My Transition Into a College Freshman

           You hear about college every year of your primary education, starting from elementary school going all the way to graduation. Sometimes it seems like a scary thought, that one day you will be in school in a completely different manner than you have been your whole life. You’ll be in school, but it won’t be in the familiar setting you’ve always been in. It’s mostly scary because you know you will no longer have the free education you’ve always had.  I remember mowing the lawn with my mom one time when I was twelve, asking her how I was going to pay for college, and if she would help me. But growing up, the idea of college was more of a distant thought. For me, it was something I felt like I didn’t need to worry about for a long time to come. I thought about what I was interested in studying here and there, but I didn’t worry about it as something that was right around the corner. That’s why it came up so quickly for me my junior year of high school when I realized, “Oh crap. I haven’t been thinking enough about where I want to go to college, and now it’s time to start applying.”

            The transition into my freshman year of college reminded me of my transition from an elementary school student into a middle school student. The main difference between these transitions was that I had my friends going through it right next to me when I was entering middle school.  In college, I didn’t know anybody.  But at my middle school, I was now filtered into a group of kids who had already been there one to six years, and I was uncomfortable. I got lost a couple of times, I was scared of the bigger kids (especially the high schoolers who sometimes walked through our halls), but I was also excited that I finally had a locker, and I had classes taught by different teachers rather than the same one all day. I got used to not having recess, having specific classes I needed to take to move up to high school (and then classes to take in high school to graduate), and harder workloads that were meant to prepare me for the next, more challenging school year. Maybe that’s why college seemed so far away; each year, teachers would assign us work and explain how it was going to prepare us for the next year, and that it would get progressively harder, and teachers would slowly expect more from us. In high school, it started to get more real, as teachers said our work would prepare us for college workloads and expectations. But even then, I was still more focused on preparing for the SAT, passing exams, and getting part time jobs than I was on the idea of college.

            The most stressful part of the college transition is the part that comes before it: filling out the FAFSA, completing applications and essays, getting letters of recommendations, and applying for scholarships. After that, the focus was on graduating high school, and the idea of college itself didn’t really set in until the summer, when I started buying things for my dorm and packing them. Even the summer went too fast; I found myself shoving things in bags/boxes and loading up the cars the night before I had to leave. It’s even more stressful when you’re going to college out of state for your freshman year because you really don’t know what you’ll actually need.  I packed everything I could possibly ever need to survive on my own, and more. After I had finished unpacking my dorm room, I actually sent my parents’ home with bags of stuff I realized I didn’t need or couldn’t fit into my room. That’s just the start of the transition into a college freshman.

            The real transition occurs after you’re already moved in. The stress of unpacking is gone, and the next focus is acquainting yourself with your roommate, making new friends, and getting to know the campus. For me, those things were on my mind after my parents helped me move in. That’s why it seemed so easy for me to say goodbye to my family before they left me for the last time. It didn’t really set in for me until a few days later, when I was more comfortable with my new surroundings and routines, that I wouldn’t be seeing them for a couple of months. That was a weird feeling to get used to.  I was almost expecting to get homesick, as the longest time I had been away from home was a week for summer camp one time when I was eight but surprisingly, I was far from homesick.  I actually felt immediately at home with my room and my surroundings. I think that was the most unexpected part of the transition, as everything else that I’ve been dealing with was more of what I expected it to be.

            It’s now the end of my third week here. I’m still getting used to certain things, like trying to get to know classmates I’ve never seen before, having lectures with over three-hundred people (versus my high school classes where the biggest ones were twenty to thirty people) where the professor doesn’t recognize me or know my name, and having to walk a far distance to and from my classes, no matter the weather situation. It’s weird to see little differences between college and high school classes, such as how people can get away with skipping, being on their phones, or falling asleep, and how in college, people can start packing up five minutes before class ends, and when it’s time for class to end, people in large lectures sometimes start filing out while the professor is still talking. I’m used to hearing the common high school quote, “The bell doesn’t dismiss you, I dismiss you!” Not to mention getting used to calling them professors rather than teachers. It’s also overwhelming because ever since summer, all I’ve been hearing is “Get involved!”, “Join this club!”, or “Join Greek Life!”. Sifting through the expansive list of clubs, it’s hard to decide what I want to do the most, and especially figuring out how to fit them into my schedule. Same goes for working; not everyone likes to work during school, which is completely understandable, but I’m still trying to figure out how to have a job on the side of my classes and the many clubs I’m interested in.

            Overall, the transition from a high school senior to a college freshman is super fun.  It’s intimidating in the sense that you’re trying to find your place in a mix of thousands of people, but that also makes it more bearable because you’re not the only one trying to get more comfortable. It’s also not as difficult of a transition as expected because there’s something for everyone in college, most people are extremely nice so it’s not hard to make friends, and there’s so much to do that it’s hard to think about being homesick. In some ways, transitioning is what I thought it would be, and in some ways, it’s different, but it’s like starting a whole new life, one in which you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.