The summer after I graduated from high school was the best time of my life. It was just me and my friends, with lots of time for fun and no time for responsibility. There are two types of people: those who are excited about starting college, and those who are completely dreading it. I was one of the latter. No one I knew from my hometown was going to the same school as me, and I had only reluctantly filled out college applications in the first place. The first week of college was brutal for me because I had never been alone in my life. But I hung in there and it ended up being, like they say, the best four years of my life.
College is the time for you to grow up, become an adult, and get to know yourself better. I had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way – through mistakes. So maybe I can help a few people by telling you some things I wish I had known before going to college.
1. It’s okay to be yourself. I know it’s cliche, but seriously, even if you’re a shy, introverted, nervous wreck like me, you will be okay. The great thing about college is that there is such a variety of people on campus. You will meet people just like you, and people who are the opposite of you, and you might be friends with both. If you’re a homebody who doesn’t like to party, you will find friends that want to stay in with you to watch movies on Saturday nights. It might take a little while to find the right friends for you, but they are out there, I promise.
2. It might be different when you visit home. Since all of my friends stayed at home to go to school, it was easier for them to stay connected with each other than with me. The first time I went home over break, it was shocking to me how alienated I felt from them when we all hung out. They’d had experiences together, while I had experiences far away and alone. Don’t get me wrong, I was still so happy to see them. My advice is to be honest with them. Let them know things feel different, because they probably have no idea.
3. You will spend all of your money. Any of the money you got from your high school graduation will be gone – soon. This is okay. If you can prevent it from happening, that would be amazing. But like I said above, these are all learning experiences. And this will not be the last time you blow all your money. My advice would be to get a job. Campus jobs are always great because you don’t have to work a lot of hours, but the extra money will make you less stressed out.
4. You might not know what to do with your life. I went to college undecided, which means I didn’t have a major picked out yet. I chose English because I had been writing for a really long time and people thought I was good at it. If you decide on a major like English, everyone you meet will ask, “So what can you do with that?” Eventually you will hate this question and everyone that asks it. The fact is, you might not know what you want to do for a living for a long, long time, so it’s best to have a major you love. And if you do know exactly what job to reach for after you graduate, kudos to you.
5. The person of your dreams might not be on your campus. I know it’s not 1955 anymore, but a lot of people still go to college intending to find the person they’ll spend the rest of their life with. It could happen, it really could, and that would be phenomenal. But it also probably won’t. Have fun and don’t get bogged down by drama.
6. College is a breeze for some people. You might find yourself having to study a lot more than your friends. Or you might find yourself with more free time than your friends. Either way, it’s not because you’re smarter, or dumber, than them. As an English major with an aptitude for reading and writing, my major wasn’t difficult. But if you have engineering or biology major friends, expect to see less of them.
7. You will be a different person by the time you graduate. If you start college as a shy and awkward person, there is a strong chance you’ll be less of one on graduation day. You’ll realize that everyone is too involved in their own lives to worry about how weird you are or about that zit on your nose. This will make you more confident. Also expect a lot of your views on the world to change. Whether we like it or not, before college our views come mostly from our parents. Through classes and lectures, and meeting new people, the world will look a little different in four years.
Just remember to enjoy your time in college. There will never be another time in your life that is as free and fun. Meet people, have experiences, and go to class. Have a great year!