One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Shvetali Thatte (Case Western Reserve University ’23), who lived in 1502D during her senior year. She competed in Chess and Debate throughout her IMSA career.
Freedom at IMSA comes at a price. The school throws hundreds of options at your feet, but unless you choose wisely, you will find yourself spiraling into a purposeless, monotonous robot.
Coming to IMSA, very few students have a sense of the specific direction in which they want to go. They have their passions, but when thrown into an environment with countless new experiences, they don’t know what classes, extracurriculars, and other activities to pick.
At the beginning of sophomore year, your friends will start doing culture shows, joining sports teams and extracurriculars, and indulging in their new-found freedom with friends. As junior year comes along, you will see students that grind hard day after day, whether it’s on homework, their co-curriculars and extra-curriculars, or their external research and internships. However, don’t be fooled, because these aren’t the only kinds of students. The more places you go, you will find entrepreneurs working on prototypes in IN2, students designing drones in their room, and friends making time for each other to hang out, watch a movie, or play cards.
With so many different types of people, it becomes easy to think that you must fit into one of their worlds. Suddenly, it seems as though you aren’t working hard enough, or you aren’t doing enough extracurriculars. If you’re someone who already grinds, you might think that you aren’t having enough fun.
The minute you start doubting yourself, you will spiral. Trying to combine everyone’s lifestyles into your own won’t be easy, and, over time, you will find yourself burning out. It’s impossible to step on 10 rocks at once and stay completely standing.
However, there is a way to keep this from happening. It’s most definitely not the only way, but in my IMSA experience, learning to align my own priorities with others is what I struggled the most with, so I share my advice with you.
We must recognize that every person has his or her own unique set of priorities. These priorities determine the lifestyle choices that the person makes, what the person spends their time doing, and, ultimately, who the person is.
Finding your priorities at IMSA is one of the most important things to do. It will keep you grounded, giving you a sense of purpose with every activity you put your time into.
Let me be honest. Not everyone is cut out to invest their time and energy into Homecoming pep rally, culture shows, or Clash. Not everyone wants to have an SIR or an internship. Some people want to focus on their homework and schoolwork while others have an external project they are committed to, and some have their own, unique hobbies that they prioritize. For some, it’s the people in their life. Every person’s list looks different, but understanding yours will make the IMSA experience easier.
Don’t let the toxicity of the IMSA culture scare you. Don’t let what others prioritize influence you. Find out what you are interested in, what makes you happy, and put your time into that. When you do so, you will never give anything you do less than your 100%. If school doesn’t make you happy, don’t think that you have to grind out that math homework until 3 am. If research doesn’t intrigue you, don’t sign up for an SIR and waste your I-Day in a lab.
Junior and senior year are difficult at IMSA. They will demand your constant energy and concentration. However, knowing your priorities will keep you from wasting valuable time. Rather than staying up to do something that you are not fully invested in, find the few things that you care the most about, and give them your all.
Perspectives are permeable, and priorities can change. When you think you have found what you care the most about, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change those thoughts. You can always find new activities to indulge your time in, but whatever you choose, make sure they’re your own.
To my underclassmen, I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your journey. IMSA is your opportunity to start finding out who you are.
To my fellow seniors, I hope college gives you a chance to continue transforming. By the end, I wish for each of you to have found your own place in our world.
I’m rooting for all of you :)