Progress is like clothing–it looks different on everyone

My biggest accomplishment thus far… what a tough question to answer. I have gone through many transformations, both academically and socially, since college began and who I was before I entered college feels like a lifetime away. It’s difficult to quantify what an accomplishment means, so I spent some time thinking about the most impactful differences in my life before entering college and where I stand now. After some reflection, I opted to focus on my accomplishments as a student (know that I have had just as significant social/personal accomplishments through these times, too). When I entered school in fall of 2018, I had a massive academic ego. I was coming fresh from a successful high school career, where I’d excelled in my classes and brought a decent number of credits. I shared this sentiment with a large number of my friends, as the Honors college is full of the brightest people our age. The first hit to my ego came when we began discussing our separate high school experiences—that’s when the imposter syndrome started setting in, on the very first week of college. It seemed like every single person on my floor had been more successful, got into more colleges, had more credits, more experience… I thought I was in the wrong place. Trust me, it’s normal to feel that way.

            Even with that quick knock to my ego, I entered my classes that fall thinking I would easily outperform the class the way I’d done in most of my high school classes. Again, wrong. I was well of the stereotype that people who got away without studying in high school wouldn’t be able to in college, but I foolishly believed I was better than that and those warnings didn’t apply to a student like me. My first semester of college has been one of my most difficult semesters to date, and I wish I could travel back in time and warn myself what was about to come.

            After my first semester, I reconvened with my academic advisor, my RA, and my Honors college mentor to come up with a plan of action. With their advice, I set goals for myself to learn what effective studying feels like, how to do it efficiently, how to manage my time, and how to become a more responsible student. With a full plan of action, I was able to spend the next couple of semesters transforming my status as a student. It took a notable amount of time (probably more than I’d willingly admit!) to learn what it means to be a good student, but I am finally confident in saying that the learning I do now is a thousand times more beneficial than the studying I thought I did freshman year. Learning how to genuinely manage my time well, particularly in light of online classes, has been lifesaving and I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come. Plus, becoming a better student has improved more than just my academic life. It’s brought balance to my extracurricular, social, and personal circles; for example, I used to have to choose between excelling on an exam, spending a few hours with friends, or spending time in my research lab. After semesters of practice, I am finally at a point where I can work in my lab 10+ hours a week while balancing my classes and social life quite effectively. I don’t give myself enough credit for how far I’ve come but writing this has allowed me to realize the extent of my growth.

            Moving forward, my new goals have a more serious tone. I’m approaching my last year of my undergraduate career, and my goal is to spend the next few months making big life decisions: what to do during my gap year (apply to medical school, earn a master’s degree, do service abroad, etc.), when to fit my MCAT into my last semesters, doing summer research programs and advancing various other professional aspects of my life. It’s certainly stressful, but I’m confident that I will make it through, the same way I have through college. With the right help, anything is possible through Pitt!

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