“Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood”
You’re sitting patiently in your cap and gown. In a few moments, you will have received your high school diploma. The previous four years of your life has been preparing you for this moment. This defining era of your life is almost behind you. It’s time to move onto the new frontier of your academic life: college.
For most of you, there will be some changes. Perhaps these changes will be small and easy to adapt to. Perhaps not. You may find yourself in a new atmosphere, mentally and emotionally lost and indecisive.
“What exactly happens in college? What should I expect”, you inquire anxiously?
Well, there are several things that await you. Some of these things are great and some…not as great. However, rest assured that each challenge that awaits you is significant and meant to shape you positively if you allow them.
In this new, strange place known as college, you’ll quickly notice the dwindling, virtually nonexistent presence of supervision. This is your first step into what many people refer to as the “real world”. There’s will be no one to make you go to class. No one can decide when and what you eat. And no one can force you to do anything that you don’t want to. For better or for worse, each decision you make is yours and yours alone. To some, this abundance of opportunity and a lack of supervision may seem frightening and heavy at times. However, this freedom to do anything you please is extremely liberating.
Changing the Game
As you begin to take your college courses, you’ll begin to notice quite a few differences to the traditional high school setting. Tests may or may not be more spread out. Professors may prefer to dictate more than providing notes. Pop quizzes? They may or might not be a thing. It all depends. The point is, within each class, you’ll be forced to adapt to the environment and the material. You’ll need to keep in mind that what may have worked for you in high school may not work as well in college. Develop new strategies for classes and take more time to diligently study your notes. Don’t be afraid to seek out external help for clarification as well. Also, under no circumstances should you ever be afraid to say I don’t understand.
Many freshmen (and sophomores, juniors, and seniors) fear judgment from their peers in this area. The reality is that there’s true brilliance in acknowledging and admitting when you don’t know something. How else would you continue to learn?
A Shocking Culture
Depending on where you went to high school and where you end up going to college, you’ll quickly become aware of how different the people may be from yourself. This might require adjustment for many people. No longer are you tied to your local high school. Be prepared to meet many different faces, each with a unique story to tell. Be open to understanding the different cultures, races, ideologies, and religious beliefs that each group can bring to the table. Engage and seek to open yourself up to a variety of individuals within each group you encounter. It’s important to remember that every opinion can vary from person to person.
Besides the types of people, a new culture (or cultures) along with a new set of rules will become revealed to you–rules that may involve drinking, drugs, and sex. Remember, at this point, you are considered an adult. While you can make decisions for yourself, you should be careful not to make decisions on an impulse and really consider the consequences of your actions. Think things through thoroughly.
People Come and People Go
In this new environment, you will (or at least should) meet many new people. While you may try to hold onto old bonds from high school, you’ll soon realize that people around this age change. Some change for the better. Some change for the worse. But in some way, everyone changes. While not everyone you know will suddenly become an entirely different person, it’s best to prepare yourself for what may happen. Whether this means disconnecting yourself from others or others doing the same to you, you will likely lose some friends. While you may initially be in shock once you stumble upon this realization, you’ll eventually move on. Who knows? Perhaps, in the future, you and your lost friends may end up growing closer as a result. In any case, this is an essential part of growth.
Your life will definitely require a bit of adjustment. If you choose to take the traditional college approach, you won’t merely be taking classes in the day time only to return home at night. You might have several classes a day or you may have none on certain days. Potentially, you might go back to your dorm (or apartment) several times in the day or stay on campus the entire time. It’ll vary. It’s recommended that you seek out new ventures and try new things. In high school, you’re very limited due to a very structured routine that’s chosen for you. This isn’t the case in college. Allow your freedom to flourish and take you to new heights. Become well-rounded as an individual.
Questions and Growth
Ultimately, what you should truly expect from college (besides a degree at the end of your undergraduate career) is to grow.
Arguably, this might be more important than the degree.
Your time in college will present you with challenges and obstacles, each of which you will be forced to overcome. Once everything has ended, you will have grown at least a little and hopefully will have a better understanding of who you are. Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions:
Who am I?
What do I want to be?
How do I plan on getting there?
What do I fear?
What do I value?
During your transition into college, keep those questions in the back of your mind. Chip away at them and develop solid, thoughtful answers. You’ll learn that you probably will never have a perfect, definitive response to each question. And that’s a good thing. That means you’re still learning and still growing, which should always be the objective.
As you continue on your college quest, you’ll soon discover that you can define who you want to be and ultimately what path you choose. Anything that you didn’t like in high school is no longer an issue. You have the ability to redefine yourself. Take advantage of this! Whether it takes you four, five, or six years to graduate, make every second count!