Aristotle believed in the Golden Mean, asserting that the key to the most holistic form of happiness — eudemonia — is moderation. For example, in advocating bravery, the Golden Mean would recommend finding a balance between the extremes of cowardice and recklessness.
Similarly, I think at the College of William and Mary, dancing successfully through our college years involves striking a balance between extremes. I have by no means mastered this, but striving for balance helps keep me grounded. I hope that with some Aristotelian inspiration, this advice can help you find your footing so you can choreograph a beautiful four years at this incredible place.
Between Reckless and Timid:
Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but don’t fear failure.
Students here are notorious over-committers and over-achievers. It is important to remember, however, it is healthy to say “no for now” sometimes, and the “no” can be temporary. A good mantra to keep in mind is: Don’t say “yes” to others if it means saying “no” to yourself.
But don’t let a fear of failure hold you back. No matter how intelligent you are, you will fail at something here. And that is okay; it doesn’t make you any worse of a person. When you are struggling, however, don’t feel too embarrassed to get help. The College is an incredibly supportive community. The counseling center, your professors and your fellow students will help you when you are brave enough to ask.
Between Self Doubting and Arrogant:
Stay humble, but don’t feel inferior.
This school is full of incredibly talented people, but you wouldn’t know it immediately: They don’t often brag. In fact, their accomplishments are usually revealed accidentally during casual conversation. By appreciating each other’s talents rather than touting your own, you will foster a community of supportive friends rather than a ring of competitors.
But don’t sell yourself short. While it can sometimes feel intimidating to be around such impressive people, remember you are impressive, too. As difficult as this is to do, don’t compare yourself to your friends. Celebrate the variety in the student body, and remember that you have valuable things to offer.
Between Rigid and Directionless:
Know yourself, but realize there is more to learn.
It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses, but it is equally important to be open-minded. If you have a major or career path in mind, certainly pursue it, but if along the way you find it’s not what you want, don’t be afraid to change your mind. It is better to explore a new route than to struggle through an old one, just for the sake of sticking to an original plan.
Between Hyper-organized and Disorganized:
Plan for tomorrow, but also be here now.
Grades are important. Despite my serious denial of this fact, there is a “real world” beyond these brick walls, and a solid GPA here can help pave the way to a prosperous, fulfilling future. Applying for summer internships, or jobs for winter break, and planning a schedule before registration are definitely worthwhile.
But college isn’t only about grades and planning ahead. Most of your best memories will not be related to academics nor will they be planned. Partake in your freshman hall movie nights. Revel in watching the sunset on Lake Matoaka. Enjoy a conversation with a new friend that lasts well into the morning. Often, the things that can’t be tested or calculated are what nourish your soul the most. You are here to do more than memorize molecules and analyze sonnets. You are here to learn about yourself and bond with people that will become your lifelong friends.
Above all, remember that you were chosen to be a part of the Tribe because you have the potential to thrive here. Although you may have a few missteps, I have no doubt that you will dance your way to eudemonia at this remarkable place that is now your home.
Email Andrea Aron-Schiavone at email@example.com.