The Woes of Being the First Sibling to Go to College

Being the oldest child means that for your entire life, you've been the guinea pig. You're the role model who suffers first to pave the way for the younger ones — the kid who has no footsteps to follow when thrown into a new situation.

Remember being the first one to learn to drive? The younger siblings had it a lot easier since you were the one in the front seat who had to endure dad's screams. Since then, he has learned to calm down in time for the next of kin to operate a car since anger and stress rarely get the job done. Figures. 

Still, nothing compares to being the first sibling to go to college.

*Cue scary anticipation music*

The first step is signing up for the SATs and furiously flipping through the pages of the English dictionary because you have absolutely no idea what to expect. That is truly a grand ole time, especially if you like deteriorating into insanity by the time you get to the Cs. The next step is researching colleges and all of the information you need to know about them. It really isn't fair that High School Musical never showed us that part of senior year. 

It's just wonderful how these institutions charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree yet are incapable of having user-friendly, accessible websites. I found myself spending endless hours searching everything from GPA averages to acceptance rates to options for majors. I even checked Google Maps to figure out the distance from each college to home on multiple different routes, you know, just in case. Oh, and your little brothers/sisters had the pleasure of joining the campus tour and being handed all of that tedious information you spent an entire night looking for behind a laptop screen.

So unfair. Must be nice.

Signing up for tours is hard, especially when you're trying to find a good time to schedule them between your extracurricular activities, your siblings' soccer games and your parents' work lives. When you finally get there, you're instantly overwhelmed and feel your anxiety skyrocket seeing all of the other prospective students walking around like a pack of flamingos.

One of my favorite parts is when Chrissy Campustour's mom starts bragging about her daughter's ACT scores to the tour guide, who literally could not care less. 

Then it's time to talk about finances. At this point, your head may literally explode. You and your parents start applying for FAFSA even though you and them both have no idea what it is, so everyone is just in a stressed pit of confusion. Why can't the government just hand me a wad of cash for college? Where's my money? 

Also, what the heck is FAFSA?!

After months of waiting, it seems like the end of the road when you get rejected from the one college you imagined yourself walking around in a collegiate crew-neck. Your heart breaks into a million pieces because after years of certainty, you have never been so uncertain. On top of that, you don't have anyone who's experienced this level of denial before you. Unanswered questions and doubts roll through your mind. What was the point of cramming for that AP Biology exam or editing my AP English essay a million times if I can't even choose exactly where I want to go to school? Why did I try so hard to maintain a stellar GPA while balancing eighteen clubs and activities? But now your little sibling knows not to get their heart set on dream schools. Even if you don't get into the school of your dreams, in the end it will all work out.

Then the main act of choosing a college hits you like a brick. The pro and con lists hang up all around your house as you weigh your decisions. After sending that deposit, it's dorm shopping time! I probably watched just about every video on YouTube for dorm DIY ideas and what to bring to college. Target has never felt as overwhelming as it did when I was walking around trying to decide what detergent is best to bring to school. Are Tide Pods and Gain Flings really worth the convenience? The term over-packing has never been so relevant when accounting for the amount of Band-Aids, hangers, and pencils you bought!

Finally, the time comes. Your parents get you to school, car full of dorm necessities and the bedding and mattress pads that had the best reviews online. As your parents kiss you goodbye and get back in the car, you begin to realize that it's another new bittersweet beginning and that no amount of YouTube videos, blog posts or Pinterest pins can prepare you for what's ahead.

All it takes is putting yourself out there, having faith and figuring it out as you go.  

Though it's frustrating that you had to be the first sibling to experience taking care of yourself when you're sick and navigating the horrors of showering in the communal dorm bathroom, it feels good to be able to sit your little sibling down and tell them not only where you went wrong, but what ended up working well. It's gratifying having someone else learn from your mistakes so that when their time comes around, they have some guidance. After all, it's probably sooner than you think. 

It's easy to focus solely on the frustration of being the oldest in situations like going to college, but it's also important to realize that your little siblings look up to you and want to grow up and follow in their big sister/brother's footsteps.

So while being the oldest sibling is an intimidating role, being the first to go to college isn't the complete end of the world after all.

Images/GIFs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8