Freshman Year: High School vs. College—The Same Name with The Most Obvious Differences

My freshman year of high school was…not great to say the least. I went to a new school where I knew no one and had a rough time adjusting as well as making friends. My new school was a lot smaller than the big public middle school I’d attended and I suddenly realized that I had no idea how to interact with people I didn’t know. I made one good friend in the first two weeks of school, but we kept to ourselves for the rest of that year and for the first time, I found myself struggling with mental health. I was socially awkward, anxious, and depressed. I missed my middle school friends. But after struggling for most of that year, I began warming up to a few new people and found myself becoming a part of a group that has lasted since then.

I’m at the bottom right. I made a lot of friends after freshman year, but only four of the people in this photo were with me at the end of ninth grade.

When I began the college process halfway through junior year, I was scared for many reasons, but the main one was that what had happened to me in ninth grade would happen again. For a long time, that was my worst fear. In my head, I’d see myself missing home, eating alone in the dining hall, and avoiding my roommate.

My experience in my first six weeks of freshman year has been drastically different than what I expected it to be. I spent my entire gap semester worrying about the transition to college and how that would impact my mental health, but my transition has been…easy. As a part of the CGS London program, I took a gap semester and this, I think, greatly impacted the ease of my transition. If I had gone to college in the fall like all of my friends, I think I would’ve had a more traditional transition. But because I was home for an extra four months, by the end of them, I was very ready to leave. Being home without any friends and any structure was, ironically, what impacted my mental health negatively. In my first week at college, I found a group of friends that I actually liked, I found my classes interesting, and best of all, I relished being independent and having structure in my life again.  

This is from last week’s snow with only a few of the lovely people I’ve become friends with at BU.

But the immediate circumstances around going away to school are not the only thing that has made my college freshman year much better than high school. What I’ve learned about college in the past month and a half is that everyone brings their baggage and their old life with them. All of us are somewhat formed already; we have a sense of self and an identity that wasn’t there in ninth grade. We survived; whether it was four years with the same 50 people or four years as a drop in an ocean. The new frontier here isn’t how to interact with everyone else, but how to strike a balance between your home life and your college one. Some people cling too hard and hang on to their high school friends desperately; some leave all that behind because they need a new start. It’s hard to say which one of these is better or worse. My friends who’d been ready to leave since the beginning of senior year dropped off the radar, basically, and only told me about their lives when they were home for winter break. Another one of my friends has made good friends at school but is struggling with mental health and a long-distance relationship.

I’ve been told that going home for the first time is hard because you realize just how much you’ve missed everything about it. Despite that, and despite the negative memories I have of my last few months at home, I can’t wait to see my cats and go to all my normal places in my hometown over spring break. I’m going to love not having homework to do every waking hour every day, and being able to sleep in. But I’m most excited to go home happier than I left, with more confidence in how I handle situations and the good luck of being right to hope for the best.

Many of my high school friends had a similar high school freshman experience, and are having the time of their lives at college right now. Everyone’s experiences are different, so maybe it was just my high school, but I shouldn’t have worried as much as I did.

 

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