College is where character is built, not changed

Bret Babcock

Looking back three years in my life, I was in the same boat as all of you freshmen are in now. I was wide-eyed and looking for adventure, dreaming about making an impact throughout my college career. I was coming to college to become a “new” person. I had plans of what I was going to do, what I wanted to learn while studying and how I wanted to leverage myself for the future.

As I fast-forward three years, I really haven’t changed all that much, and I still have similar plans. I still want to learn, and I’m still trying to move myself toward that great career which will give me a great future.

The fact is, the person that I was, isn’t much different than the person I am now. In this fact, I can find security and reservation, because I can look back on my college career and say that I didn’t change who I am; I only got better. I say this in all humbleness, because I have truly had shortcomings these last three years, but these shortcomings contributed to my betterment. It can be said that character is built; it isn’t changed or shifted – it is simply built.

I was in my first Honors Reading Conference, and I had a professor who was a very intelligent man but was very frustrating at the same time. Needless to say, after my first two papers returned with bad grades, I really couldn’t stand him. I ended up working through the rest of the semester, and I got progressively better in my writings and became better because of it.

It was early on in the semester, and he stopped a discussion on one of our readings to say something along these lines:

“Over your college career, you are going to learn and experience things that will challenge the things you learned as a child. These experiences could change the way you think or believe about issues and could challenge what you thought was right and wrong. But I will give you fair warning: Everything you have learned growing up isn’t wrong, and you should not abandon your principles just because you came across something else that has challenged it. It is OK to challenge your beliefs, but don’t throw them away easily.”

You come into college around the young age of 18, and you will meet new people who think differently than you; however, don’t let this exposure change who you are. Instead, learn about these beliefs and study them, then see if they align with who you are.

As I stated earlier, character is built, it isn’t changed or shifted. You already have a character foundation, so you can only build onto it. You can’t move your foundation. You may think you have “changed” your character, but that is just a distraction, and you will soon find that out.

In essence, success is found in constant building, not radical changes. So look at these new experiences as ways to build your character and become a better person, instead of changing who you are.

College isn’t a time or place where you come to change who you are; it is a time to experience exciting new things and become a better person. Take this principle to heart: Success in life is not found in changing who you are; it is found in constantly becoming a better person.

This column was originally published on Aug. 31 by the University of Toledo’s Independent Collegian. Content was made available by