"Go to college." I heard this phrase so many times before I actually graduated high school that it became an almost subconscious mantra. So, what did I do? I applied for a dozen colleges, got approved, graduated and then realized my parents didn't tell me everything I was up against.
And yes, I was an adult, but it's a quick transition period from the end of high school to signing your life away to go to college.
I went from being a kid to an adult in a matter of months. I went to college like my parents told me to, but they neglected to explain a few things to me along the way.
1. Your Major Might Change
I thought I wanted to be an artist, but then I realized that it's not a smart choice for a career. I didn't want to be a starving artist. I felt ashamed because I was an art major, and everyone knew what my major was in my family.
But I found out that 75% of students in the US change their major at least once.
In fact, 20% - 50% of students go into college undecided. It's fine to change your major. You're still learning, and one of the greatest things you can learn is that a career path is not for you. If you find that the major you chose isn't the right fit for you, change it.
Don't waste time working towards a major that doesn't make you happy.
2. Your Student Loan Debt Will Be Massive
Everyone knows that student loan debt is real, but let's think about it for a minute. You've entered college, you're getting good grades and you haven't received a bill for your student loans yet.
In fact, you kind of go through the motions and don't even want to see how much debt you've accrued.
Loans become nothing more than a word until you actually have to start paying them off. Reality hits about six months after you graduate and realize that the education you received left you with $37,000 in debt.
You'll need to pay this debt off in ten years, in most circumstances. So, you'll pay $3,700 a year not including interest rates, or over $300 (without interest) in loans. This is a lofty payment for someone trying to start their lives.
Student loans aren't forgiven in bankruptcy either. This is your debt to pay off even if your degree pays peanuts. Loan forgiveness is possible, but you're looking at 20 – 25 years to have your loans forgiven. Legislation can erase that thought from your mind, too.
Work hard. Take a part-time job. Pay for as much of your own tuition as you can.
3. Asking for Help is a Good Thing
I've always been independent, and I always received great grades in high school. But college is a different beast. There are classes that you'll excel in, and there will be classes that will leave you scratching your head.
Statistics was the sticking point for me.
So, I tried to tough it out, and then when I was ready to give up, my friend asked me a few questions:
- Did you try getting a tutor?
- Did you see if it's a required class?
- Did you think of dropping the class?
I didn't want to feel like a failure, so I never even thought to see if there was another class that would satisfy my statistics requirement. Tutors? Really? I was the "smart kid." I realized quickly that it's okay to ask for help when you're in college.
You have to leave your ego at the door and do whatever you can to get good grades.
Sometimes, you need to ask for help, and that's the responsible thing to do.
4. Being an Adult is Really Hard
Everyone, including your parents, view you as an adult now. And, guess what? Being an adult is really hard. You'll make a lot of mistakes, but now you have all of these bills rolling in. Mom doesn't cook dinner for you anymore.
Your parents are finally living their lives again.
Freedom comes with being an adult, but you also need to know when it's time to stop partying day and night. You need to remember to keep your head down and continue studying even when your roommate is throwing a party.
No one wants to supervise an adult, so it's all up to you to make the right decisions.
You'll make a lot of mistakes along the way, and that's going to happen to even the best of us. But what matters most is owning up to these mistakes, learning from them and being a responsible adult.
Soon enough, you'll realize a lot of adults are still trying to figure it out – you're simply the new adult in the group.