I graduated only a few years ago from high school, an and let me tell you, it has been a long journey.
It is astounding, the realization of change.
Only a thousand or so days can put so many emotions at odds with each other–anxiety and confidence, frustration and peace, motivation and insecurity. While you work towards being a responsible adult, perfecting a balancing act that is your life.
So, what should you understand? Life is going to break you down at times. College is going to challenge you, or work, whatever your selected path. Even taking a year or a semester off.
The question always looms overhead, no matter what your current endeavor: What do you want to do?
My mistake was taking this too seriously. I felt pressured to find an answer, for fear of sounding uncertain or ill-prepared.
I chose a major, one focussed on a subject that was interesting, but would without a doubt become a huge commitment. I chose a college, one farther away, a new start for my independence.
It didn’t work out. I came home, scared and disappointed in myself. For a year and a half I spent time at a community college taking general courses. Today, I am happily settled in after one semester at a small university.
As you begin your next phase in life, here is what you need to know:
- The college lifestyle is different for everyone. Whether you live on campus, or in your parents basement, it does not make a difference. As long as you are going to class, by foot/car/bus, that is what really matters.
- Going with the flow may seem easiest, but it can only work for so long. If you chose to go to school even though you felt unsure, you made a good decision. Education can be the difference between an hourly wage and a salary. You have to make decisions though, and cannot simply let everything just happen.
- Happiness is the most important. Even when you are stressed, be optimistic about something, anything. Depression and stress can really mess up a young, fresh mind. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break and breathe. Going full force 24/7 is impossible and irrational.
- There is such a thing as a bad professor. Remember that teacher in high school that didn’t explain things well or had an unfair grading scale? It is likely they have a twin at your new school. Higher level education does not always mean the best of the best. I am not saying this is a given every semester, because I have had a slew of wonderful professors. Try to get a good review from upperclassmen or, even better, at ratemyprofessors.com.
- Choose what interests you. Yeah, I know, what a cliché. Think about this though, because you are paying to learn.
- Life goes on around you. Friends get busier, and you need to begin relying on yourself. Independence is the greatest part of college, bottom line.
- Home will always be there. And so will your family.
- Obnoxious, rude people do exist. No, their vibes and beliefs of entitlement are not a joke. These people are everywhere and can ruin your day, and when they do, remind yourself how lucky you are to be alive and happy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are strangers who will make your day. Smile at them.
- You can be selective with your relationships without being picky or too specific. You deserve the best. A lot of us rate ourselves below our potential when asked about our skills and strengths. Do not be this way when it comes to love or friendships. Too many people have been hurt and abused. Own your dignity.
- It is never too late to start eating healthy. Or start exercising. In order to save money, you will likely try to buy Ramen noodles in bulk. Do yourself a favor and clip coupons for healthier options. Sugar and sodium are not always your friends. Join rewards programs, the free ones. Greek yogurt and oatmeal, enough said. Most campuses offer a free gym. Yoga is also a great way to rest and release.
- Sleep is your best friend. Naps are a blessing. Power naps, 15-25 minutes, between and after classes can work miracles. Take advantage of the extra time you have to rest your eyes and brain, because once you have a degree, it’s mostly work and little play.
- Part time jobs are manageable. Saving money is important. Full time jobs can be done too, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to earn a living right away.
- Organization is key. Have a planner in your backpack, a calendar in your room, and alerts on your phone. Sticky notes are the perfect reminders, and they fit anywhere.
- Keep a book handy and maintain other stress relieving hobbies. Reading is so important in college, even if it is not your textbooks. If you are lacking in the writing department, pick up a book, I promise it will help you to improve. Do other things than schoolwork. If you like music, learn to play an instrument.
- Having a comfort zone is not pathetic, living in the same one for too long is. Being comfortable and feeling safe in you surroundings is important to your mental well-being, but so is taking risks. You will never know if you never try. I am not telling you to go skydiving.
- Enjoying your solitude does not make you a loner. Extroverted or introverted, you need you time. People surround you all day long(in class, in the hallways, in the cafe, in the dorm, on the street, at work).