Impact vs. Outcome as a College Student

Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Lily Guzman

Lily Guzman, CGCC Student and 2023 Graduate

by Lily Guzman

When I started college I had one objective in mind.

Get good grades.

It’s a goal that most students can identify with on some level. For many, a good report card was the determining factor of our dedication to academics for as long as we can remember. I assumed that surely, if my college transcript was covered with high marks and passing grades, it would satisfy my personal dream to be successful at the collegiate level.

So you can imagine I struggled to understand why – after completing my first year at Chandler-Gilbert Community College with straight A’s – I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of achievement. I was glad that it wasn’t the opposite, but printing off a pretty transcript that only myself and a select few admissions officers would see didn’t bring me much fulfillment. The time honored saying, “C’s get degrees” rang loudly in my ears as I wondered why I had bothered dedicating so much time to obtaining a single outcome. I wanted so desperately to make the most of my time at the community college, but had no idea where to begin.

It wasn’t until I stopped focusing so internally on myself, that I started to see the answer. I began looking to other students who were prominent on the campus to see if I could identify how they had managed to move past the benchmark of getting good grades.

What I found was that they were the individuals who had stopped making outcomes the sole focus of their academics. Rather, they were the people who had adopted a mindset that constantly revolved around the principle of impact.

Now don’t get me wrong, many of the students who had achieved this level of success I was hoping for in college also had good grades. Their dedication to the academic environment often made that a somewhat natural progression.

But their real claim to achievement was a continually evolving decision to be involved. They constantly committed their time and talents to moving in spaces where they had the opportunity to have an impact on the experiences and growth of others.

They were club officers, student mentors, peer tutors, volunteers, and so much more. People who stepped outside of the classroom and applied the same level of commitment that they would have given to getting good grades to helping other students grow. The kids who looked around and identified areas in which they could be of benefit not only to themselves, but to the entire community.

These were the students who could claim true academic success. They had made their collegiate experience one that truly mattered and gave fulfillment. Their teachers, parents, and advisors had the most pride to convey when detailing their milestones.

And it was all because of impact. Every one of those students was leaving a legacy of dedication to others in their wake instead of getting caught up in the outcomes. They didn’t get frustrated when their clubs were sparsely attended, they applied for officer roles and stood out in the hot sun tabling to raise awareness. They didn’t bemoan the lack of resources for difficult classes, they stepped up to be tutors for future students who would be taking the same coursework. They made a positive impact on others whenever possible, and in doing so, personal achievement often followed.

I was inspired by the revelation, and somewhat scared. I looked at my full-time schedule and wondered how on earth I could do even more to be involved while still maintaining my traditional outcomes of success. Looking back, I would encourage any students who are experiencing these same feelings to focus on taking things one step at a time and say yes to any opportunities that spark your curiosity.

Show up to a single club meeting. Say yes when someone asks if you can help volunteer at an event. It doesn’t seem like much but that’s what got me on track to accomplish my new goal of making an impact.

I went to one member meeting for DECA. I joined one Zoom call for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. I said yes when my math professor asked me if I would apply to be a peer tutor for future business calculus courses – despite having struggled badly with math in high school.

And in my final year and a half of community college, those little steps are what made all the difference in achieving personal fulfillment in my academic journey. I went on to add one little thing at a time to my schedule. And eventually built a giant network of connections, events, competitions, and volunteer opportunities.

I had the privilege of tutoring three semesters and six total classes of brief calculus students with Professors Jason Ramirez and Arlene Evangelista-Foster. Both of them were instrumental in helping me overcome a mental barrier in mathematics and develop my love for tutoring.

I had the opportunity to become Chapter President and build a number of meaningful projects with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, including the New Student Welcome Coyote Kart event, Feed My Starving Children volunteer shifts, an Induction Dinner, and so much more. Their advisors – Dr. Keziah Tinkle-Williams and Dr. Patrick Williams – guided me through some of the most important scholarship applications of my life, and celebrated with me when I became one of the All-AZ Academic Team scholarship recipients, receiving a tuition waiver that will cover my bachelor’s degree coursework at University.

I had the experience of traveling and supporting fellow DECA students as we competed together in two national business career conferences in Baltimore and Orlando. At the Orlando conference this year, I received first place nationally in Travel & Tourism case competitions and third place nationally in the Enterprise Sales Challenge.

I had the incredible honor of being mentored by CGCC’s business professors, including Jamie Goff, Joseph Margolias, and Barbara Gonzalez, who supported me and helped me get my business idea in front of various investors. I represented CGCC at both the school and district level of this year’s Big Pitch Competition, receiving first place both times and earning $5,000 collectively to build my small business.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy; there were many days where I missed the simplicity of a schedule that solely focused on the outcome of good grades. But the impact of a busy schedule, a schedule that is overflowing with hard work focused around being present with others, cannot be understated.

It would be impossible to talk about all the ways I’ve been able to get involved on this campus or the people I’ve met who have made an impact on me. But my hope is that if you’re reading this you will walk away encouraged to strive for impact in academics. Go try new things, develop new skill sets, and reinvest them into campus opportunities whenever possible. You never know how it will develop or grow, but I promise you, it will not be wasted time.

I am so thankful to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, its students, staff, and faculty for giving me a space to learn how to have an impact in academics. I would not be who I am today without the experience, and I am transferring to University next semester with so many skill sets and memories supporting me in my future endeavors.

Above all, strive for academic excellence through impact.

Lily at DECA