Started From the Bottom, Now You’re Where?

Given that you have all decided to attend Boston College, I’m going to make an assumption about a phenomenon most of you have recently experienced: a change in mantra from that ring of older, wise supporters (read: siblings, teachers, and parents, aka the people who constantly remind you that they know more than you do because they are older). While waiting for college decisions to come out, those people all kept repeating something to the effect of, “you’ve worked hard, you’re a smart kid, you’ll get into a good school, don’t worry.” Sound familiar? Good.

But suddenly, the mail comes, you see the big envelop from Chestnut Hill, you’re ecstatic, you look to those supporters ready to celebrate, and you’re met with a change in tune. If fish and ponds are familiar metaphors, congratulations, you have received the “now what” talk. If your family has spared you, allow me: “In high school, you were a big fish in a little pond. Now that you’re going to a good school like BC, you’re going to be a little fish in a big pond. Good luck.”

GIF courtesy of timesnew-roman / Tumblr

As cliché as all that fish talk is, your siblings/teachers/parents do have a point, kind of. Boston College is great because our campus has an energy about it that comes from all of the motivation and excitement the students have about whatever they are doing. For the first time, you will find yourself surrounded by people just as motivated and passionate as you are. This is great, and a very rewarding environment that encourages you to step up your game and get involved with what you love. The downside to this is that the majority of your peers share the same ambitions and drive to succeed that you do, so everyone is competing for the same spots at the top.

As freshmen, this can be a very intimidating thought. It is especially hard to accept that you must work your way up given the fact that just three short months ago you were in charge of everything at your high school. Whether you were captain, president, or a leader in some other field, now that you’re at BC, you have to begin all over again as a member. In some cases, you might even have to audition, apply or try out—proving that you are good at what you’ve been doing and perfecting the last four years.

While this may provoke anxiety at first, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. To get to where you want to be, you just need to put in the time, effort, and respect for what you love and the people who share that love. Allow me to explain. Things in college take time, and time takes on a whole new meaning in college because you are the one solely in charge of how you use your time. If you want to prove to the people already involved in whatever organization or club or team you are trying to gain a place in, you need to show them that you are willing to and able to allocate enough of your haphazard time to make the relationship between you and the activity worthwhile. If meetings are every Wednesday at 7pm, arrive to the designated room at 6:50pm and put your phone away until you’ve exited the building. If you won’t dedicate your full attention to something, why would the people involved even risk giving you a larger responsibility? In the early stages, it is all about showing commitment and earning trust.

If this sounds a little like beginning a new relationship with someone, it basically is., except instead of impressing one person, you’re working to impress a collective group. Besides proving you have the time to invest in an organization, you also have to demonstrate an effort. Firstly, because the organization needs a reason to go with you over someone else, and secondly because you need to find out how much you want to be involved, too. We all have a lot going on at this school. Classes involve a lot, your relationships with roommates and friends will involve effort, maintaining ties with people back home will be difficult and during your freshman year, being you and discovering who you are and what you want will also take a lot out of you. While this sounds daunting, it’s not. All of these are worthy and fun to invest in. Which is why you should really put in the effort from the get-go with the activities you decide to be a part of. If you just passively show up to meetings or practices and do what you’re told, how will you know if that’s the right choice for you?

Gavel Media

Gavel Media

If you want to be involved with Gavel Media, (for example, and because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) don’t just attend our information meeting and listen to us talk. Follow-up with us and come to our section meeting, volunteer to write an article and go out and write it. With that extra step invested you’ll learn if writing is what you want. If it is, that means your next effort is going to go towards writing more and writing better. If those two things start happening and you find yourself still wanting more, perhaps to come up with your own topics, or to edit your writing and continuously improve, then you know that this is where you belong and where you will see yourself taking on an even more active role since putting in work is something you want to continue doing. By investing yourself you’re killing two birds with one stone: you’re seeing if our activity is something you seriously want a position in and all the commitment that comes with, and you’re demonstrating to us that you are someone we want to have around.

In other words, if right from the start you aren’t willing to go 100% and commit, then no, you probably shouldn’t be upset about starting from the bottom and not holding a role you once did in a similar activity back in high school. You will soon learn that college takes a lot more work than your senior year did—all across the board.

While time and effort are all on you, respecting the organization and its people has to happen collaboratively. While you may be an expert with singing and controlling your voice, you are not an expert with singing at BC. The “at BC” part is the key here because, well, now you are going to be singing at BC. Since you’re new to BC, you need to accept that the people already here have their own methods and systems—along with reasons behind those procedures—that work for them. This isn’t saying that once you become actively involved you can’t suggest new ideas. That’s welcome all around, regardless of what activity. What I am saying is that you need to develop an appreciation for the work these individuals have put in. As someone recently put in charge of an organization, I can vouch for the amount of work and administrative rules and paperwork club leaders have to comply and complete just to have that club running and recognized on campus. Instead of viewing these older students as people telling you how to do what you love, look at them as role models and people to learn from. Instead of rejecting the ideas they might have that differ from your own, ask them questions. Why do they do it that way? How is your training different?

GIF courtesy of fighting-colitiscrohns

At the end of the day, even if you disagree with their methods, at least you will be able to articulate why you disagree once you’ve had a conversation with them. Your first few months on campus are going to feel a little weird as you sit through introductory meetings and awkward bonding activities to bring old and new club members together. By November, you will have friends and familiar faces in the activities you will by then know you want to commit to. By the time January rolls around, you’ll be dying to get back to campus to be with these people and resume practices, rehearsals, or whatever else has become a part of your daily routine. And as April comes around and board member applications go up, you will be confidant and ready to move on up to where you want to be. While starting from Upper (or worse, Newton) may ironically feel like starting from the very bottom, I promise you that you won’t stay there for long. With time, effort, and respect, you’ll be in the Mods—I mean at the top—in no time. Get to swimming, little fishies!