By Path Mentor J.C., Alumnus of Stanford and a current PhD student at Harvard University (Originally Posted on September 1, 2020)
Many years ago at a family dinner, my great-uncle took me aside and talked to me for twenty minutes. He told me to be careful about the friends I chose in elementary school. At the time, I didn’t think too much of his advice — I just wanted to go back to the dining table to finish eating dinner. Besides, my friends were my friends, and my life was my life — how much could they really matter?
Thinking back now after four years of college, I’ve come to realize my great-uncle was right: my choice of friends has had a far greater impact on my life than any other decision I’ve made. My friends have inspired me to pursue my interests, taught me critical soft skills, supported me through difficult times, and most importantly — they continually push me to strive to be the best I can.
Needless to say, everyone has a different approach to friendship. I find that the following three points have helped me grow as a person and have also helped me prepare a compelling application for college admissions.
One of my favorite quotes is that you are the average of your five closest friends. If you surround yourself with people who are vigorous and constantly do activities — building minature airplanes, creating artwork, choreographing dances, making phone apps, etc. — you will naturally find yourself more inclined to do the same. One of the most fulfilling parts of life is when you fully carry out a personal project and experience the journey from the original conception to the final result. When your hobbies and interests lead to concrete results, you can talk about them in your college application essays. This is a simple way to show your dream college that you have initiative — that you can take an idea and carry it out all the way through. There is no easier way to carry out projects than to surround yourself with friends who will inspire you to do so.
Is there a particular personality trait that you wish you had? Then make a friend who has that trait! When you spend time with someone with a soft skill you want to develop, you will passively pick it up with little conscious effort. By picking your friends carefully, you can take control over the type of person you become. For example, in high school, I wanted to learn how to become a better listener. I made friends with some people whose listening abilities I admired, and I started naturally adopting their habits. This soft skill, along with others I have learned from friends, have allowed me to make the most of my activities and live a more fulfilling life. Many colleges today are looking for well-groomed students with a wide palette of soft skills. So ask yourself: do your friends have traits that you aspire to have?
Do your friends support you and make you feel confident in yourself? Or do they make you feel stressed and unhappy? A good friend should always make you comfortable. For college applications, it is particularly important to spend time around people who have a healthy attitude towards success. If your friends are competitive and stress-inducing, your mental health will suffer and you will be less able to perform well. On the other hand, when you spend time with friends who make you feel at peace with yourself, you will be more inspired and ready to do good work. A great friendship will put you in the right frame of mind so that you can achieve to your fullest potential.
So ask yourself today: what kind of friends do you have? Do they help you become the best person you can be? A great friendship is one of the most valuable aspects of life. Take this occasion to reflect on the friends that you have made so far and the type of friends you want to make in the future.