Seniors give advice and stories over their time at Iowa State


Andrè Namink

Senior Maddie Willits working as a graphic designer for the college of engineering communications and marketing.

From regrets to lessons, to hopes, these Iowa State University seniors shared their Cyclone experiences before they graduate.

Colton Carlson, software engineering major

In the beginning, he said he was overstressed but soon realized college wasn’t that bad.

“If you treat it like a job, it’s not that bad, and you can do whatever you want most nights,” Carlson said. “I went out almost every night last semester and still ended up on the dean’s list, so I don’t know. People just overhype how hard it is, and then they drink all day and get surprised.”

Due to COVID-19, Carlson said his sophomore year was the worst compared to his junior year when he and his friends went out a lot. Nevertheless, he said he has learned a lot of lessons.

“It’s not about what you learn in class, but learning how you learn and learning what works. I put that on the gravestone,” Carlson said. “I’ve also got a lot more relaxed and uptight, comfortable with myself, finding myself, which is cheesy and I hate that I just said that, but it’s true.”

Colton plans to work at Citrix Systems in Florida after he graduates.

Tayana Roark, biological systems engineering major

For Roark, coming from New York City to Iowa State University was a hard adjustment.

“I think I’ve learned to like Iowa State because when I first came here, I didn’t really enjoy it too much,” Roark said. “I thought it was very slow, but I’ve learned to enjoy the slowness sometimes. It’s kind of peaceful.”

As an introvert, Roark said she has learned to put herself in many activities this year because she wants to experience what the world has to offer.

“If I wasn’t sure if I could get something or not, let’s say a job, I just wouldn’t apply,” Roark said. “But now, even if I feel like something is out of my reach, I apply anyway. I just do whatever because I feel like someone else wouldn’t exactly have more to offer than I do.“

Roark said she plans to attend graduate school and work with nonprofit organizations concerning food security and travel to learn more about herself and others’ viewpoints.

Brooklin Border, public relations major

Even though Border has only attended Iowa State for two years, she has enjoyed her experience, almost wishing she attended for four years.

“By being involved with things, I’ve met my bestest friends, made a lot of great memories and learned a lot and gained a lot of really cool experiences with plenty of opportunities to grow,” Border said.

From classes to new experiences, Border stated that her senior year has been her favorite.

“I thoroughly enjoy my classes because they’re actually being applied to real life situations. I’m actually able to apply everything I’m learning to outside businesses into my internships and organizations I’m involved in,” Border said. “I also had a really great experience in SUB [Student Union Board], participated in homecoming for once and went to my first Iowa State football game this semester.”

Border discussed how she feels she has matured since freshman year, learning not to care so much about other people’s thoughts.

“Everybody will have an opinion about what you’re doing, what you’re wearing, what you’re saying, where you’re going, who you’re with and anything and everything,” Border said. “But you know what, it literally does not matter. Those people don’t matter, and all that matters is how you feel.”

Border said coming to Iowa State sooner instead of transferring might have brought more connections, friends and opportunities. However, she said she doesn’t regret anything because, at the time, she was doing what she thought was right.

Through her internship experiences, Border said she hopes to do something with nonprofits or event planning in the entertainment industry.

Maddie Willits, graphic design major

Willits said Iowa State has fostered a creative attitude and readiness to go into the workforce.

The newness of entering college, making new friends, joining new activities and having no restrictions made freshman year Willit’s favorite.

Staying on task and working in a timely manner is a lesson Willits said she has learned at Iowa State, even if she occasionally waits until the last minute to complete all her work.

“I’m a lot more confident and more social,” Willits said. “I am very open to trying new things, whether it be in my major or with new people or all sorts of stuff.”

Willits said she hopes to work for a couple of years at a good design firm, save and potentially travel out of the country.

Camdyn Zook, software engineering major

Although freshman year is the start of independence and news, Zook said his experience has been neutral.

“There’s a lot of good sides and a lot of bad sides of Iowa State that I’ve come to,” Zook said. “It’s just the unknown that gives you anxiety sometimes. You want to be certain with the friend group you have.”

When things got set in stone, Zook said he started to relax. For new coming students, Zook recommended planning accordingly by doing research about your interests.

“If you look at what Iowa State has to offer, maybe you can get more out of it.” Zook said. “I looked into Iowa State, like what classes I need to take specifically and how I could best use my time taking classes, and I was able to graduate early.”

Zook explained that he’s grown to ask for help. He said he was not initially fond of asking for guidance in big lecture halls, but once he got over that fear, he started doing much better in classes.

If there is one thing Zook recommends, it would be to look for as many opportunities socially and professionally because that’s how you create a support system.

After graduation, Zook plans to work at Raytheon Technologies in Florida and potentially go to grad school in the future.

James Mechikoff, technical communication major

When Mechikoff came to Iowa State University, he said he originally felt like a number in a crowd.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do in school, and when I came, a lot of my friends kind of went to the wind,” Mechikoff said. “I was kind of isolated and confused where I wanted to end up and felt like a number in the crowd.”

After he started to engage more with professors and meet new people, Mechikoff said things started to turn around for him.

“You’ll find things, but you’re never going to have somebody come and drag you along or save you,” Mechikoff said. “Be willing to take risks and be willing to just go for stuff.”

Mechikoff is interested in going into anything technical communication related where he can focus on creating educational texts and communication.