By Kathy Kim '12
President of Student Government
I want to say something about goals. I'm sure you have at least one or two of them, large or small, academic or otherwise. I want to emphasize that goals, even more than rules, are made to be broken. Why? Because a catalog of one's desires is more important than the ultimate achievement of them. Because the person that you're striving to become defines you more than any fleeting list. Because what's admirable is resolving to change something that you think you can't, in yourself and in the world.
If, thanks to fantastical change and the tools you're provided with, your dreams come true, then you may come to the resounding knowledge that nothing's impossible. What makes this process possible is that Macalester will give you a set of tools to work toward your goals and guide you through the best four years of your life. I hope you find these words helpful as you start preparing for Mac.
Your Fellow Students
This is perhaps the most powerful tool. As a Mac student, you’re surrounded by students from around the world and across the United States who, in addition to being your friends, will also be your teachers. Some of my favorite conversations took place in dorm rooms, late at night, discussing the inherent social constructs within The Jersey Shore or the heteronormativity of the Harry Potter series. In the classroom, you probably won’t be the smartest person in the room anymore—and that’s a good thing! Your friends and peers will be a part of your educational experience. Make great friends and learn from everybody around you.
Macalester is a busy place. You’ll be inundated with tons of programs and events on campus day and night. If you push yourself to attend a lot of them, even the ones you aren’t quite sure about, you’ll be rewarded. You may find that something you learned at a film screening your freshman year will come in handy senior year, or that a conversation you have with a floormates after hearing a speaker informs your argument for a paper due the next week. Grab your roommate and go.
For a small college, Macalester offers an insane number of classes, so it’s often difficult to stick with just four per semester. Don’t be afraid to try things you haven’t excelled at in the past. I was not a math person in high school, but two of my favorite classes at Mac were in the math department. Try something new.
The Twin Cities
Mac’s urban location is immeasurably beneficial if you use it right. It means that you can take on an internship at a community organization, a Fortune 500 company, a state government office, a large hospital, a renowned theater, a big museum, or an environmental agency every semester and still have too many places left to choose among. Mac has a great Internship Office. Or just break out of your comfort zone and take a bus to Minneapolis for an adventure. Start early!
The CDC (no, not the Centers for Disease Control)
The Career Development Center (CDC) is something you should take advantage of from the first day you step on campus. The dedicated staff who work there will teach you to write a cover letter, craft a résumé, and build a network to get jobs and internships while you’re still a student. That help can assist you in landing the job you want after graduation. To be honest, I didn’t follow this piece of advice and I wish I had. Since I did beginning visiting the CDC, I’ve received a far better response from potential employers. You probably aren’t thinking about this yet, but trust me—it matters!
Mac has Seasons!
Yes, Macalester is in Minnesota. And yes, Minnesota has winter—cold, snowy, with a dazzling frozen sun. But Minnesota also has an amazing spring, during which everything is green and new, a summer of perfect beach weather (10,000 lakes=incredible beaches), and a fall with gorgeous leaves and perfect temperatures. There’s nothing better than walking to class, cup of coffee in hand, as the leaves skitter across the sidewalks. Luxuriate in the seasons.
Each of you will have as an academic advisor a professor in your major. These professors can help you pick classes each semester, but they also are excellent resources for planning your future. Talk with them about what you’d like to do with your life. They can often point you in the direction of great classes but also toward internships, graduate school programs, and jobs that will help you get where you want to go. Talk to your advisor often.
Macalester will provide you with all the tools you need to have an amazing college experience, but it’s up to you to use them.
The Macalester Network
Networking is more than just a buzzword. It is your key to success in the future. You can be a straight A student, but if you don’t know somebody who can help you get your foot in the door, getting the job or internship you want can be difficult. Luckily, Macalester has a fantastic network of alumni and friends of the college who are willing and eager to help Mac students find their way in the world. There are numerous networking events on campus every year—make sure you try them out. In addition to being useful, networking can also be a lot of fun. Start creating your own network.
Macalester will provide you with all the tools you need to have an amazing college experience, but it’s up to you to use them. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give you is to aim high—higher than you think you should, and then work hard to get there. The people who make Mac what it is will be here to support, encourage, and assist you all along the way. Don't squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Use these and other tools you find here to build a Macalester College experience that you can someday call the best years of your life.