My Unconventional College Career Taught Me It's OK To Do Things Differently

My Unconventional College Career Taught Me It's OK To Do Things Differently

To all of the anxious students out there -- this is for you.


College is tough. It's intimidating, it's overwhelming, and most kids go into college not knowing what to expect. Everyone has this construct in their head of what college should be, and how it should be done: graduate high school, ship out in August, live in a college dorm, graduate in four years, only come home for the breaks. There's a real stigma around the "college experience" as most people think of it. To many, it's partying every weekend, struggling in your classes, alienating yourself from your family, and leaving your old life -- and your hometown -- behind.

I'm here to tell you what college has been for me, and why it's okay not to follow the same path that everyone else does.

I did what most high schoolers are expected to do. I applied in the fall of my senior year. I got my acceptances, and I chose Towson University (this seems obvious, but it's important to the timeline). My best friend chose Towson, too, and we requested to room with each other. My family and I spent all summer shopping for my dorm, and I said goodbye to my friends. In August of 2016, I said goodbye to my hometown of Rising Sun.

It turns out my goodbyes were short-lived. My freshman semester was terrible. I made one new friend all semester, and while she was wonderful, she was far more social and outgoing than I was. I went home every weekend to see my family and my boyfriend, because I didn't have anything keeping me here. I didn't join any clubs, I didn't go to any games, and I spent all of my time getting my homework done early so I wouldn't have to do it during the weekend when I went home.

I realized I didn't like my major and I didn't know what I would do with it in the job field. I spent every week counting down until Friday and I dreaded coming back on Monday. My overall misery, and my depression about not making friends, drove me to my ultimate decision of moving back home for the spring semester and enrolling in community college.

Backwards, right? Aren't you supposed to start out at community college and then transfer to a four-year institution? No. You can do things in whatever order suits your needs, and for me, I needed to be home. I spent the three subsequent semesters taking classes part-time at my community college and working at my old high school job. I was only part-time because I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

Fast forward to fall semester of 2017. Even though I despised Towson while I was a freshman here, I felt myself drawn to it again. I did really love the campus, and the faculty I worked with my first semester were wonderful (shoutout to Professor Baetjer of the Economics department -- I almost changed my major to Economics because of him). I started taking math classes at my community college and decided I wanted to be a mathematics major, specifically an actuary; Towson happens to be one of only three universities in Maryland that is accredited for its actuarial science track.

I ended up right back where I started, here at Towson. While I was so desperate to run away from here the first time around, I can honestly say I'm so happy to be back and I love everything this school has to offer. I changed my major again, like most college students tend to, and I settled on accounting. I joined the Odyssey to create, to get my story out, and to tell everyone that however your college journey goes, it's okay. For me, college was never about going to parties or getting away from home. It ended up being about returning to my roots, finding myself, and then giving it another try. My college journey, while extremely unusual, is no less valid than anyone else's.

So for all of the kids out there who are terrified of college and are unsure of what you'll do: don't worry. Not everyone is built to handle college the same. If you need a year off? Go for it. If you aren't ready to leave home and want to attend community college? Do it. I probably should have started off at community college because I just wasn't ready to leave home yet. If you find yourself feeling stuck and unhappy at your university, there is no shame in transferring home. Really, college is for YOU, and YOUR personal development. As long as you make it in the end, it doesn't really matter how you got there.

What I learned from my backwards college career was not only to appreciate where you come from, but be grateful for where you're going. I'm incredibly lucky to have had supportive parents, and I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to attend Towson not once, but twice. The education I've gained from both colleges I've attended is a blessing that many people don't have access to, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. Everyone thinks college is an opportunity to "start fresh" and leave everything behind. But why leave behind everyone, and everything, that has shaped you into who you are? I'm grateful for the extra year and a half I spent at home. I had some amazing professors at my community college who ultimately inspired me to choose my current major and made for great connections. Going home, and then returning to Towson, has only made me that much more ambitious and eager to join the real world.

Don't be afraid of college. Wherever you end up, whatever you end up doing, college is what you make it. Even if you don't do things "the right way," college is just as much about the journey as it is the destination.

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What Nobody Is Going To Tell You About Freshman Year

What no one will tell you about your first step to adulthood.

Attending college for the first time is a time filled with high expectations, excitement, nerves, and a lot of hope for the future.

If you were anything like me, you were lucky enough to get accepted into your dream school with a lot of high hopes about the upcoming year. I couldn't wait to move into my freshman dorm, no matter how little or crappy it might have been, I was undoubtedly excited. The year was fresh (literally) and I couldn't wait to start living a college lifestyle and meet the people I was going to be friends with for the next four years of my life and hopefully even longer. I had never been so excited about going back-to-school shoppingand started packing and preparing for the move weeks in advance.

I had this image in my head of what freshman year was going to be like and it looked a lot like something you would see on an ABC Family or MTV show rather than what the reality of freshman year really was. I would be sitting here lying to you if I told you my freshman year was the best year of my life and to expect to have a year full of parties and fun with no responsibilities. The fact of the matter is, freshman year is your first real step into adulthood. It is your first unsheltered, uncensored, version of the real world that your parents (for the most part) have no control over. While this truly is an exciting thing, if you're not prepared for it freshman year can be a lot more stressful than expected.

I wish someone told me that the people I met the first week of school weren't going to be my best friends the whole year and not to take it to heart when they stop talking to you. You meet SO many people your first few weeks of school and you want to be friends with literally all of them. But in college, unlike high school, you probably won't see those same people every day so maintaining relationships takes a lot more work than before. To be honest, you may forget what it was like to actually make a new friend, especially if you were friends with the same people all through high school.

I wish someone told me that my study habits in high school absolutely will not hold up in college. When you were told to “read the text" in high school for homework, you wrote “no homework" in your planner for that day. Reading your text book in high school was actually laughed at in most situations and if you didn't have an end of the year freak out about where your text books were, you were doing it wrong.R ead your textbooks, every page, every chapter. Write everything down, from notes to homework, it's all important.

I wish someone told me the “freshman 15" was absolutely not a myth. Despite the fact that I spent countless nights in our campus gym, the freshman 15 was still gained and stayed. I couldn't tell you why or how this happens, but expect to gain a few pounds your first year of college. Whether it's from all of the campus cookies you couldn't have passed your final without or from all the delicious new food options, expect to be a few pounds heavier when returning home for Thanksgiving. And most importantly, know that you don't look any different despite how you feel, and know that this will most likely happen to everyone.

I wish someone told me that it's OK to say no to people. After you get to know your hall mates and become closer with the people you've met your first few weeks of college, you quickly learn that there is always something going on. Learn that you don't have to agree to attend everything someone invites you to. If you need to stay home and study, speak up. Don't just say yes to please someone or because you feel like you will lose that person as a friend if you say no. Learn to put you and your needs first, and if someone judges you because you decided to study rather than go out, so be it. You're here to learn not to socialize. It's OK to decline peoples offers.

I wish someone told me to go to class no matter how tired I was. Fun fact about college: you don't technically have to go to class if you don't want to. But for the sake of your grades, please go to class. You only get the chance to learn the material once, and you will be tested on the lecture material whether you were there or not. One tired day may cost you a good grade in the class, no joke. Go to every class you can and take detailed notes. (Tip: you can usually take pictures of the slides/diagrams as well, it helps a lot.)

I wish someone told me that only my true friends from high school will remain my friends in college. Losing contact with high school friends is a given in college. Even the people you swore were your closest friends may forget about you in the craziness of freshman year. The good news is you are at a school with thousands of people looking to make new friends and they will fill the empty spaces that old ones left.

I wish someone told me to be careful at parties. Although it is very rare something bad happens, it is true that parties aren't the safest place. Especially for the freshmen, it's easy to just go to the party that everyone else is going to without knowing anything about the place or who is going to be there. Look out for your friends and stay together. Navigating a college town at night is scary and can be dangerous. Know where you are going beforehand and always have a way home. Don't always trust people you have just met and never leave a cup unattended.

I wish someone told me my grades aren't going to be as great in college as they were in high school. Expect your GPA to drop at least half a point, usually. You're going to have a lot of distractions in college and a lot less structure in your schedule. Keeping a balance truly is a difficult task and your grades aren't going to always be what you want them to be. You will learn the perfect combination to keep your grades and yourself happy. Give it some time and don't beat yourself up if you get a C in a class or two. You have three years to make up for it.

I wish someone told me that getting homesick is completely normal. The first few spells of homesickness I had scared me to death. I was afraid that if I was homesick it meant that I didn't like the school I was at or that something was wrong or missing. This is usually not the case even though it may feel that way at times. You're going to miss home no matter how much you wished your way out of it from day one. Home is what is familiar to you and what you know and it's easy to crave that when you're somewhere completely different. Don't let it get the best of you and just know that a call home will fix anything and everything. Don't be afraid to call your parents and friends from home. They miss you, too.

I wish someone told me that you only get one freshman year at the college of your dreams so live it up and learn your lessons. Have the time of your life, make all of the friends you can, join clubs and organizations you're passionate about, get involved on your campus and in your community, and take nothing for granted. You only get to do college once (if all goes well) and you're paying to be here and get an education. Make the most of every situation and learn about yourself and the people around you. There is so much to be done and so much to learn in your four years here but especially the first. Make the most of it and don't forget your morals or who you are!

Cover Image Credit: Cailin Austin

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Why You Should And Shouldn't Pursue A Science Degree

From personal experience, here are some actual reasons, in my opinion, why a science degree is a really bad, yet really good idea.


Since I was in maybe 6th or 7th grade, I've always dreamed of being a doctor. Don't ask me why, but for some reason, I just up and decided I wanted to pursue one of the hardest possible careers that exist. Anatomy, science, and math have always been interests of mine, but not necessarily strong-suits. These areas, for me, always take extra work and studying to excel on exams and homework versus English and history. Regardless, I ignored this. Why? I am dumb. I didn't pay attention to what my personal strengths are, but rather what my interests alone were. I guess what I am trying to say here is, through personal experience, I've learned that it's important to pay attention to what your personal talents and interests are and to find a good middle ground. This can apply to any degree, not just a science degree.

Interest in science has increased over time. As technology and medicine have advanced, people have recognized that there is a need for more people in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. There are more jobs available for people who pursue STEM degrees, and those jobs generally offer more money. According to Business Insider, non-STEM majors earn an average of $15,500 less per year starting salary than STEM majors. This is enticing to many but can be misleading. Science degrees are very difficult to earn, which is why they offer such high-earning salaries and give so many job opportunities after college.

If you are actually good at math and science and know the first 100 numbers of pi off the top of your head, by all means, feel free to become a neurosurgeon or aerospace engineer, but I had to learn my lesson the hard way. Just know that nobody's opinion matters but your own and this is your life. The decisions you make during these four years will affect your career for the rest of your life. Don't pursue a degree just because it will make you a lot of money. Pursue a career because you are good at it and you actually enjoy it.

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