Andres Castillo, Princeton University sophomore, Campus Bound Scholar 2014 – 2015
As the first in my family to go college, I completely understand the feeling of simultaneous pride and anxiety. How do we deal with these conflicting emotions? More generally, how do we overcome the nervousness that accompanies every major transition in our lives?
First, we remember that we are not alone. The summer before my freshman year, I had no idea how to prepare for college, but with the help of this wonderful organization, Campus Bound Scholars, I was not only given a scholarship for dorm and school supplies but was also matched up with my extraordinary college mentor Steve Skillman, and I could not be more grateful. Steve was there to offer me emotional support and help me stay on top of everything I had to get done before I started school in September. And I can honestly say that whenever he would invite me to dinner at the Mt. Kisco diner, our usual hangout spot, I knew that would be the highlight of my week.
With a little bit of effort on your part, the idea that you are not alone on this journey is still true even after you go away to college. In Princeton, I learned that although there were SO many people who were eager to give me a helping hand, they weren’t going to knock on my door and give me everything I needed on a silver platter. I had to reach out to these people – send text messages and emails, walk to other side of campus, whatever I had to do – to receive help. For some reason, it also took me a while to realize that homesickness does not have to be difficult to alleviate. Your family members, high school friends, and college mentors could be thousands of miles away, but if you think about it, they’re also only one phone call away. So don’t be hesitant to stay in touch.
My last piece of advice is somewhat cliché, but bear with me — It’s the most important lesson I learned during my freshman year: Embrace your mistakes, be mindful of every decision you make from this moment forward, and along the way, be sure to leave a trail for those who come after you. There’s no blueprint, how-to manual or sacred scroll for succeeding in college. The beauty of a higher education is that no two college experiences are exactly the same. You may enroll in the same courses as some of your peers and even choose the most common major, but what you take away from those courses and professors is determined by you and you alone. You will have your own group of friends, your own extracurricular activities, your own personal challenges, your own achievements, and your own wonderful mistakes. Yes, they will be wonderful because, whether you’re inside our outside the classroom, it is by falling down and getting back up with a different perspective that we are best able to learn and grow as individuals. And each semester, you will be more careful with the decisions you make because you will realize that it is the sum of every single choice that will determine your future.
Above all, you will have the privilege and power to guide and inspire future generations so that the cycle of poverty (lack of knowledge and lack of wealth) can finally stop. Ultimately, the American Dream will stay alive because of you.
To Amy Peck and all the amazing people who contribute to Campus Bound Scholars, thank you so much for everything you do. Thank you for reminding us that anything is possible with a vision, a voice, a team, and a desire for change.