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Look Inward Before Letting Others Pick Your Path

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, UCLA campus tour guide Samantha St. Germain, center, a bioengineering student, leads prospective college-bound high school seniors on a campus tour in Los Angeles.

Before future college students embark on the road to a degree and successful career, they should look inward, says one admissions officer.

“If you understand who you are,” Jennifer Simons told VOA, “you are less likely to fall prey to somebody else's vision for what you should be or where you should go.”

Like well-meaning parents or guidance counselors.

Simons is the director of undergraduate admissions and recruitment at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She suggests that young people try to better understand themselves before making any decisions about their life path once they leave home.

In the United States, the process starts in the final two years of high school, when students are about 16 or 17 years old. They decide where to go to college and what subjects they will study.

Jennifer Simons
Jennifer Simons

With so many choices, however, these questions can seem very difficult to answer, Simons says.

Young people should start keeping a journal long before the application process. She says they should ask themselves, “Who am I?” and “What do I want out of life?” as well as, “What are my strengths and weaknesses?”

Write daily or weekly, she advises, commenting on events can help them understand the world and themselves.

The answers help students figure out subsequent and more specific questions, she says, about where to study. It can help them prepare for the essays most college applications require.

In addition, she says, students who know their strengths will better understand how to ask people how to write letters of recommendation for them.

Simons says the more young people know themselves, they more likely they will be to make decisions that bring them happiness. This includes more than just decisions about college.

The application process helps students learn to organize, too, among their studies, relationships and jobs. Applying requires them to identify schools that interest them, make information requests and prepare application materials.

Northeastern University in Boston.
Northeastern University in Boston.

Simons says balancing responsibilities is one of the most important skills anyone can learn.

“I think that you really are laying the groundwork for becoming an adult by learning how to prioritize your time,” she says.

Learning to ask for help is an equally important lesson. School counselors, older students, friends and family members who have attended college can be important resources.

And thanking people for that help is important, Simons says. A simple practice young people can learn is sending a letter or email of thanks to those who helped.

Networking and building relationships are important outside the college application process. Simons suggests students connect with teachers, classmates and acquaintances. This can help in the future as they seek jobs or additional education.

One final lesson students can take from the application process is accepting that their control of the situation is limited, Simons says. She points out that every college and university in the United States receives hundreds, if not thousands, of applications every year. Competition is fierce, so not everyone is going to get into his or her first or even second choice of school.

“There are many places where you could be happy,” she said. “I think that is human to … feel like, ‘Oh, this is the perfect fit.' And that happens in relationships, too. But, there's more than one place where you could be satisfied.”

Simons says that accepting rejection and learning how to move past it is probably the most important lesson of all.

Who chose your path: You or your parents? Please leave a comment here and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming, delivers the commencement address at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 28, 2023.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.

Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."

In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.

Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.

"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."

In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.

Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.

Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.

Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.

Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.

A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.

After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.

Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.

Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

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