College. It’s what you spend hours in high school dreaming about. You sit in your 10th grade history class staring out the window thinking about how cool it will be and how much fun you will have while your teacher goes on and on about the boring topic of civics and economics. You sit down at night to study for that To Kill A Mockingbird test you have tomorrow in English but end up looking through blogs of awesome dorm rooms, getting decorating ideas for the dorm room you will one day have instead.
Graduation day comes and you couldn’t be more excited to move on from that little town you grew up in. You spend all summer hyping yourself up, growing more and more excited as the days pass by. Finally, the summer draws to an end and the next chapter of your life is beginning. But it’s not what you think. You quickly realize all those assumptions you had in high school about college couldn’t be more wrong.
Here’s how it really is:
The day you get there, reality sets in that you are actually on your own. You have spent your whole life living off of your parents, having them there for your every little need. But now they are far away, probably packing up all of your belongings and turning your room into a gym or a game room where your dad can finally put that new pool table he has always wanted while your dog gets used to life without you. You are left there all alone with no one to cook you dinner or do your laundry or remind you to do all the other adult things you now have to do. Nothing kicks you in the butt and sends you flying into reality like the sight of your parents driving away and leaving you in a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger.
Yes. You are on your own and you are nervous. But so is everybody else. Everyone there has collectively been pushed off of a cliff into the ever widening canyon we call college. Everyone has been slapped in the face by the cold frigid air called adulthood and higher education. You are not alone. The only thing you can do is stick together, be brave, and help each other out as best as you can.
You will soon realize that your family is the best and you will miss them every day. You will miss them on Saturday mornings when no one wakes you up before one pm because you sleep too much and the first time you get sick and no one is there to take care of you. And your house. You will miss your house. The way it smells and the constant bickering through the walls. You will even miss the annoyance of having cat hair as a major accessory on every outfit you wear. This will show you just how much you took it all for granted in high school and teach you to appreciate your family so much more than you did before you left for school, mostly when you used them for money, food, and free wi-fi. Now when you come home, you spend most of your time with family and less time hanging out with friends, and that’s just how you want it. All you will want is for them to live next door to you and let you choose when they are home.
You will also realize that the people you went to high school with are the worst. When you graduate from high school it’s all “friends forever” and “these are my people” but when you come home for Christmas break after your first semester in college and see everyone, you realize these people are not as great as you thought they were. You will try to find a place somewhere in your heart for them but you will eventually give up because you realize it will never happen. You will get on Facebook and Instagram and see pictures of them smoking in the Walmart parking lot, or drinking Jack Daniels at some bonfire party followed by a post saying “Got another dui last night, lol” and in that moment, you will be even more thankful those people are no longer in your life. There are some exceptions, however, when you see a former classmate doing something productive with their life and enjoying it and you will feel so proud of them.
You will learn a lot in college starting with the fact that people will use you. And they aren’t always what they seem when you first meet them. People are selfish. Though they are not against you, they will not make it easy for you. People only think of themselves and what they want and it may hurt you in the process. They are not a horrible person and posting vague Facebook and Twitter updates about them will not hurt them. Understand that you too are selfish. Forgive them and kindly ask them not to reproduce.
People will call you anti-social. And no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to justify just how busy you are to anyone. Everyone around you will go by the idea that if you are not with them, you are obviously sleeping. You know this is wrong. Nobody sleeps in college. You are lucky to get 5 hours of sleep a night. But then college wouldn’t be college if you actually got 8 hours of sleep every night. Embrace being tired and exhausted, it means you’re doing the whole college thing right.
On the other hand, people will love you. You will meet some amazing people in college and make life-long friendships with some of them. They will be there to help you when you need it. To cheer you up when you are sad. To cover for you in that British Lit class when you decide not to go because you didn’t read the book. And they will be there to make you laugh and move on when your heart gets broken. These people will make a serious effort to get to know you and you should make a serious effort to get to know them too even if they are completely different from you. You will learn valuable and unforgettable lessons from them.
You will have no money. Ever. You will take out student loans because you have to pay for college somehow. After realizing you are thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, you will decide to get a job. It will probably be a job that you hate. After telling yourself over and over that you need the job to avoid taking out more student loans, you will strongly consider taking out more student loans to avoid working with those idiots any longer. But you won’t take out the loan and you will continue to work with those idiots. You will still be poor. The irony of it all is that college students love to talk about being poor while wearing Sperrys and a North Face jacket.
People will constantly tell you how lucky you are and that these are the best years of your life, yet you have no money, you are stressed out and exhausted all the time, and every semester you get to think about how much debt you are going to have when you graduate. There are people living in warzones and actually starving but you can’t stop complaining about waking up for an 8 am class and being stressed over finals.
The classes will be really hard and you will actually have to study to pass the tests. And waiting until the last minute to study or write a paper is the worst thing you can do, and this will be a lesson you will learn the hard way. You will finally figure this out by senior year, and by senior year, you will get good at researching esoteric topics and writing papers. Senior year is also the last time in your life that you research esoteric topics and write papers.
Eventually you will take an online class because you are tired of going to campus every day. That online class will give you a group project. That group will constantly want to meet up on campus and you will go every time because there is a peer evaluation at the end. College will teach you that group projects are the worst and those projects will teach you that you can’t count on anybody but yourself.
You will have professors that you love and you will have professors that you hate. Some professors suck and that’s just how it is, but don’t let them ruin your favorite subject. And if you happen to change your mind about your major, it’s okay. It’s okay to switch majors until you find the one that is right for you.
While all these things seem negative, there are a lot of positives about college.
The best part is that your only responsibility is to learn, which is awesome because learning is fun. Food is being cooked for you, you barely have to clean your living space unless you are a particularly messy person. You don’t really have any monthly bills to pay and you never have to worry about your electricity or water being cut off. You don’t have chores or anyone to answer to. You paid a ridiculous amount of money for an education and that is what you are getting. Embrace it and at least try to be decent at it.
You are being bombarded with amazing opportunities every day. You can travel out of the country for long periods of time for a really cheap price pretty much whenever you want as many times as you want. You can learn to dance, sculpt, act, draw, speak a foreign language, and just about anything else you want to learn how to do for free. You are given the opportunity to do everything you have ever wanted to do, even if it was something you never admitted to but secretly always wanted to do, on a daily basis. There are tons of organizations and clubs you can get involved in, and job and volunteer opportunities to help fill up your resume. There is always something going on all day every day.
You will change. It is inevitable. It is the biggest, most important part of college. You will quickly find new interests and new opinions, and you begin to learn who you really are. For the first time, you are away from all the influences you had growing up. You are on your own to make your own decisions. No one is forcing you to do or believe anything. You will meet people who are from drastically different backgrounds from your own and they will challenge your beliefs and opinions and make you see things a different way. And these people may just change your mind. You will go through phases of different versions of yourself before finding who you really are. People back home will berate you on how much you have changed, but as long as you haven’t spiraled into dealing heroin or prostitution, then that change is generally for the good.
The best thing of all is that you are on your way. You are actually on your way. You have big and extravagant plans for your life that you’ve worked hard bsing for and you are on the path to achieving them. You didn’t realize it when you were sitting in that high school classroom, or even at your high school graduation. It’s when you are doing things in your classes and around campus that you realize that you are on your way. And it feels great. It’s exciting and nerve-racking at the same time, but that’s the fun of it all. All you have to do is enjoy it until you get there.
And the experiences you gain will be priceless. You will develop a caffeine addiction. You will realize you can’t please everyone, and you will be okay with that. You will learn that rejection isn’t as terrible as everyone says it is. Whether it’s negative results from the professor who hates the paper you spent weeks writing, or the boy who never texts you back, you will face rejection at least once during college. At first it will sting. You tell yourself that that professor might have a PhD and 7 books to his name but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And you’ll try to convince yourself that you didn’t really like that boy anyway. You will learn to value your friends. You will figure out how to drink. During high school, drinking probably consisted of stealing whatever alcohol your parents had in the house or convincing your brother or sister to buy you a six pack of Miller Lite from the gas station. When you get to college, drinking is a whole different game. You will learn what it means to take shots and you will learn what it means to take too many shots. You will make out with a terrible kisser and you will develop feelings for someone you shouldn’t at least once. It may be a professor or it may be that hot Italian graduate student who is always grading exams at your favorite coffee shop. Or it could even be your best friend’s ex. At some point, you will fall for someone you know good and well is off limits. You will realize this when you catch yourself going to class a few minutes early or hanging out at a study spot more than usual. You will feel terrible because of someone else and you will begin to learn how to forgive people. You will also trim your social circle. Between classes, homework, work, and the exhausting internship, you hardly have a minute for yourself, let alone other people. In college, everyone has their own schedules and you may go days or weeks without speaking to each other unlike high school where you saw your friends every day. You will learn how to make time in your schedule for those who really matter to you.
Through the good and the bad, college is a wonderful and rewarding experience if you do it right, and you will be lucky to have experienced it.