My entire experience in FIRST has been a rollercoaster of experiences, from making friends world wide, connecting with companies and working on my speaking skills, and even how to present myself to others. In no way am I bashing the lessons I have learned in this amazing program because trust me, these have been the 6 most amazing years of my life. it’s important though to keep some facts in mind before you graduate high school and go into the real world.
FIRST is very sheltered. I know. it’s scary to think about, that the rest of the world isn't like the FIRST community. Walking around competitions in a tutu and face paint will get you a high five and smiles from passersby, and hey, be who you want to be, all the more power to you. Students and mentors are very caring for the most part and if you have the right attitude, you could probably get away with wearing or doing anything at competitions. The world is not like that. The world is not as nice as the people you meet at robotics competitions. They won’t come up to you when you're struggling and ask if you need a hand, or want to stay after for some help. The real world is survival of the fittest and trust me if they can find a way to get above you, they are going to take it.
You don’t have to be an engineer. She said it! Oh no! Not those words!! Yes those words! There are some close friends of mine that have been in FIRST for as long as I have and feel the pressure to go into a STEM related field just because that's what they've been taught and that's the path they are influenced to take. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THAT. If you are part of a team and never really liked the aspect of mechanical, electrical or programming, GREAT! There are so many FIRST scholarships out there for not only engineering but business and marketing as well. No one is going to think less of you if you don’t going into the field that everyone else is graduating into. Do something different with your life and be happy with your choices.
GRADES MATTER. LET ME REPEAT THAT AGAIN. GRADES. MATTER. Just because you were on a high functioning team that won everything and you make it to the world championships every year for your amazing robot skills, IT DOES NOT MATTER. Some people are probably thinking right now “Oh my gosh she has no idea what she's thinking, colleges want you to be well rounded and involved in things”. Yes. I understand that. Key word there is well ROUNDED. Being able to do all your extracurriculars at the same capacity as your school work. It doesn't matter if you see yourself as the face of FIRST in your area or you won Dean’s List, or even the Chairman's award at championships. If you do not have a semi impressive transcript to show colleges, they will think that you are incapable of handling your academics and the typical college life that comes with it.
Come back! FIRST is always looking for volunteers and there are so many great alumni programs that they are trying to start now to bring graduates back. Loved your time on the team and now going to college in a different state? Im sure that if you look online there are ALWAYS teams looking for mentors with outside experiences.
Friends for life. The connections you make in FIRST you are always going to have. The experiences that you go through are unique to any other program in the world. Where else are you going to find 2 mascots stop in their walking and start an impromptu dance battle, while in the other there are robots competing for the gold? Where else can you walk around with colored hair and a shirt being pulled down from the weight of buttons, and still have the energy to do the cotton eyed joe one more time? The people you meet in FIRST aren't just facebook friends that you message every once in awhile, but instead people that could be your boss or coworkers one day. Companies like seeing that you were involved in robotics, showing that you have background knowledge in your field of interest. Your robot friends have seen you through the good and bad and I promise, the good ones will stick around for life.
Those are my 5 lessons for graduating from FIRST to be as successful as possible. It’s SO ok to not know what you want to do when you graduate from high school after being apart of this amazing program for so long. I’m writing this with still another year to go in high school, and seeing where all my friends are going with their life impresses me in some ways and some ways makes me disappointed. I know valedictorians, soon to be successful engineers, kids that are taking a year off, students that have studied mandarin to get into college, and they all have the same experiences under their belt to show off. Just be smart about what path you take.
This blog was written by Sarah Fogwell. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
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