Advice from Madisyn Smith ‘21, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (formerly Pharmacy)
College is about crossing things off of a list and narrowing your options down to the ones that make you happiest.
Growing up, I always wanted to be first: First in line, first in a competition, first in my class, etc. Regardless of the situation, I was always competing. It wasn’t until August of 2016 that this mentality would be put to the test. I had spent the entire summer preparing for my first day on a college campus but quickly realized that I didn’t have access to the resources necessary to feel confident in my transition.
Being the first in my family to go to college, the amount of questions that I asked heavily outweighed the number of people that I had to answer them. For the first time in my life, I was terrified of being first. How could I compete in a game without knowing the rules? Fortunately, I had access to on-campus resources that would help me along the way. During Welcome Week, you will be given a couple pages to start your rulebook. Throughout your next four years you’ll collect a few more from professors, residence hall staff, peers, and other resources on campus. By the time graduation comes around, you’ll have written an entire rulebook for attaining your degree from Butler University. It is up to you to pass that rulebook on to new first-generation students who are beginning their journey.
The most important page that I would pass on to incoming first-generation students contains advice on self-discovery. First-generation students may not know exactly who they are, but they do know who they are not. They may not know what they want to major in, but they do know which ones they are not considering. During our time at Butler, we discover ourselves through a process of elimination. College is about crossing things off of a list and narrowing your options down to the ones that make you happiest. Some options take longer to cross off, but once you realize that those options aren’t making you happy, you will be that much closer to finding those that will.
It took me six semesters, 105 credit hours, and 960 days of class to cross my previous major off of my list. I knew that I wasn’t content with my major, but I wouldn’t allow myself to cross it off the list if that meant disappointing my family and those who supported me. I felt as if everyone was expecting me to formulate a plan and stick to it. After three years I finally worked up the courage to make the much-needed change. The most important thing that I learned during my three years is that you shouldn’t start erasing your marks to please others. Cross off all of the options that make you unhappy, leaving yourself with only fulfilling ones from which to choose. Once you narrow down your list, you will find what makes you happiest.
A large percentage of first-generation students jump into STEM majors, because they are confident that they will land a high-paying job to provide for their families. Although this is important, if you are the first in your family to attend a university you should make the most of it and do what will make you happy. If that means crossing your first major off of your list, then you should do it. The support that you will receive might surprise you.