Freshman Mallory Golski discusses how perspectives of success can shift when students transition from high school to college.

“I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.”

– T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Though the collegiate years thrive on exorbitant tuition rates, late hours at the library and the promise that every hour of lost sleep will result in another accomplishment to woo prospective employers, it seems inappropriate to preface a narrative on my freshman experience with a quote teeming with the threat of an unpromising future.

Many students spend a considerable portion of their high school careers counting down the days until they can walk across the stage and accept their diplomas: the authentic get out of jail free cards granting them unlimited access to the “real world.” Those students bought into the idea that high school was merely a habitat for captive existence. If they could just survive the monotonous routine, they could find success in their future collegiate endeavors.

I never quite understood that mentality. When I was in the second grade, I stood up and announced to my teacher that I wanted to be the first woman president when I grew up. It was a moment of sheer ambition fueled by childlike wonder, and as I sat back down, I had no idea that this presidential stigma would follow me for the next 11 years of my life.

Throughout my high school career, I served as class president, student council president, choir treasurer and captain of the swim team. I was a member of National Honor Society, Leo Club and the TV class. I was surrounded by the comfort of people and experiences that had shaped the last 18 years of my life, and I had little interest in being exonerated. All of my greatest accomplishments had taken place within the walls of Amherst Steele High School, and as I walked across the stage that afternoon, I couldn’t help but fear that I was watching my own moment of greatness flicker.

Transitioning from swimming in a pond of 1,300 to an ocean of 29,000 means encountering thousands of other students who are just as dedicated and passionate about finding success. The expectation I once had to be president of everything is less attainable than it was in high school. I’ve come to realize that many of my peers had similar experiences, and it is often difficult to acknowledge the time commitments I can reasonably manage and frustrating to occasionally ask for help rather than being “the dictator.” While it could be easy to take a seat in the back row of the lecture hall, doodle in my notes and cruise to the end of the semester, it’s not the price tag of my education that keeps me actively participating.

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It’s remembering the anecdotes my high school teachers told of successful former students. It’s realizing that 200 miles away, my 11-year-old neighbor is sitting in class searching for a role model to emulate. It’s knowing that even though I’m not the head of every committee and organization on campus, I can still take initiative and make the most of my freshman year experience. It’s not mistaking my moment of greatness as a dwindling flame, but rather fueling it into a roaring blaze, destined to illuminate everything in its path.

And in short, I am prepared.

Mallory Golski is a freshman studying journalism. Email her at or tweet her @malgraceg.