Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: There is no set path

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Bhavana Ravala | @bhavravala, Editor-in-chief

Welcome to The University of Alabama. After an undoubtedly nontraditional four years of high school marked by long hours on Zoom and masks in classrooms, you have reached the next chapter of your life. 

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of spending your college years in the student section of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Maybe you had never heard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, until you applied to the University. Maybe, like so many, your journey to campus is somewhere between those two extremes. Regardless of how you got here, I can assure you the next four years will be transformative, although maybe not in the way you imagine. 

One of the biggest mistakes a first-year college student can make is committing to a path before even setting foot on campus. You may have already picked out your major, your extracurricular activities, your post-grad plans and more. Let me be clear, it is perfectly normal to have these goals for your college career. But to maximize your time in Tuscaloosa, you must be willing to stray from the path you’ve designed for yourself.  

I encourage you to treat these next four years as a time to explore. Regardless of what you wish to do after college, there is no disadvantage to trying something outside your usual interests.  

Taking a class in a new subject area may lead to adding a minor to your degree plan. Your first couple years of college are a great time to experiment academically. As you’re taking general education courses, you could find the professor who makes you take a second look at a subject you’ve never properly considered. You don’t have to finalize a major until your sophomore year — take advantage of that time to define your academic interests.  

Joining a club could teach you a new skill. With over 500 student organizations on campus, there is more than enough room to step out of your usual areas of interest. You can stick with what you did in high school if you’d like, and if you manage your time well you can tack on something new and fun. For instance, I was never involved with the student newspaper in high school, and I ended up loving it as a college student.  

Even if you don’t gain anything tangible by deviating from your path for yourself, you will still have a notable memory of your time at the University. There is nothing to be lost from straying off your path, because the reality is that there is no set path. There is no one correct way to be a UA student, just as there is no one correct way to become a UA student.  

On a campus as large as this one, there is no way you can try everything. At the same time, that’s not a reason to restrict yourself. So, as you move into your dorm and start finding your classes, take a deep breath and keep an open mind. You are the only person shaping your path forward.