Whether you’re a senior, a freshman or somewhere in between, we’ve all heard the warnings and “rules” of going off to college or the infamous “College Experience.” Many of these myths have been so overdone that people actually start to believe they’re factual. This isn’t necessarily the case. First off, everyone has a different college experience and some of these myths might be semi-true for a few people at some colleges. From my experience in college, specifically at the University of Minnesota, I’m hoping to weigh in about what’s true about going to college and what’s just a stupid myth.
“You have to go to parties and drink.”
This is the biggest myth in the bunch. This is supposed to be a part of whole stereotypical “College Experience.” What it’s really meant to do is encourage you to go out and meet new people, and that’s very easy to do at parties. A lot of times, with a little liquid courage, people are more able to open up and meet new people. With that said, there are many other ways that you can do this. You don’t have to go to parties. You don’t have to drink. I’m currently 21, a junior in college and I haven’t gone to one party or consumed alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to party or drink. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to do so either. I’m simply saying that you don’t have to if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, and if you do, please be safe and responsible.
“You can’t go home a lot.”
Another big no-no when it comes to the “College Experience.” This myth is in place to make sure that you, as a new college student, have a chance to be on your own for a while, away from the comfort of your family. It’s automatically assumed that if you go home frequently that you’re unable to be on your own. There’s no shame in going home to see your family or your beloved animal(s). But, you can’t use them as a crutch. You do need to learn to be on your own and meet new people. Can’t go home? Use FaceTime or Skype to connect with your family. There’s no shame in that either!
“You have to break up with your high school boyfriend or girlfriend.”
This one’s tricky. There are many facts and good points in this myth, but I still attest to it being a myth. The point of breaking up with your high school boyfriend or girlfriend is on the same basis as the last myth. You might use them as a crutch and be so focused on them that you won’t make new friends or have new experiences. This person might hold you back from things you would have done if you weren’t with them. With this new step in becoming an adult, you’ll change and you probably won’t be the same people that you were in high school which would eventually cause you two to go your separate ways.
This isn’t the case for every couple. I know a few people who have remained with their significant others through college, myself included. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s hard. You two need to have a high level of trust, commitment and communication. If you’re not on the same page, it’s very difficult, but not impossible. If both of you want to make it work and are willing to put in the effort, it’s possible. Don’t let a stupid myth get in the way of your happiness.
“Professors are mean.”
No professor is mean. There are professors that are more strict with students and harder graders, but no professor is flat out mean. Just look at Professor Snape from Harry Potter. We all thought he was the meanest professor at Hogwarts and by the end (of all eight movies) we saw that he really had a heart of gold. Now, most of your professors won’t be the half blood prince but most of them want you to succeed and want to help you get there, but you need to be the one to make the first move. Go to their office hours, introduce yourself, participate in class, email them with questions and get to know them. If you make an effort, they’ll notice, and you might have an easier time in the class.
“You don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to.”
I really wish this myth was a fact but sadly it isn’t. In most classes that aren’t online, attendance is counted as well as participation. The main reason this myth exists is because you’re an adult now. No one will force you to show up to class, so there’s nothing stopping you from not going. Professors try to combat this with strict attendance policies. If you think about it, when you don’t go to class, you really don’t learn anything and it puts you even more behind. If attendance and participation counts, you will miss two opportunities to get points. Too many absences might result in you failing the class and needing to retake it. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Go to class.
“Upperclassmen won’t associate with freshmen.”
I haven’t notice a big divide much on the U of M Twin Cities campus. It might be different for you or at a different college, but mostly, if you act like an adult you’ll be treated like one, regardless of your academic level. This isn’t high school where there’s a clear divide between freshmen and the rest of the students in the school. There are many people at the U who are returning after a break from school who’ll be older than you. Odds are you’ll be in multiple courses with people from all grade levels and of multiple ages. As long as you make an effort to talk to new people, no one’ll care if you’re a freshman.
The myths are all fun and dandy but these are some of the hard facts that I’ve been forced to cope with during my time at the U of M, and that most of you will have to come to terms with as well.
You’ll change in one way or another. The change might be miniscule or massive. You might change physically, mentally, or emotionally. But you’ll change. It’ll be a little scary. The important thing is to change for the better. You’ll grow into a better version of yourself. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or says.
You might not be as close to your high school friends.
All of this change that you will be going through is happening to your high school friends too. This is a test of your friendship. Since you probably won’t see them every day like you did in high school, it’ll be up to you to make time for those friends you want to make time for. It’s hard closing that chapter of your life, but sometimes it has to be done so you can start the next chapter. But if you want to remain friends with all of your high school friends, that’s totally fine, just be sure they want the same. There’s no use wasting your time on someone who won’t give you any of theirs.
You’ll need to go out of your comfort zone.
You’ll need to go out of your comfort zone in multiple ways. This means with who you talk to, what activities you do, where you go and so on. This is probably very relevant for the incoming freshman who are forced to converse with everyone and everyone during Welcome Week, Orientation, First Year Experience and, not to mention, in your dorms. Take advantage of these mingling opportunities. You’ll meet a lot of your closest friends at these gatherings. Plus, you and the people you meet at those gatherings could go further out of your comfort zone because we all know it’s easier to do something new if you’re doing it with a group of people rather than by yourself. There are so many student groups at the U of M, it’s actually insane. You can find one that sounds interesting to you at their website. Get out there and join something (Maybe even Her Campus Minnesota *wink wink*)!
You’ll get lost, multiple times.
This is true beyond a doubt! I’ve gotten lost so many times here at the U of M Twin Cities. It isn’t hard to do with three different locations on one campus. You could have classes on East Bank then West Bank then in St. Paul then back to East Bank. You not only need to figure out on what campus your class in on, but also the building, the room number (which can also get very confusing) and how you’re going to get there. Thankfully, there are multiple bus routes to every campus that can help make your commute easier. The campus bus map along with the campus maps directory will be your best friend this school year.
Your sexual experiences and preferences may change.
You’re in college now. This is your time to find out what you want and what you like when it comes to sexual relationships. It’s YOUR body. Don’t let anyone else make decisions for your body except for you. Don’t let anyone shame you for your actions or who you’re attracted to. A student and member of Her Campus says, “Don’t shame yourself or anyone else for having sex – ever. As long as it was consensual, you shouldn’t feel bad about having sex, whether it’s with a long-time partner or someone you just met that night. There’s no shame in hooking up with someone and never seeing them again. In fact, doing so has actually given me quite a boost of confidence in the past! It’s exciting to know a stranger found me sexy and wanted to connect with me.”
This newly found freedom in college usually results in hook-ups. There’s no shame in testing the waters and letting your freak flag fly, as long as you’re safe and smart about it. Use protection ALWAYS with no exceptions. Ask for consent. Remember, consent is sexy and necessary. Make sure you and your partner are both saying YES to sex. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean consent is implied. You always have the right to say no. That being said, if you’re both drunk off your rocker, it’s probably not the best choice to have sex. Too much alcohol can confuse things and make the situation messy, especially since consent is not considered fully informed and affirmative while under the influence.
If you’re already in a sexual relationship with someone, being open and having honest communication is key, said Lauren, a U of M junior. “My advice to anyone in an intimate relationship in college is to ALWAYS check-in with your partner! Ask if they’re okay with what you’re doing, or even better, ask them for guidance! It doesn’t have to be a stuffy, awkward conversation. It can be as sexy and simple as saying ‘Show me what you want me to do to you.’ By doing this, you’re not only getting affirmative, ongoing consent, you’re also making sure that the..err…’sexperience’ is mutually satisfying for you and your partner .” Communicating your feelings and needs to you partner will ensure a healthy intimate relationship whether you are in a relationship, friends with benefits, or just hooking up.
Lastly, there’s no reason to be embarrassed if you’re a virgin. “If you’re a virgin, you’re not alone. Don’t rush into things just because you think you’re the only virgin on this campus. There’s more than you think,” said one student. Don’t rush into things because you think you’re the only person on campus who isn’t having sex, and don’t let anyone shame you or pressure you into sex. When you do decide that you’re ready, know that your first time might be awkward and uncomfortable. Your body will make weird noises. Just try to relax your body and try not to overthink every little detail.
If you’re nervous about recent unprotected sex or just sex in general, have no fear Boynton Health Clinic is here. They have contraceptive care, pregnancy tests and confidential STI/HIV testing. The Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education group (SHADE), also offers multiple informational session like Sex Talks and Blow Pops, What Sex Ed Didn’t Teach You and many others that can help answer any questions you might have. Plus, you can get free condoms and lube for just visiting their office inside Boynton. There’s no excuse for not having a condom.
College will be hard.
Everything aside, college will be difficult in more ways than one. It’ll test you. Yes, the school work won’t be as easy as the work you had to do in high school. There are many people I know who made that mistake and their grades suffered badly until they figured out they actually had to pay attention and study. College will challenge your mental capacity. It’s hard to not let the stress completely overcome you. You’ll have breakdowns and meltdowns. It’ll be hard trying to make new friends and being away from your loved ones. It’ll be hard growing up and becoming an adult trying to live on your own. But it’ll make you a better version of yourself.
This most important part about my whole spiel, is that college will help shape you into a functioning member of society. Sure you’ll be in debt and scared out of your mind, but new things are scary. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them. The experiences you have in college are completely up to you and your choices.