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Advice to Future Carls from a Graduating Senior

mflevitymflevity 1131 replies70 threads Senior Member
edited August 2013 in Carleton College
Hey everyone,

It's hard to believe, but I'm graduating from Carleton on Saturday. I figure it's best that I "retire" from this board once I'm no longer a student, but before I do, I have a few pieces of advice to future Carleton students in particular. I hope you find them helpful.

1. If you're like me, you may have spent most of high school in what I'd call an "achievement" mindset. You worked hard, and in return, you received good grades, awards, scholarships, and praise from your family, teachers, and peers. There's nothing inherently wrong with this mindset. If you know you plan to apply to competitive colleges, it's almost a necessity.

That being said, in college, I'd like to invite you to switch from an achievement mindset to an "experience" mindset. If you try to measure your college achievements against the achievements of your peers, you will wind up miserable. Because here's the thing: the average, middle-of-the-road Carleton student scored in the 96th-97th percentile on his or her standardized tests. Virtually no one graduates with a 4.0 GPA. If you come to Carleton expecting to earn straight As and a slew of distinctions, you'll be setting yourself up for a completely unnecessary disappointment.

When I think of my Carleton friends who have made the most of their college experience -- dedicating their time to a few important passions, cultivating a wide and diverse circle of friends, producing their best academic work, taking advantage of study abroad programs and all of Carleton's amazing free speakers and performances -- I come up with a pretty long list of people. And you know what? Many, many of those people did not receive an award at Honors Convocation a few weeks ago. And you know something else? I bet all of them are okay with that.

Don't try to measure your time in college by counting accomplishments. Measure it in the experiences that shape you, slowly, over the course of four years. For me, those experiences included getting lost in a foreign country, skinny-dipping in the Cannon at midnight, singing in perfect 10-part harmony, being drunk for the first time among friends, and the moment I realized what I wanted to do with my life. Maybe you'll have some of the same experiences, and maybe yours will be completely different. Just give them the value they deserve, and don't place unneeded pressure on yourself to rack up a list of accomplishments during your time here.

2. Give Carleton/college traditions a try, but don't feel guilty if you decide they're not for you. Carleton loves its traditions, but that doesn't mean every student is obligated to love every single tradition. For example, I used to force myself to go to Rotblatt (the all-day drunken softball game) and I was always miserable. To make things worse, many of my friends love Rotblatt, and some consider it the best day of the year. I used to feel pretty awful when I wasn't able to have fun. This is a quintessential Carleton experience! I'd tell myself. If I can't enjoy it, what's wrong with me?

Once I became more secure with myself, I realized that it was okay if I wasn't as enthusiastic about a given Carleton tradition as most students are. I could find something else to do for fun on a spring term Saturday.

Chances are, at least one of the Carleton traditions will be like that for you. Maybe you just don't see the point of Schiller, or you don't like all-day music concerts featuring bands you don't know, or you're not a fan of streaking, or you're not into the party scene at Crack or Hill or wherever. If you're given something a fair shot and it's not your thing, that is okay. No one's going to revoke your place at Carleton. In the long run, figuring out what you do like is going to be much more valuable than trying to force yourself to like something that isn't for you.

3. You don't have to be one of the talkative kids in class to build a close relationship with a professor. I'm pretty introverted, so I'm never one of the most vocal kids in a class. For a long time, I thought that meant I couldn't be friends with my professors. But friendships with professors are important! Not only do they lead to better experiences in the classroom, but they also provide a wealth of wisdom when you're putting together your class schedules, comps, summer plans, or post-grad plans (not to mention enthusiastic and detailed letters of recommendation).

GO TO OFFICE HOURS. I can't stress this enough. If you really like one of your professors and want to get to know him or her better, drop by office hours once or twice. Don't go just to chat (at least, not at first); have a concrete reason for going. Papers and writing assignments are great for this: even if you think you have a handle on the paper and don't need "help," go to office hours to run your ideas by your prof. Talking through your ideas with another person always helps you develop your thoughts, and your professor might raise an interesting question or suggest a valuable source. Most importantly, you'll have shown yourself to be a thoughtful and conscientious student with an interest in the course topic. You don't have to do this for every assignment. Once you've taken a few classes with the same prof, you'll be more comfortable going to him or her for advice on your Carleton academics, career options, grad school, etc.

ALSO: If you're a quieter student like me, use your first visit to a prof's office hours to explain to the prof how you learn. For example, you might tell her that you communicate best in writing, or that you like it when a class breaks into small groups for discussion. I've found that professors tend to be more understanding in terms of class participation grades when I explain how I engage in class (writing, small groups, and so on) so that they don't interpret my quietness in large group discussions as a sign of disengagement.

That's all I have for now. Again, I hope some of you find this helpful -- feel free to ask questions. If you're headed to Carleton next year, you're in for a wonderful and challenging college experience, and I wish you all the best. :)
edited August 2013
12 replies
Post edited by mflevity on
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Replies to: Advice to Future Carls from a Graduating Senior

  • fireflyscoutfireflyscout 5297 replies169 threads Senior Member
    Best of luck to you, mflevity - hope all is sunny on Saturday for your commencement! Thank you for being such a wonderful resource here.
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  • telemntelemn 13 replies3 threads New Member
    Your posts were one of the big reasons why I gave Carleton a detailed look, and I couldn't be happier that I did. I owe you for that. Good luck on Saturday!
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  • sunmachinesunmachine 725 replies99 threads Member
    Wonderful post. Hope you check in from time to time to ad the perspective of a Carleton alum.
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  • nicedayniceday 2406 replies92 threads Senior Member
    mflevity, for years you have offered gentle encouragement to prospective Carls and bright insight into life at your gem of a school. We have seen your voice mature on this forum and your perspective become clearer. Thank you for your many great contributions here and best wishes as you say goodbye tomorrow to so many great friends at Carleton. Feel free to check in now and then in the coming months and years to nurture the Carls of the future.
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  • Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay 19610 replies467 threads Senior Member
    mflevity, good luck and come back from time to time. I'll be watching the graduation online Saturday and will cheer extra loud if a M. Flevity's name is called!
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  • aliceinwaliceinw 1626 replies3 threads Senior Member
    Congratulations, mflevity, and best of luck to you.
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  • joon3575joon3575 13 replies6 threads New Member
    Hello! I am going to Carleton College in the following Fall! I am so excited to go to such a wonderful and fine liberal arts college! I love learning new things and want to experience more variety of fields in college and that is why I am going to Carleton! However, some people have been telling me that I won't be easily able to get jobs after i graduate with Liberal arts degree.... How did you prepare to get ready/ get jobs? Is it that hard to get a job right after graduating from a liberal arts college??? Thank you!
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  • PootiePootie 324 replies5 threads Member
    It depends entirely upon your major. For example, if you graduate from Carleton (or another liberal arts school) with a degree in computer science, geology, or economics, your chances of employment in your major are currently quite high. You could probably get a job without having to go on to graduate school, although graduate school would allow you to specialize in your area of interest and would improve your ability to get a high-paying job.

    If, however, you major in something like art, history, or religion, your chances of getting a high-paying job in your field of study with a Bachelor's degree are quite low. You would definitely need to go on to graduate school in order to find employment within your major. Even with a graduate degree in these fields of study, your opportunities will be limited.

    Please note that I am not criticizing anyone who chooses to major in art, history, or religion. If you love these subjects you should pursue them. I'm just trying to answer the poster's question about liberal arts education, and am stating that it is generally more difficult to find employment in these areas.
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  • midprofmidprof 1 replies0 threads New Member
    mflevity, your advice is just perfect and ought to be passed on to every Carl. As a prof, I'd say it's even more important to visit the office hours of profs you're not particularly fond of. Sometimes a connection can be made one-on-one that's hard to forge in class. Pootie, you're certainly right that it's harder to get a job in art, history, or religion, but a) at an institution of Carleton's caliber, even these graduates do very well and many *are* employed in their fields, even more so after graduate study, as you suggest, and b) lots of them are employed outside of their majors, but this is in no way a failure. If you major in, say, American Studies and then become a lawyer, teacher, organizer, writer, advertising executive, etc. this isn't an undesirable outcome of your American Studies degree.
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  • 11901190 589 replies39 threads Member

    Congratulations on graduation! But another vote of support encouraging your continued participation on this board - even a rare appearance would be so welcome. You have been a voice of reason and insight these past several years.
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  • reesezpiecez103reesezpiecez103 1231 replies15 threads Senior Member
    We'll miss you on the boards, mflevity! I will be a senior at Carleton next year (eek!) and when I was a senior in high school I remember reading your posts - you really helped me to figure out that Carleton was a great choice for me. I agree with pretty much everything that you said up there (though I love Rotblatt, haha) and I'll miss your advice on the boards! Hope you come by and offer some advice every now and then. :)
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  • nepopnepop 243 replies9 threads Junior Member
    What a great post.
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