Come as You Are
Ellie Miller, ’22, Arts and Science
I didn’t quite know what to expect coming to Vanderbilt. I was from a small town in Kansas, with endless fields that outlined the city and buildings no higher than Sarratt. College seemed like such an extreme adjustment and I didn’t know if I would meet the expectations of the university. I knew I had gotten accepted but there were times when I thought I would feel out of place standing alongside kids who had gone to boarding school since they could stand. How could a girl from a small, rural town fit that prestigious Vanderbilt mold?
Coming to college, I already had my heart set on Environmental Science and I was ready to get started right off the bat. Now, throughout my years of schooling, I can confidently say that math was never my strong suit and as I transitioned to college, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t have to take math for my major. Once I got here, I met with my CASPAR advisor and my world crumbled as I found out that Calculus was an essential part of my major requirements. I enrolled in CALC 1200 for the spring semester and dreaded the end of winter break as classes were about to start again. I had made a plan over the break to stay on top of my assigned work and make myself available to receive help from TA’s and the professor during the office hours. I was feeling confident and ready to take on what I knew would be a challenge.
In the beginning, it started off well, but as the semester carried on the workload in my other classes had picked up and it seemed like my extracurriculars were continuously adding things to my plate. I wasn’t understanding the material in class and the endless tutoring sessions and office hours only made me more frustrated. I felt like I was giving that class everything I could and it still wasn’t enough. I was exhausted and started to not feel like my healthy self. I knew a change had to be made and after having conversations with my parents and friends, I decided to schedule another appointment with my CASPAR advisor.
It took me a while to come to terms with my situation and I have to admit that I was really embarrassed. Dropping a class my second semester of college? That hardly seems like the Vanderbilt way. After I had accepted that this was the change I needed in my academic life, it became easier to talk about with my friends and not feel ashamed that I had dropped a class. My CASPAR advisor eased my mind and told me that it wasn’t all that I had made it out to be and wouldn’t ruin my chances of getting into graduate school. I was so relieved and the next weeks without that impending source of stress in my life were much more manageable and enjoyable. I had more time to pour into my other classes, my friends, and myself.
One of the biggest points I took away from this experience was that, even though I am a member of the Vanderbilt community and am held to a high standard academically, it is important to think about mental health in terms of academics. It is easy to get wrapped up in the level, of course, you are taking or if you are in more hours than your friends. Vanderbilt is a place where we can craft our academic experience and structure it in a way that positively impacts us as students and people. At Vanderbilt, everyone is reaching for an end goal, but it is also important to remember that everyone gets there differently. I am so fortunate I realized this during my first year here and am amazed by the support network Vanderbilt provides for their students. There is no mold of perfection we are required to fit. They simply ask that you come as you are.