College is a big bundle of exciting, life-altering new beginnings. It’s a time to redefine who you are and who you want to be. To discover your interests and meet lifelong friends. To finally do something substantially beneficial for yourself and the world. That’s what they tell us, anyway. Hey, it’s me: local college freshman currently freaking out about my new life, not exactly discovering much, besides the fact that I have no idea how to function on a collegiate level. If you’re in the same boat, keep reading.
There are a lot of new things to manage when going to college: schedules to memorize, people to meet, activities to be involved in, majors to declare. On top of that, there are meal swipes to ration, there is laundry to be done, grades to keep up, tuition to pay, and responsibility to take. It can be overwhelming at times, especially because no one besides yourself will accomplish all of these tasks—it’s just you. The supposedly responsible and composed, emotionally stable, adult, intellectual you. College is the first real introduction to a truly independent lifestyle, and to be honest, no one is ever completely prepared for that. So here I am, sharing with you the only college advice I have to offer in hopes of dismissing some worries surrounding the inevitable tragedy that is growing up.
From experience, I find that there are three stages of worry and fear that every college student goes through: financial, social, and academic. It’s a realm of insecurities destined to affect us before we do all of this “changing the world for the better,” “becoming an adult” stuff. Everyone tells you how to avoid freshman fifteen. They tell you which dining hall has the best food and to join clubs. They tell you that college will be the experience of a lifetime, making sure to leave out the very important, very expensive bills, the stresses of meeting new people, and the academic disappointment and competition sure to find you. Because that’s what people do, right? Focus on the positives. It’s not a bad thing; it just enables us to fear the disadvantages coming our way.
Fear number one: college is expensive. It’s hard to wrap your mind around investing that much money in yourself. It’s hard to save that much money or justify the tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Simply know this, college is expensive, but it is manageable, and your school is on your side. Make a financial aid appointment, continue applying for scholarships, save as much money as you can, and do your research! You are not the first person to go to college. Others have been in your same position and have advice on how to smartly tackle debt. You will be perfectly fine if you decide that you are worth this experience and you are well educated in the world of payment plans and strategies.
Fear number two: “Socially, I might not handle myself that well.” It’s hard to envision yourself living with a roommate, especially if you are used to living by yourself. Socially, that may be an adjustment for you, just like public speaking on a regular basis will be an adjustment, meeting new friends and people every day will be an adjustment, and being more independent than you are used to will be an adjustment. College is an adjustment, but one that your professors, resident assistants, and new friends will help you transition through.
Fear number three: “I’m not smart enough for college.” Sure, there will be assignments that may test you, and there will be professors that expect a lot more than you are used to. The great thing is, they know that. While it may not get you any sympathy, it will get you help academically if you need it. There are office hours for each professor as well as writing centers and peer tutors willing to help. Getting acclimated to the standards of learning expected on a collegiate level may take a minute, but if you are studious, and you care, you will be fine. However, if there’s a class that is just not working out, the office hours aren’t helping, and no amount of tutoring is pulling your grade up, it might be beneficial to drop the class. That doesn’t mean you aren’t smart enough to take it; it just means that maybe the professor doesn’t teach in such a way that you learn well, or that taking a prerequisite now may help you understand the material of the class better if you should take it in the future.
College is a lot of things, but it’s ultimately yours to decide how to handle and yours to experience. Don’t let clichés about it being too hard or too stressful get in the way of how much fun you will have. Most importantly, don’t fear and don’t worry. Everything will work out.