Starting college: Three parts of yourself worth investing in

By Dr. Aaron Krasnow and Michelle Duah

It doesn’t matter who you are or what background you come from, college is going to put your abilities to the test. Here are three inner parts of you that will help you find success during this time.

Your inner scientist

You’ve heard it all before:. Now is the time to experiment…to learn about yourself…to get out of your comfort zone… and to see life from new points of view. This might all sound cliche, but it’s also absolutely true. You really do get to be the experimenter in your own life.

That's why it's important to explore this time in your life as a scientist would. Your inner scientist is the part of you that is curious, eager to learn, and conducts experiments.

By approaching your decisions as a series of experiments, you can observe the results or natural consequences with some emotional distance. This is especially helpful when things don’t turn out exactly the way you’d hoped — which is just about guaranteed to happen at some point. With greater objectivity, your inner scientist can keep you from overburdening yourself with disappointment or feelings of failure. Instead, you bring an increased level of awareness to your life so that you can make adjustments and pivot before moving on to another experiment.

Your inner filter

Your inner filter is the part of you that seeks truth, is skeptical of easy answers, and knows when to listen to your gut.

Humans experience stress when presented with information that conflicts with what we believe to be true. This is called cognitive dissonance. It happens to everyone, and it happens all the time. It happens every time you’re wrong about something, and every time you avoid learning the things that might make you wrong.

The stress can be mild or severe depending on how much you identify with being right. But like most things in life, what matters most is what you do with that discomfort.

Leverage your inner filter by first accepting the fact that nobody knows everything, and you aren’t expected to, either. Second, when making decisions, work toward a balance between relying on outside information and relying on your gut. You need both.

This is important because your ability to seek answers and find what is true or meaningful determines what gets assimilated or replaced in your bank of knowledge, your conception of the world or how you view yourself — which ultimately impacts every part of your life.

Your inner hero

Your inner hero is the part of you that faces your fears, does the hard work, and makes bold decisions to achieve a brighter future instead of a pretty good “right now.”

You’ve made it to college, so you know plenty about doing the hard work and overcoming challenges. Seriously, well done! The trick is to look at college as a new adventure. Leverage your strengths that brought you to this point, and prepare to face new challenges you’ve never encountered.

Your challenges will be unique to you, but you are also uniquely equipped to overcome them. Sometimes this means creating the solutions you need on your own, and other times you’ll need the support of others. There is no right way to do this, but remember that facing challenges is the important part.



Aaron Krasnow is the associate vice president of ASU Health Services and ASU Counseling Services at Arizona State University, and holds a PhD in clinical psychology

Michelle Duah is a writer and collaborator for the ASU Adulting 101 blog.


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A library of helpful advice, tips and answers to questions from students to Sunny.

ASU’s chatbot, Sunny, has been helping students get adjusted to college life for a few years now. The questions from students year after year, rarely change. Sometimes it helps to see what other students are asking to stay informed and realize you aren’t the only one trying to figure it all out.

Welcome to the Hey Sunny blog – a library of advice for students from Sunny and the team supporting the bot.

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