizations. Your campus will have tons of RSOs that are available for you to choose from. I strongly recommend you do some research and pick up RSOs that will help you in where you want to end up professionally and those that will benefit you in the future. My rule of thumb is to have one or two RSOs that you will want to end up taking a leadership position (ie, President, VP, Treasurer, or Secretary) and join two to three RSOs where you're just a regular member. Your RSOs will help shape your character and develop skills that you would not pick up in class.
This is something that I still struggle with occasionally. Outside of classes, RSOs, and work (if you decide to take a part time job, which I strongly recommend), you will find yourself with a lot of time on your hands. Remember that you only have twenty-four hours in a day. How you choose to spend it depends entirely on you. Allocating a certain amount of time for entertainment and maintaining that college vs life balance is important, I cannot stress that enough. We are all human, we can only do what humans can do. Do not expect yourself to pull off something superhuman. Managing your time wisely will help you reduce stress because you already know what is coming next. The thing about plans is that you want to make them so you roughly shapen how you want your life to go in those plans but have flexible plans because life is full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. We all know life doesn't go according to plan.
Most of the knowledge you acquire will be spent outside of class. Thus, take the time to explore what there is. Maybe you are currently majoring in Biology but you don't want to spend your life in a lab, so you decide to switch to something else. Exploring and figuring out what you want makes up the majority of a college experience. Take a different route to class or meander to a place you wouldn't usually go. Look for hidden gems on your campus because every campus has one and no two campuses are the same. The same goes for your classes, occasionally, pick a class that helps you graduate but may not have anything to do with your major.
As Matt Walker says "Sleep is your superpower". Sleep is not for the weak but knowing how much sleep you need to function is critical. This also means do not overexert (which I have had an unhealthy habit of doing). Know what you are capable of and what you aren't. College is not meant for everyone, but good health is essential to all beings. Make sure to get some exercise as PE isn't a required class that you have to take anymore. Eat healthy, most college students have nutrient deficiencies. Common nutrients that most college students lack are Vitamin B12 (found in eggs and other animal products), iron (common in females due to their cyclical blood loss, found in many animal products as well but also found in beans, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables), calcium (found in dairy products), Vitamin D (just go outside for crying out loud), Vitamin A (eat those veggies), and zinc (found in meats, lentils, and tempeh). Yes, you only live once so treat your body well because whatever you put into your body will either hurt you or benefit you, so instead of putting harmful things in your body, treat your body and yourself right by taking care of yourself. ```
I hope these 10 things will help you in your life as I've learned them the hard way, my outlook on life has dramatically changed. I wish your life to be healthy and full of satisfaction. I want to stress that I am not perfect, I am not some huge successful person either so I want to write this because it makes my story more relatable. No two life stories are the exact same but your life story can only be written by you, you're the main character, sure someone else can narrate your story, but you are the essence to it, the star of the show. As the Script says in their song, Hall of Fame, "Be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers, be believers, be leaders, be astronauts Be champions, be truth seekers" but most importantly is to be you, yourself because you are worth it. Your life is worth it. #WorthIt