The fall semester is approaching quickly. If you're an incoming college freshman like me, it's rather hard to believe this point in life is already arriving. In just a few more weeks, many of us will be treading into vastly unfamiliar territory-- moving out of the house, living on our own, leaving behind friends we've had since elementary school, and being totally self-sufficient, more or less.
Whew. That's a lot of change to take in. Especially when barely a couple years ago you were asking your mom to drop you off at the movies to watch Despicable Me 2 with your friends.
Let's face it-- the transition to college is probably the biggest and most sudden in our lives. And although not everyone will admit it, we all have common apprehensions about it:
1. Getting Off the Hook.
If you're like me, your whole adolescence has been underscored by your parents' hounding your every move. It seemed like all throughout high school you were never free from the meddlesome overprotection of your family, even when all you were doing was sitting around playing video games at a friend's house or cruising around town. You may be concerned that this oppression will continue--constant visits from parents, phone calls every day asking about what you're doing and if you're behaving. If you know people at your college who are from your hometown or know your family, you may also worry that word of anything you do will make it back home in less than two seconds. But the truth is, you'll still be unsupervised and independent the vast majority of the time, and although you may still have to put up with your parents' concerns, it's a small price to pay for the universe of freedom you're finally granted.
2. Missing Family.
Almost every man is a mama's boy. Almost every woman is a daddy's girl. And everyone loves their brothers and sisters, even if you regularly wish death upon them for eating all the cereal. Naturally, going away to college will be a strange time at first, with your loved ones primarily absent from your day-to-day life. You may also fear that your relationship with your family might grow distant or subconsciously transform into something new and unfamiliar. It's scary, yeah. It's untamed territory for a seventeen or eighteen year-old kid on their own for the first time. The truth is, though, that your family is just that--family. Though college will inevitably change some of your family dynamics, the strong bonds you have can never be broken. Plus, look around on campus--every other freshman is going through the same thing.
3. Missing or Losing Old Friends.
This one might be the most difficult issue for me to face. The friends I have at home are the same ones I've had since the second grade. I've gone through school with them for more than a decade, and the bonds and memories I've shared with them are innumerable. The more clear college becomes on the horizon, the more afraid I am of losing them or the spark we share extinguishing, and I am sure that I'm not the only one in this situation. The truth is, a true friendship transcends physical location, lifestyles and career paths. It won't be unlikely that the first few weeks, months, or even semesters will be rough without your friends back home when you're in such a new, anonymous environment, especially if you start off not knowing anybody. But you can always make time for your old friends--call them up, write them a letter, meet up on holidays and spend time together. You'll most likely make new, great friends at college too. But never forget about the ones who journeyed with you on the trail to young adulthood.
4. Making New Friends and Fitting In.
With your hometown buddies no longer by your side, you'll have to go about making new comrades at college. This might be especially difficult if your personality and interests are rather exclusive. Don't despair, however, because every other freshman on campus is looking to make new acquaintances, too. So join up in some student organizations and clubs, reach out to others. Make connections with classmates who share common interests. If you're the quiet type or simply not enamored of humanity at large, patiently seek out your brethren.
It'll be awkward for everyone at first, but the key is to be kind and polite towards all. And don't feel obligated to put on a front or lie about yourself just to fit in. This is college. You are anonymous and you are free to be whoever you want to be. Leave that high school insecurity to die along with your sophomore year haircut.
5. "What the HELL Do I Want to Do with My Life?"
I sort of have an idea of what I'd like to do for a career. That idea also happens to be completely different than the idea I had last month. The fact is, at 17 or 18 years old, you still have the right to not know how to spend the next six decades. There exists that strange race of humans who have known what their life mission was since they were five, but chances are you aren't one of them. It is rather frightening to consider that what you major in at college will possibly set the course of your life and career, but it's an issue that doesn't need to be faced too precariously. Figure out what you enjoy doing and learning about. Get involved with those things at college. Make connections and have fun. You'll figure it out eventually. Plus, most colleges have career guidance offices that can help you out in making up your mind. So work hard in your general ed classes and do some easy-going self-searching while you're at it. Remember, you're just now barely emerging from childhood, so take it easy on yourself.
6. Making the Grades.
It's true that college-style education is a whole sight different from high school. In college, there's no raising hands to go use the bathroom or getting nagged at three days in a row to turn in makeup work. For some, this lack of supervision might lead down a slippery slope to disorganization, poor time management and suffering grades. If you've had a track record for doing well in school, this possibility may be especially alarming. The descent into academic destitution and damnation can be easily avoided, however, if you just commit yourself to reaching out to college veterans and professors for advice on time management, organization and study practices. I've asked several professors and some older friends who are in college for their input on what I need to do in order to be a successful student, and the general consensus they gave is 1. keep an agenda or calendar, 2. spend at least twice as much time studying as you spend in class, and 3. get involved and enjoy yourself. So stay vigilant and have pride in your education. You can't really go wrong with effort and a good attitude.
Even if you're a goth misanthrope anarchist, chances are you don't want to be alone in your personal life. Moving away to college will most likely put strain on your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend if you have one. The reality is, it will be difficult to maintain your romance if you're no longer spending most of your days with your honey. But if you're really committed to your relationship, then being at college will be the ultimate trial for your trust and faith, and can even strengthen them.
If you're single, college probably seems like the ultimate bachelor(ette) experiment. There will thrive a plethora of young, spry freshmen such as yourself, most of whom are looking for some sort of romantic relationship. You might have misgivings about finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, or just being lucky enough to find an S.O. in the first place. The prospect of such a wide variety of boys and girls will be distracting and could even sink your academics right to the ocean floor if you're not careful. Remember, you're at college to get a degree and gain a footing in the professional world, not to just engage in romantic escapades. By all means, seek out someone special and go on some dates, but don't let it take over your college agenda, or else you could end up as a sort of Uncle Rico or that one student who's an undergrad for eight years.
There's a lot to be unsure about heading into college, but don't let that get in the way of enjoying it. College is maybe the most transformative experience of your young life, and with it comes countless other changes and developments. I'm no expert, but I think the advisable course of action in this situation is to embrace that future and have faith that everything, through hard work, a trusty calendar, and some deodorant, will turn out just fine.