As senior year of high school rolled around, I went into total panic mode thinking about what colleges I wanted to apply to. My creative side wanted to apply to universities that were more geared towards the arts and my interest in film work. Most of these colleges were in totally different states, which I found exciting.
The logical side of my brain knew I needed to rethink my options and find somewhere closer to home. However, during the midst of my college application process, I injured myself pretty badly during my last high school game of volleyball (I love having awful knees -- they cause you lots of issues). This injury consumed a lot of time and took my attention away from college applications, eventually causing me to choose to attend the community college in my hometown.
Don't get me wrong, I loved my time at community college. I was able to go home between classes on some days, I knew a good amount of kids in my classes because I went to school with them at some point in my life, and if I didn't feel like doing my homework after classes, I could just drive to Target and waste my time (and money).
However, I knew I wanted to go to a university to study, so I began the application process again, this time as a transfer student. Long story short, I was accepted into a great university and am now rooming with one of my best friends. That injury of mine was honestly the best thing to happen.
My semesters at community college weren't bad at all, so I assumed it would be the same at a university. I was right… to an extent. Besides not living at home, here are the biggest changes I saw after my first semester away at college.
1. The books are way cheaper at a university.
This is a shocker, I know. I understand there can be some technical/mathematical reasons as to why this is, but this was the best surprise to walk into. The first week of classes, I was dreading the amount of money I was going to be spending on books, but I was extremely excited to find out I could get my books for under $200! Unfortunately, that's not the case every semester, but it beats the nearly $600 mark I was hitting at community college.
2. Professors seemed more serious at community college.
This could just be the college I attend now, but the professors at my community college were way more strict and serious about their work in comparison to those I have had at my current college. One professor this past semester gave us papers to do, but she let us use whatever format we pleased. At community college, they expected EXACT MLA format or even the dreaded Chicago format.
3. The students are just... different.
I really don't know how to explain this one. At community college, it felt like my fellow classmates were a mix of older adults and people I went to high school with. At a university, it's just an entirely different atmosphere.
4. You cannot hide from your work.
Boy, was this the hardest change I've had to get accustomed to. At community college, you could go home and distract yourself from your work by hanging out with family, going shopping, or going to work. Your school work was not sitting right there in your room. You could move around and forget about it if you wanted to. But away at university, it is always sitting there, waiting for you to do it. You cannot just sit it down and forget it. It's always there.
5. You cannot participate in as many stress-relieving activities as you did at home.
I would come home from a long day of classes, sit myself down at my piano, and play a song or two. I cannot do that away at college because 1) I would probably drive my roommate and everyone around me crazy, and 2) a piano cannot fit into a dorm room. While it is possible to find other stress-relieving activities, it just still isn't the same.
6. Your tuition is double, if not triple, the amount it was at community college.
While this is common sense due to the fact you might be rooming on campus, it was still a big change for a bank account to get used to.
7. You are around people your age 24/7.
This all goes with the idea of being able to go home after classes at community college. If you're like me and can only handle doses of people at a time, this might be something you will have trouble getting used to if you make this type of transition. Of course, you could find a way that works for you on how to get your quiet time in, but it definitely takes some time.
8. With the above in mind, there can be no such thing as "quiet time."
Me when I don't get quiet time.
Honestly, there really isn't. Some days your friends are always in your room. Some days, no one is around. And some days you won't mind not being alone. It takes time to get used to, especially since I was used to going home to a quiet house after classes.
9. Being away from home is a lot harder than you think.
Coming from a big family, I knew I would be upset about leaving them. However, I didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was. Time is your best friend at university.
10. It's a bit easier to make friends.
Since you're around people 24/7, it's easier to make friends. You see people around campus, in the dorm buildings, in the dining hall, sometimes even out on the town. After a bit of time, you develop friends. You can find some of your best friends in the entire world while away at college.
11. There's a lot more school pride.
Some days it's like you can't get away from the school's colors or logo. At my community college, I rarely saw anyone representing gear (except for me -- I had/have a sticker from the college I attended).
12. Being a transfer student is kind of a pain.
Paperwork is the worst part about transferring.
This can depend on the university you go to, but for me, it was difficult. You aren't a freshman, but you aren't a continuing student at the university. You know how college works, but you also have to figure out what classes transferred and which ones didn't. And yes, you might have to repeat classes, but you'll get through it.
13. You build up some serious leg muscles.
You could drive right to the building you needed to go to and walk a few feet before being in your classroom. At university? Walking. Is. Everything.
14. You learn a lot of life lessons being away at school.
Whether it be to not have an 8 a.m. or how to cope with being away from home, there's a lot more to learn when you're at a university.
While the change was difficult, I would not have traded these experiences for anything.