What Dreams Are Made Of

What Dreams Are Made Of

For those who have spent anytime at the University of Central Florida, you know where this photo was taken. For those not familiar with campus, it is right behind the front of the Student Union in the heart of the academic core (this area is never featured in photos for some reason). I have a bunch of photos from this day, it was amazing for photography due to the perfect cloud balance (seriously, if there are no clouds in the sky I don’t even bother anymore!).

This picture reminds me why I chose UCF back in 2001, and makes me thankful UCF has continued to choose me! I find that this campus and this university have something very special about them. It is newer than most colleges (just over 50 years old), bigger than most now (well, technically all but one!), and somehow this UCF Community feels like being part of a startup community. People who come here, meaning students, faculty, and staff are all looking to fulfill dreams and make amazing things happen. We are the up and comer who is going places, we are what is next! That is exciting. I named this photo “What Dreams are Made Of”, now I know why.

This brings me to my first “advice” post. How to choose a college (frankly, this could easily be transformed to “how to choose a career” or “life mission” or just about anything else, process is the same). I chose UCF for a simple reason, I determined it would be the best college to help me succeed at my goals; so far it has not let me down. How did I determine this??? Short answer, my gut told me so! Why and how did it do that. Ah, here goes my best attempt to answer that.

  1. Determine what is actually important to you – For me, it was being somewhere that seemed highly interconnected and gave me a chance to interact with the real World. Yeah, sorry Gaineville, you didn’t really stand a chance did you! I was originally looking at engineering programs (Industrial Engineering to be specific, a topic worthy of its own post sometime), and KNEW that I would have an internship and chance to make an impact WHILE an undergrad (fun fact, UCF senior engineering team came up with the Disney Fast Pass idea, how cool is that!!). That was what was important to me, making an impact OFF campus! UCF offered me the best chance in my view to do just that (and the most scholarship money, but I had pretty much made my mind up before all that became fact).
  2. Determine what type of people you want to be studying (or err working) with – Ok, I really can’t say the students were any worse or that different at UF or where ever (I did marry a Gator after all), but going back to point one, I wanted to be surrounded by equals. Was this universally true at UCF?? NO, of course not, but being part of the Honors College and LEAD Scholars helped. However, I did determine I did not want to be associated with “Gator Fans” (if you have seen the movie Big Trouble you will totally understand that reference, if you haven’t see it, rent it! It will explain Miami, and if you are from the South FLA, you will totally love it).
  3. Explore, and follow your gut – For me, walking on campus just left me with that sense of home. Other campuses, not so much! MOST decision we make are emotional first, then backed up by logic. If your logic and emotion are at odds, go with emotion. Oh yeah, you must explore and try things to have proper gut feelings! Do NOT leave that part out.

That was highly useful I know! But seriously, those are the proper things to consider. Here are some things to NOT consider.

  1. Rely on rankings or what other people think you should do – Do you know how colleges are “ranked”?? If you did, you would realize what a total joke they are (surveys filled out by Dean’s secretaries drive a lot!). Same goes for other people’s opinions. Don’t go somewhere (or take a job or whatever) because someone told you to or suggested based on their view. Do it because its what YOU want to do, not someone else.
  2. Go because somewhere is big or small or whatever else is deemed an all out determining factor (like, it’s an Ivy League or whatever) – Unless that factor is determined by the process above, ask yourself what good is it?  If it fits part of the larger mission, then great use it. But deciding that “private is better than public” or any other arbitrary determination is silly when you stop and think about it.
  3. My best friend, boy/girl friend, sibling, arch nemesis, whatever is going there – Hmm, could it be that you have mutually aligned goals, sure. But that should not the REASON you pick that school. If the school fits your goals and missions and they happen to go there also, that’s great. If they do not, it could be a really bad decision.

Well, there is my rant. I will end with a famous Lewis Carroll quote that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this topic (and many interactions I have with students who visit my office looking for career advice):

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Click to Enlarge

20140203-What Dreams are Made Of

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