College is a new and exciting chapter in anyone’s life. The excitement of being your own person—or for some of us figuring out our own person—the freedom, the new friends and many more awesome things I need not mention. Graduating high school was a big deal to some of my female friends and I because we have had to fight against beliefs that educating women is a waste of time or that our places are in the kitchen alone. I remember the pride we felt on graduation day; we screamed at the tops of our voices, “Thank God! They said we couldn’t do it and we did.” Oh the thrill we felt when we talked about going further and taking on whatever challenges college would bring. After all, we were prepared; or so we thought. Not to write off the efforts we put forth to be prepare for college; because, to an extent we were prepared. We had been accepted into schools of our choices that corresponded with our intended majors, we had looked up what we would need for our dorms, we had applied for financial aid and scholarships… everything our counselors, parents and colleges had advised us to do. Then the day came, we moved into our dorms, said bye to families, maybe cried a little, arranged our clothes and met our roommates. Everything is good, until it slowly dawns on you that, there is a whole lot more to college you were not prepared for. I like to call it “The Freshman Shock”.
The first freshman shock was the emotional adjustment to College life. Some high schools arrange meetings with parents to encourage them to ‘let go’ and support their child’s plan. There is not a lot of focus on students since we are extremely excited for what lies ahead. Therefore, we were not told that a few months or days into college, the thought of living in our parent’s basements for the rest of our lives would start to sound appealing. If you are like me and have never stayed even a second away from your mother and siblings at the same time, it’s even harder. You have to adjust from being around people who have always cared about every single thing you did, to people who couldn’t care less about whether you are anemic, much less if your outfit matches your shoes. All of a sudden the ever-nosy-always-in-your-business people don’t sound too bad and you find yourself questioning if you will ever be able to survive without them close by.
The second shock is academic realization. This consists of all we uncovered about college education. We were warned that college assignments would be more challenging than those in high school, but the warnings were sugar-coded. No one mentioned that unlike high school, efforts could mean nothing to your grades if your professor’s expectations are not met. We were not told that slacking on one or half of an assignment could put the entire semester in jeopardy.
In addition, our counselors encouraged us to apply to schools that focused on our intended major which is reasonable. Except we were not warned that the burning passion we had for that major could go from a 100 to 0 real quick. They did not include possible solutions, regarding what to do if your intended major changed.
The third shock is financial struggles. They told us college is something you have to go through to guarantee a job; but they left out the part that you cannot go through it without a job. I imagine college students yelling preach sister at the mention of the sentence above. When preparing for college, the main focus was getting as much financial aid as possible, so that finance wouldn’t be an issue in school. The concept we were made to believe was that we would be set if we had a good financial package. But then, what is a good financial package? Simply put, the good financial package they were talking about is a full ride. Every other package seems perfect until, you are stressing out on an essay and the school or loan group emails you about your intentions on some outstanding payment. And you are just like “what exactly am I supposed to do here?”
In addition to the struggle of college payments is the expenses on books. My younger sister and I once went to a Barnes and Nobles store to buy a cheap story book for my two year old cousin. I bought the book, less than ten dollars and my sister comes up with a book she always wanted that she had apparently saved about sixty dollars for. I gave her a hard time all the way home because it made no sense that a broke student would spend that much on a book. Little did I know, that a few months from then I, in a broker state, would be spending almost half a grand on books I did not know existed.
The fourth shock is motivation also known as ‘contemplating the stripper life.’ This stage is composed of all the mornings I think about what college is really offering to students. I wake up and start to search for the motivation to get up and get the day over with, but mostly to get up. I still cannot understand what happens to my motivation sometimes. It seems she just takes a vacation whenever she wants regardless of where that leaves me. You would think because there are people who have little faith that I’ll graduate college, I would be motivated enough. I’m not! As far as I am concerned, they don’t have to read 9-12 books in a semester, they don’t have to pull all-nighters after choosing to nap during the day, they don’t have to pay my debt or buy my books. Therefore, I couldn’t care less about their ignorance or what they have to say.
Mornings like these are when I start to question education. How is it that, as students we study hard, stay up some nights, deal with fellow students’ ridiculous opinions, sacrifice quite a lot and in the end, we have loans that we might spend the rest of our lives paying back, jobless due to lack of ten years’ experience or having jobs that may or may not be related to our major. Whereas, a stripper is guaranteed an average of approximately $50,000 annually—no loans. It's like we are being punished for getting an education. Of course we were not told this when applying to college. We were told education is the right way to success and that is it. Although that may be very true, why is the right way so expensive and hard? And why didn’t anyone inform or warn us ahead?
I only focused on ‘the four freshman shocks’ in this article but something tells me there may be a lot more ahead. If there is anything these things have taught me, it is that I got this; we got this. I still get up from the bed, I somehow settle the financial issues and buy books. I found my own little family here in college and most importantly I have hope for the future—hope that our efforts and hard work will be crowned with success.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who helped me prepare for college; you did your best and I am grateful. You also probably thought these things I have written about, were something I ought to experience myself. I am experiencing them and they have taught me to not limit my expectations.
For incoming freshmen, this is a spoiler alert to encourage you to be better prepared. College is the portal to the real world. The trick is to have a motivation that triumphs all worries. My motivation is my single mother who, with the help of God and family, has done her best to make sure I made it this far as well as my younger sisters who watch the pace I set. When I start to question education or the future and they come to mind, motivation comes back from wherever she went. Find your motivation and triumph college and its challenges.