The W&M First Year Experience

Finding Your “Why”

August 3, 2017 by W&M FYE · 1 Comment

Hi everyone! My name is Madison Ochs, and I’m a rising senior at the College from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In the classroom, I am a self-designed major in Human Mechanisms of Metacognition, which is a technical way to say I designed a major that allows me to study how people learn and think about thinking. I’ve always been interested in this field of study and I love how I can apply what I learn to anything else I do, be it another kind of class or an internship. Outside of the classroom, I volunteer in The Haven, am a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and work for the Office of First Year Experience as an Orientation Area Director! All of these activities are so important to me because they allow me to spend tons of time with people who share interests with me while focusing on accomplishing a common goal, whether it is making a personal difference with the people who visit The Haven, planning a philanthropy event with my sisters for the entire campus, or organizing and preparing an Orientation program that reflects the passions and priorities of FYE!

Hearing me talk about how much I love this school and how I have spent my time leaves some people surprised to hear that I haven’t actually gone to William & Mary for four full years, and that I actually transferred to the College halfway through my sophomore year. My first year at William & Mary was when most other people were halfway through their time here, and that was intimidating at first, of course. It was also an amazing way to make sure I took nothing for granted and put intention behind all of the decisions I made. When I was signing up for classes, I thought about why I wanted to take certain courses and made sure to leave room for random bits of exploration in subjects I had never touched, like my class in Organizational Behavior. The course sounded interesting, I had never taken a business class before, and now I’m pursuing a minor in Organizational Leadership & Management and loving my time in the business school! I never would have found my current minor and some spectacular classes and professors if I hadn’t taken a chance on a random class just for the heck of it.

“…my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, ‘I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.'”

Sometimes, I encountered things that weren’t a great fit or that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, I felt as though I had to stick it out or else I was quitting. If I had followed that guideline, I would not have ended up with my current major, my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, “I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.” Many people go through high school or their early years of college feeling as though they have to rack up certain classes and intense leadership positions in several clubs within a certain set of parameters or subjects to be attractive to colleges or future employers. While there is some wisdom to cultivating a well-rounded, enriching experience, those résumé items don’t mean a thing if they don’t speak to you. Why bother spending so much time chasing something that you couldn’t care less about?

I work with Orientation because I had such a spectacular experience when I transferred, I met one of my role models during my Orientation, I think those first days are incredibly formative, and I love getting involved with cultivating and crafting our school’s community to leave it even better than it was when I arrived. As another example, one of my best friends organized the William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge to help other students cultivate interests in international development, help her hone her own skills, challenge herself as a leader and participate in a project that would last past her own graduation. There are tons of these kinds of stories, about any kind of involvement or class or decision made during college.

“The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your ‘why.'”

It’s hard to swim against the stream, and it’s even harder to feel like you aren’t sure of your final destination when doing so. I guarantee you’ll have a few moments where you aren’t sure what to choose. How to choose, though, is simple. In the Office of First Year Experience, we like to talk about your “why”, a mystical and magical concept that encompasses a person’s personal, inner motivations for doing something. The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your “why.” William & Mary provides its students with countless opportunities to do truly extraordinary things, but it is up to you to choose what to do. Sometimes your “why” is very personal and profound, like the reason I work in The Haven (my personal experiences with issues of gender discrimination and a passion for sexual assault prevention and education), but sometimes it is lighthearted and goofy, like the reason I want to try out for the Syndicate dance team (it looks fun, it’s a last chance to try something new, and I really love the music they dance to). It takes time, and not every choice will end up being the perfect fit, but that is okay! If you focus on feeding your passions and following that “why”, you will have the most fulfilling college experience imaginable.

I can’t wait to meet you during Orientation, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me or anyone in FYE! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and Go Tribe!

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Categories: Choosing A Major · Welcome

1 response so far ↓

  • Kayleigh // Aug 8th 2017 at 6:16 PM

    I’m from Lawrenceville, NJ too! What a coincidence 🙂 What high school did you go to?

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