The Randomness of it All

It always cracks me up when I think back to how I was before freshman year, and my thought processes regarding college. I believed that achieving happiness at Cornell my first year would be more or less formulaic–you attend X club recruitment sessions, take a certain amount of classes in your major, spend a few hours being sociable in your dorm every evening…and bam! You’re a happy college student. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sure, there are some static aspects of college that you have full control over–like your major, for example, or perhaps your overall mindset. But let me make an interesting declaration: Many of your experiences in college will be based off of pure chance.

Want to hear examples?

  • If I didn’t sit in the specific seat I did in SOC 1101 randomly one day during my freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen the flyer that announced recruitment for my business frat, PSE. I likely wouldn’t have heard it otherwise, or been as inclined to join if I heard of it in later semesters. Seeing that flyer at the time, I would’ve never guessed that it would be something I’d stick with all through Cornell, and hold a few leadership positions in. (Who’d have guessed that I’d get a summer internship from the organization, too?)
  • You could go into the dorm experience with the most positive attitude, but if you’re not a fan of the kid you’re living with–often randomly selected out of 1000’s of kids–that could completely bias your whole first semester college experience. After all, you live with them. (Alternatively, the person you meet on that first day in the dorm could be your best friend for life.) At Cornell, I’ve heard of both horrid and positive roommate experiences. You just don’t know what yours will be like, for sure, until you’re living with them for a while.
  • I’ve fostered random friendships at Cornell that have come about purely by me being in a random place. There are people I still occasionally talk to that I’ve met on TCAT rides, walks to central campus freshman year, and other instances of just being in the right place at the right time. On that note, I know of people who have become good friends after meeting each other in courses that they both randomly enrolled in.
  • Speaking of random encounters, if I didn’t have to run an errand at the Cornell Store, I wouldn’t have run into Bill Nye the Science Guy there my sophomore year. (That’s something I’ll always remember.)
  • During the Greek rush and pledging process, I’ve been told you want to select a house based on “fit”–and this is often detected by your experiences with the brothers/sisters during one week in January. One week! That’s all the time you have to visit 40+ fraternities for guys, or 12(?) sororities for girls. You can’t talk to everyone in every organization, and your perception of each group will vary wildly based on who you talk to…so there’s definitely some aspect of chance when you’re deciding if or what Greek organizations are right for you.
  • I stumbled upon the Cornell “Life on the Hill” blogging project on a whim, exploring Cornell.edu shortly after my acceptance, and somewhat randomly decided to inquire about getting involved. ~110 posts later and this thing is still going strong…

Okay, I understand that this might be stressful to some. Heck, this realization about life at Cornell (and I guess life, overall) was for me, too. But if I could give advice, I’d say to enjoy the process and randomness of it all.

One thought on “The Randomness of it All

  1. Sue p

    You are so right, David- it is very random. What was significant at the beginning may have changed too. What might you do differently if you had the do-over?

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