The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!

An “Honor”able Legacy

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

Every time that I see the Simon Benson House in the park blocks I’m reminded that graduation draws closer with each passing day. Today the sign on the building reads “53 days until you are alumni,” and that number will only continue to dwindle until the day comes that we don our caps and gowns. Amidst all of the other chaos of senior year, I’m currently in the throes of writing my senior thesis as I’m a member of the University Honors College. Instead of doing a senior capstone in the university studies program, I’ve gotten to pick a research topic of my choice and craft an entire thesis about it, a task that is as daunting as it will hopefully be rewarding.

Writing a thesis can be a lonely process, especially when the honors college has felt so separate from the rest of the university in many ways. When my peers who aren’t in the honors college ask about my capstone and I say that I’m actually writing a thesis instead, the conversation oftentimes comes to a screeching halt. I’ve noticed an air of misconception surrounding the honors college, one that unfortunately leads many of my peers to think that those who participate in honors are in some way elitist or exclusionary.

In my last term at PSU, I’d actively like to push back against that stereotype through both my thesis about queerness and veganism as well as in my everyday interactions with my peers. At its core, the honors college is about a hunger for knowledge, learning to conduct research, and preparing students for life after PSU. These are things that should be accessible to all of us as PSU students, and that’s what I want people to think of when they hear about the honors college, rather than a reputation that’s elitist or exclusionary. In the 53 days that I have left to leave my mark on PSU before I’m an alumni, this is the legacy that I’m hoping to establish as an honors student.