As I was gearing up for the final stretch of senior year a few weeks ago, an article in The New York Times caught my eye and inadvertently brought me back to the last time I was a senior four years ago.
The article was about how Duke’s waiting list has exploded to include about 3,300 students—more than twice the size of the actual incoming freshman class, and of which only about 60 will be allowed to enroll.
This news struck a chord with me because I was one of the fortunate few invited to join the Class of 2010 off the wait list back in May 2006. Admittedly, that was a smaller list with more students accepted off it, as my fellow classmates and I matriculated despite the wave of bad press that followed the lacrosse scandal.
But reading that article made me wonder how life would be different if the lacrosse team hadn’t held that party on March 13, 2006. I’d be graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, having cheered on their 10-time Division III national champion women’s volleyball team and written for the three-times-a-week Student Life.
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When I did an about-face that May—we had already paid the enrollment deposit at Wash U—and told my parents that I wanted to go to Duke instead, my mom gave me the old big-fish-small-pond (Washington) versus the small-fish-big-pond routine (Duke). She gently suggested to me that it was smarter to be the shark than the minnow. But in the end, my assurances won them over and they gracefully agreed to support my choice.
Needless to say, I came to Duke with a chip on my shoulder and plans for a perfect four years in college, if only to satisfy my parents and prove that I belonged here. I imagined my time here as an intellectual paradise–playing Frisbee on the quad every Friday, studying on the Chapel lawn and engrossing myself in esoteric conversations with professors and classmates. But in the past four years, these have been rare occurrences at best, and I’ve never played Frisbee on the quad.
Then again, I never imagined I would help lead a news organization, nor that I would enjoy learning how to dance merengue. Those were never in my Four Year Plan For A Perfect College Career, but they turned out alright.
So I haven’t had the perfect college career that I planned for when I decided to relocate to sunny North Carolina from frigid Chicago, but when May 16 rolls around, it won’t really matter. I’ve made mistakes, and I have my regrets. But things worked out more than half the time, and I can rest assured that college was a success.
At The Chronicle, the four years have been good to me. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to preside over the newsroom during a historic presidential campaign and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. I was lucky to have followed in the journalistic footsteps of the editors who skillfully managed the controversy of the lacrosse scandal. Yet we journalists weren’t perfect. We were late on some stories, and could have planned for investigative projects better. And we definitely should have held more DPQs.
It’s hard to have a perfect four years in college. It’s pretty much impossible. But as long as you can look back and know that you made a few good choices along the way, then it’s okay to be imperfect. And if you’re wondering about some of my ingredients for having a good four years at Duke—none of which were in my original plan—you’re lucky this is a senior column, because no senior column would be complete without assorted, fairly unconnected tidbits of advice for underclassmen.
Take as many PE classes as you can. Knowing how to relax with yoga the morning after a night of salsa dancing following an afternoon of golf is more important than knowing what moves supply and demand curves.
Explore and learn about Durham. Seriously. Durham is a pretty rich city—rich in the history-and-tradition sense—with a wealth of fascinating stories. As someone who loves urban issues and wants to visit Baltimore now that he’s watched The Wire, I can honestly say I wish I had learned more about Durham before senior year.
And finally, join The Chronicle. Shameless plug, I know, but I can’t help it. For no other student group could I have photographed Barack Obama, covered a men’s basketball game courtside in the United Center or attended the Los Angeles Film Festival for free.
And nowhere else but in 301 Flowers could I have had such awesome conversations, napped on such old couches, drank such stale coffee, watched such beautiful sunrises, ate such delicious bin candy, read such insightful analyses, designed such detailed layouts, developed such a refined appreciation of words, cultivated such a nuanced understanding of numbers, or otherwise spent 12303512374 hours of my life.
Eugene Wang is a Trinity senior. He is recess managing editor and former managing editor, wire editor, University associate editor and staff writer of The Chronicle. He is also a senior editor, but would like to formally concede that Naureen Khan is the superior senior editor.