Learning More Than I Expected in College


My mother was always an engaged woman, who by example encouraged my sister and I to be successful and self-sufficient women, and that meant going to college as a means of developing our independence.


She knew I needed to learn by doing and taking on more than I think I can handle to prove to myself that I am capable of being the woman I was always encouraged to be.


I was lucky to have friends and family that supported me and a positive school experiences that helped me grow. Here are some of those trials and tribulations during my later school years that helped shape my confidence and most importantly, my relationship with myself.


High School: The Beginning


I don’t want to go back to high school—most people don’t like to think back to that awkward time—but admittedly it was when I started making the decision to become the woman I am, or at least trying to be today. At the time, I was hanging on to my childhood, while also trying to become more independent and brave. As confusing of time as it was I began by discovering what my interests were, and tried to actively pursue them. When I figured out that I loved drawing and painting I took art classes and joined the stage crew for my high school’s drama club. After the first year of painting scenery and props, I proved that I had some talent and was hardworking, which allowed me to become a crew manager my senior year.


My first leadership position came with new responsibilities which made me both anxious and excited. I had the power to choose the colors of the stage and show everyone what I could really do. On the other hand, I could mess everything up, forcing me to hide in the curtains of stage left until graduation. But I think that was the point. The pressure combined with my passion for painting allowed me to keep moving forward and begin making the decisions I needed to help the stage crew make a convincing backdrop to our yearly play and musical.


With the aid and reassurance of everyone involved in the shows, I realized that if I was passionate about something I would do whatever it took to make it perfect.


I was finally beginning to realize what I could do.


College: Discovering my Independence Apartment Hunting


College came with new challenges and pressures and I needed to figure out how to be on my own in a new place filled to brim with interesting and intimidating opportunities. I learned quickly that I needed to take charge of my life and be accountable for my actions. I knew my success depended on me, and I had to believe I was capable.


The hardest part was realizing that I am good enough, that my ideas and skills are valuable and I could figure out my own problems. 


There were a couple of events during my undergraduate career that stand out as times that I had to show confidence where I had previously lacked it. The first real test of my emerging independence happened my freshman year when panic struck my friends and I after not receiving on-campus housing for the following year. We quickly had to solve the problem, each of us searching the net for potential residency, making phone calls and sending e-mails to renters all over West Chester. Luckily, we finally found a small two-bedroom apartment where the heat barely worked and the bathroom that had seen some interesting things. But we were happy. I proved to myself that I could make things happen when the pressure was high.


After we all were moved in and ready for our second year of college, I sat with my three other roommates, three young women living and thriving on our own, and I couldn’t help but feel the sense that we accomplished something, or at least proved that we could take care of ourselves. Adulthood felt less intimidating, yet more so at the same time. It didn’t really matter though, as we sat around laughing and talking, relieved that we found a place to live and inspired to keep moving forward.


College Part 2: Sleepless in My Senior Year


During the fall semester of my senior year I stretched my limits of sleeplessness and production. With a full course load, internship, and part time job I had went overboard on what I could handle. Negative thoughts of being inadequate interfered with my work, and made sleep even more difficult, and I was staying up late finishing art projects and waking up early to write and conduct research for my internship. Small gaps of free time were spent trying to feed myself and exercise.


I wanted to be as perfect as I could, comparing myself to the people around me that I thought had more pressure and responsibilities, and those thoughts left no room for my own failure or mistakes. However, that schedule and mindset were not sustainable. Something had to give, or I needed to forgive myself for my own human imperfection.


After ending the semester with a 4.0 and great internship experience, I had surpassed the limits I had set for myself, while also learning that balance in my life was essential to my overall wellbeing. I became aware of my capabilities and limitations, allowing me to understand the woman I am and want to become, and the best way to nurture that person.


Looking to the Future with a Bit More Confidence


As I continue my journey as a young adult I still have many new experiences and challenges that will shape who I am, but my time in school—particularly college—has already given me the opportunity to flourish and become a much more confident person.


My hope is that I am becoming the type of woman that has a strong sense of herself, and can help other women understand they too are capable of more than they think.



Rachel Cavotta is a recent graduate of West Chester University with a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in fine art. She is a writer and artist passionate about women’s rights, oil painting, and tea. In addition, she is currently working on a variety of short stories in multiple genres including memoir and fiction. Her work is heavily influenced by the incredible women in her life, and is excited to share some of their stories and wisdom with others. To connect with Rachel, visit her website https://rachelcavotta.wixsite.com/myportfolio or Twitter @r_cavotta.