After one semester of college and a round of finals, I realize now that all those campus tours were terrible representations of what college is like and that I spent hours asking all the wrong questions. Of course, it’s important to anticipate what friends you’ll make, what clubs you’ll take part in, or how the food and living conditions will be. But since everyone is in the same boat as you, it’s fairly easy to find people to hang out with and after a month, you just accept that the crammed dorms and sub-par food is your new reality. That kind of stuff comes a lot easier than expected. Instead, here’s a list of what to actually consider before entering campus grounds:
1. Your friends in college will be different than your friends in high school.
While it may seem obvious, this particular fact hit me pretty hard. Whether you want to escape your current friend group or you are like I was and want to find a group just as great, it’s important not to set up too many expectations. Don’t expect to find friends better or just like the ones back home. The people you meet in college will likely have different mannerisms, different traditions, and different personalities. Being part of a brand new group of people takes effort and compromise, and it may take a while to learn where you fit in it all. You can’t expect them to fulfill everything that your high school friends did or rely on them to respond the same way. Instead, learn to embrace their differences and to enjoy the unique parts about them. I am constantly expanding myself and broadening my perspective because of my friends here and have realized that a shift in viewpoint is exactly what I needed.
2. That independence you are looking forward to also has baggage.
While most people are more than happy for the change and new beginnings college has to offer, I think they forget there’s truly no going back even if they wanted to. In reality, the transition from high school to college has a lot heavier effect than expected. It means sleeping through 8:00 AM classes and noticing how no one really cares that you’ve missed out. It means getting sick and having to set up your own doctor’s appointment. It means going home for Thanksgiving and realizing that from now on, you are just a temporary guest. It means that despite all of the new people you’ve met, you still are the only person you can rely on to hold yourself accountable.
3. There’s no need to put on an act.
Everyone has to go through a couple bumpy months of trying to figure out where to fit in or how to manage time. That might mean walking into the wrong classroom, taking the wrong bus, or having to use Google Maps constantly. There’s no need to put up an act and pretend you have everything figured out, because I guarantee there will be others just as clueless as you. There is also no need to put on an act when it comes to meeting new people. Of course you should adapt and have an open mind, but don’t lose yourself or compromise your character because of it. It is so vital you don’t portray yourself to people in a way that you will regret a few weeks later. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a friend group who doesn’t actually know who you are.
4. You only move forward from here.
In many ways, going to college is like being a pathetic baby bird getting thrown out of its nest and forced to open its wings to figure out the whole flying thing. Or maybe it’s like driving a car and looking out the back window watching your home get smaller and smaller, except the car never turns around. You’ll feel yourself growing farther away from the person you were and getting more comfortable with the life you have made for yourself in college. While the independence and freeing environment of college is amazing, it’s hard to grasp that you’ve outgrown your home and are being weaned off the security you found in it.
5. You’ll turn out okay.
Going to college means being able to dress and act beyond the status quo set in high school. It means sharing viewpoints and perspectives with diverse people who have unique cultures. It means being surrounded by an environment of people eager to learn and grow right alongside you. It means finally being able to spread wings, take risks, and pursue life in a way you couldn’t before. Since going to college, I no longer feel like my every action is being judged and analyzed, or maybe I just don’t care anymore. I’m doing things to better myself and learning to live my life unapologetically. I am constantly gaining perspective and being challenged about what I think and the way I think about it. Because of this, I believe that leaving the security of my home was the best thing that could happen to me and I am confident it will be the same case for you.