What you learn in college

John Anglin earned a BA in English and a minor in Studio Art from Adelphi University, where he was a student in the Honors College. During his course of study, he participated in theatre, music performance, charity work, and produced a 2D animated commercial. He is currently working on several animation projects, and hopes to one day be a writer for a wildlife conservation magazine. He enjoys cooking, hiking, and playing music.

We’ve all heard of a “big fish in a small pond” before. It’s a metaphor for a person who’s successful and unique in his most familiar habitat, be it his hometown, high school, church, scout group, what have you. At home, he’s the star of the show. But once this big fish leaves the comfort of his small, cozy pond, he encounters an ocean of fish who are equally talented, are interested in the same things, and have similar goals as he. The big fish’s pride takes a blow. He’s not the best anymore, he’s not the center of attention. In a way, he’s no longer special.
For those of us who have big dreams, college can be a little daunting. It’s the first time, for many of us, that we’ve been surrounded by people who want to get into the same field as we do. You’re more in direct competition with your classmates in college, as you’ll likely be competing for the same jobs when you graduate. In high school, however, everyone basically takes the same classes (with the occasional AP courses, honors courses, and electives thrown in). High school is much less career-driven, and the future is not so impending. Everyone has their interests in high school, but none have dived into the all-encompassing process of turning those interests into a living. When you get to college, you not only immerse yourself in one subject to prepare for the future, but you realize that there are many people working towards the exact same thing as you. You begin to ask yourself, “Am I really that unique?”
The short answer is…maybe not yet.
Within the first few days of college, I realized that my ambitions to become a famous satirical writer and renowned professor weren’t as rare as I had assumed. I was all of a sudden surrounded by people my age whom I found brilliant and inspiring. In high school, I shined in English classes, but in college, I was stuck right in with the cream-of-the-crop, and it seemed like everyone else was just as passionate about the subject as I. It’s a shock to recognize that you’re not as unique as you thought – you realize that you’re just a small part of this great big world, no matter how much you may blow yourself up with pride.
But do we have to settle for being just another brick in the wall? Absolutely not. Learning that you’re not completely unique is just a reason to make yourself more unique. It forces you to work harder and further distinguish yourself. Don’t be afraid of people who might be more talented than you – the best way to develop your own sensibilities and individuality is to surround yourself with people that more skilled than you, or pursuing similar things as you. If you expose yourself to what everyone else is doing, you’ll learn how you can do things a little differently, and how you can make yourself stand-out. College may seem frightening and competitive – a game of who can get the highest grades or make the most intelligent comments in class. Most of the time the competition is healthy, though, and some of the strongest friendships form between people of the same major, and who share similar goals. College keeps you from getting complacent in your ability. It gives you a glimpse into how complex and rich the world is and how many people have interesting things to say and talents to use. The first thing you learn in college is that you have a while to go before you’ll fully distinguish yourself, but that the journey will be fascinating, challenging, and full of inspiring people.

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