Spring will be approaching soon, and some of you will be introduced to new beginnings as you move on from high school to college. I'm sure that many of us were raised on the idea that college is a new chapter in our lives, one that will be exciting, thrilling, and filled with adventures. However, college isn't what it's cracked up to be. Yes, college can be exciting and filled with adventures. However, as a sophomore in college, I've learned that sometimes college is hard, difficult, and full of obstacles. Here are some of the things I've learned throughout my time in college.
Some of you will be leaving to go to college, whether that be out of state or just a few hours away. A new environment is an adjustment for many new college students, especially if the campus is far away from home. Not only are you away from the people you know, but you also begin to realize that you're given new and more responsibilities. Students may be able to commute to and from home, but others don't have that choice if home is considered far. Students begin to learn important life skills that weren't taught to us, like how to manage money and time, juggling school and social life, and even trying to maintain good mental health. Moving to a new environment can be fun but also very stressful.
School Is Demanding
You probably think that college will be similar to high school. Similar topics and classes, same main subjects, like Math, Science, Social Studies, and English. Yes, you will be required to take courses that are in line with these subjects, but you also have to take courses that contribute to your major and/or degree that you want. Throughout my college experience, I've learned that some classes and professors are easier than others. However, this does not give you a reason to slack off and put no effort towards your classes. Every class and professor is different. Some may give a lot of homework, others may ask you to write a report or do an interactive activity as homework. This doesn't change that the amount of work received from all of your classes accumulates over time. You may receive one or two tasks from one class, but this can pile up depending on the number of classes you signed up for.
I've learned that there are crazy deadlines that don't make sense, work from different classes will overlap, and when you think you're finished with school you begin to feel skeptical and wonder if you forgot to do something. Being organized and proactive is definitely recommended when starting off as a college freshman. Always find time every week to study the material covered over the week, and don't be afraid to reach out to professors and peers if you're confused or lost. Always read and look over the syllabus. It covers grades, exams, extra credit, professor's contact information, and important deadlines and due dates. When contacting or writing an email to a professor, always address them as "Professor", then their last name. Be polite anytime you talk to professors, especially over email. Tones can be interpreted differently, use correct grammar and proper netiquette.
You Learn As You Grow
College is a time to learn, not only about new subjects and materials, but also to learn more about yourself. You have the opportunity to try new things, make new friends. It's okay to make mistakes and fail at things during your college experience. It's perfectly normal to feel like you don't have it all together. No one has it easy in this stage of life, everyone is in the same boat. We're all confused because this is the period in our life when we still feel like children and teens with the responsibilities of adults. Not one person in college has it all planned out, everyone is going through something that they're not saying out loud. I may know how to register for classes, send emails to professors, and apply for financial aid, but I still feel like I'm just learning as I go through college. Someone may look at the classes I'm taking and the material I'm learning and might view it as hard, but for me it's just learning new material and information. You may not feel older as you navigate through your new college experience, but you become older and more mature as you learn and grow.
I look back at my younger self from a year ago, barely graduating high school. I see that the girl from my past is so excited, yet terrified of the future and what this new chapter will hold for her. She's afraid that she won't be able to keep up with the rest of the class, that she'll fail and make mistakes. She's confused and overwhelmed by the mere thought of tuition, textbooks, and exams. Now I reflect on who I am now. I am a sophomore in college. I've applied to multiple universities and CalState colleges. I've done well in most of my classes. College isn't easy by any means, but you start to get the hang of it once you are comfortable with your surroundings. I learned as I grew, and grew as I learned.
The College Stigma
Many think that college parties are exactly like how they're portrayed in movies and TV shows. At times, this can be true. Some colleges may have a few major parties that go all out, but it's not common to go to a party every night in college. Many of us grew up believing that college was going to be fun and thrilling, filled with parties and friends, meeting new people and maybe finding a partner. College life is not always like this. There will be parties and you will meet new people, but not every day is a day to party. Some days are days to rest or study, other days are meant for family and friends, and occasionally you'll have your fair share of all-nighters. We believed in the best and worst of college; the stereotypical frat boy and pink sorority girls, professors are always strict and mean, parties all and every night, you need to have a plan and stick to it in college. These stereotypes are outdated and irrelevant. Social classes and status don't matter much anymore. Many of us are confused about what we're doing or where we're going in life. Not all professors are mean and strict, some are laid back. People have lives too, so having a party every night might not always happen. College students change their major 2-4 times during their college years. So don't be worried if your college experience isn't exactly as you pictured or envisioned it.
No one has the next four years of college planned out entirely. We have a general idea of the classes and steps we should take to obtain certain credits and degrees, but everyone is lost and confused at some point during their college experience. It's okay to not be sure of what you want to do or who you want to grow up to be. That is what college is for. It's a time to try new things, even if you have a general idea of what you want to be. Going into college freshman year, I thought I wanted to get a degree in English for journalism. Then I started registering for new classes, and although I like writing, I saw it as more of a hobby. There's nothing wrong with pursuing something that can be considered an art or hobby. As long as it's something that you're passionate about, learning will be fun. Even if you don't have any clue about what you're doing in college or what path to choose, talk to a guidance counselor, take career assessment and interest tests. These resources help you have a better idea of what you want to accomplish and achieve during your time in college.
Finally, when you feel that you're behind in college, you really aren't. There is no specific timeline that determines when you start and stop your time in college. You don't have to be everyone else, and follow the same career paths as your friends and peers. Find what makes you happy, take part in classes that you're passionate about. College can become very boring if you're learning something that you find no interest in. Experiment, take a dance class, join a club, explore the college campus if you want. You might not be ready for college, but college can be an exciting and thrilling time of your life if you let it be.