Lessons for a Positive College Experience (Part 3: Take Risks)

BY Mark Magnuson

A 5-part series on how to harness the energy of your college experience to become a lifelong learner whose knowledge transcends facts and figures.

If you don’t put yourself out there, then you’ll never discover anything new. Learning to take risks is an important lesson that I learned during my years at Adrian College. In the third installment of this five-part series on my advice to college students, I offer my experience on the value of finding the confidence and willingness to take risks.

Lesson #3: Take Risks
When I embarked on my college career, I was supposed to be a dentist. My grandfather and uncle were dentists, and that’s what I thought I wanted to be. Of course my parents were thrilled to think they’d have another professional in the family. Dentistry seemed like a fine career choice, so I enrolled at Adrian College known for their great science curriculum (also the alma mater of my uncle). I immediately started studying Biology in the Pre-Dentistry program, and plugged along with science and math courses for four years. I even did well on the dental school admissions test.

But at the close of my senior year in college, I knew that dentistry was not the career path for me. I probably knew all along that a career as a dentist was not for me. In college, my favorite classes were art history, music appreciation and philosophy. At the end of my fourth year, instinctively, I sat down like many college students to lament the time and energy invested in a topic that was not my passion.

Several years passed. I ended up going back to school and got a degree in Visual Information Design. Three months before graduation, by happenstance, a friend of mine from the design school passed by me in the hallway and invited me to attend a lecture on computer graphics. I had no idea what I could do with computer graphics and information design, but it sounded more interesting than doing paste up as a beginning graphic designer.

That lecture led me to take a risk. I entered the field of computer graphics at a time when no one knew what that was. There were only about 200 people in the entire country who were working in that field. I was one of the lucky ones. Turns out, I made the right decision. The topic that proved to be my most passionate was the cutting edge of technology, and I got in on the ground floor.

What is the moral of this lesson? Put yourself out there, or you’ll never learn anything new. You may never know if you’re headed in the right direction until you try a different direction.

Keep in mind, sometimes you take a risk and make the wrong mistake. I’ll talk more about making mistakes in Lesson #4: Be Prepared to Fail.

This post is part of a 5-part series:

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