Anything anyone ever told you about college is most likely true. It is the best time of your life. It is an opportunity to get away from the town you’ve always lived in, to meet new people, and to experience new things. You will lose friends. The work is harder than it was in high school, and the professors are not as lenient. You must study. Your success is reliant on you, because no one will make you do anything. There will be crazy parties. You will face peer pressure. You will have to make choices. You will change as a person. However, there is a lot that everyone fails to mention. They don’t lie to you, but they never tell you the whole truth.
My first semester of freshman year was the hardest time of my life. I have never felt more alone than I did during those first few months of college. I spent a lot of time of crying. No one warned me about the loneliness I would feel. I grew up in a very small town where everyone knew everyone. My graduating class was 62 students, and most of us had grown up together. It didn’t matter where you went in town; you were always guaranteed see a smiling, familiar face. I had a small group of friends that I did everything with. I did the same thing almost every day, and I was very comfortable in my routine. My life was simple. Then I graduated and moved two hours away to a private university where I knew no one. Throughout my whole life, I wanted to escape my small town and explore the world outside of the tiny bubble I grew up in. I thought I hated it there. I thought I would be so relieved to get away from all the people I was forced to see every day. I didn’t realize how much that wasn’t true until my first week alone in my dorm.
It seemed like everyone around me already knew people and had friends here. I was so scared because I had never had to make new friends. I had no idea how to even go about trying, so I did what all my teachers told me to do as a senior: I got involved. I joined the cheerleading squad and many other clubs. I met so many new people, but I still felt alone. It wasn’t until the beginning of my second semester that I realized I will always feel alone at times, because no one around me has been by my side my entire life like they were when I was in high school; however, I started to realize that wasn’t a bad thing. I wish someone would have warned me about it, though. It would have helped me to be aware of that struggle before moving away because I had this notion that all the people would be welcoming, because that’s how people made it seem, but that was not the case. I had to work very hard to make new friends and really go out of my comfort zone.
Another main cause of my tears was the stress that I felt. High school in no way prepared me for being independent and managing my time on my own. They spoon-feed you a routine in high school. Everyone tells you about the amount of free time you have in college, but the truth is that time is what you make it. For some people, it is just a bunch of extra free time for studying and fun. However, for me, it was cheerleading, work, homework, and other clubs. I had to organize my own schedule to be able to do all the activities I needed and wanted to do. Most of the time, it was very stressful. I slept very little and had to make hard choices sometimes. I had to stay up doing homework instead of going out. There were even times I had to skip class to work on homework for another class. It is true that the work is a lot harder and procrastinating won’t get you very far. It is up to you whether you do the work or not, and it is hard to manage sometimes. High school doesn’t prepare you at all for that. I wish I could say managing my time got easier after my first semester, but it didn’t. I started doing more. I got another job and joined a sorority, but I learned how to deal with my stress.
Several people told me that there would be crazy parties in college. They said if I wasn’t careful, I would become consumed by the party lifestyle. They said it would be dangerous. In a way, that is true, but it is what you make it. I didn’t have much experience with peer pressure or parties. It was never really my scene, and it still isn’t. Sometimes it is necessary to choose fun over responsibilities, but partying is not the only way to have fun. Also, you don’t have to change who you are to have fun at a party. I go out to frats almost every weekend, and I don’t drink. I have never played beer pong or shot-gunned a beer. I have never felt truly peer pressured to do anything. The truth about parties is that most of the time people respect your boundaries if you stay true to them.
The truth about college is that it is what you make it. You can be a totally different person than you were in high school, but you don’t have to be. You can skip class and no one will stop you. You can get straight As, spend all your time studying, and never step foot into a party. You can get involved in tons of clubs, or you can have all the free time in the world. It is truly what you make it, so carpe diem.