True Life: High School Did Not Prepare Me For College

“Trust me, this is how it is in college. I’m just trying to prepare you.” How many times did we all hear that one from an archetypal stern teacher? I wish I could go visit these teachers and tell them how much of a lie that was. Very few high school experiences actually prepared me for college. Please enjoy my very real exampleatory tale.

The setting: 11th grade, A.P. United States History class, affectionately called “APUSH.”

My alarm fails to go off, I miss the bus, and I’m late to my first class of the day. Classic. It happens to most people at least once. Except that this day is when I have to take the first test of the year. I’m incredibly flustered, since I hate being tardy, and I try reasoning with myself. “No problem, I’ll just have less time to complete it.” Plot twist: My teacher has a policy that doesn’t let you take the test if you’re late. “That’s how it is in college,” summarizes my teacher’s line of thinking.

My face turns red and I try not to cry when I receive the devastating news, but then the anger sinks in. First of all, it was the first class of the day. A million and two things can happen to make you late to your first class. Secondly, who cares that that’s how it is in college? I sat, awkwardly watching my classmates take the test. I asked to be excused from class with permission not granted. I asked angrily, “Would it have been better if I just didn’t show up at all?” My teacher had no response to that.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve taken quite a few exams in college. I cannot even begin to remember the amount of times someone has rushed in breathless to an exam late. Did the professor have a problem with it? Never. Each time the professor quietly handed out the exam to the flushed student, and the student quickly sat down to take advantage of each remaining minute. As adults, we face the natural consequences of being late: You just get less time on the exam. Most professors will even go as far as giving you the whole time because stuff happens.

Every authoritarian figure in high school was drilling into us that we were on the path to becoming responsible young adults. In reality, they still needed to control us until we morphed into these “responsible adults.” That’s what it felt like to me at least. We had to ask permission to use the bathroom, or grab a bathroom pass to prove evidence we’re not terrorists wandering a hallway. Some teachers wouldn’t even let you leave. In college we make our own potty decisions. Absences and tardiness were a huge deal, at least in my highschool, and punishable by detention. Now? If you’re late to class you walk in silently without disturbing anyone. To leave early from high school you needed an adult to sign you out, or you had to sneak out, even if you were 18 years old and legally an adult. In college you can walk out of your class halfway through a lecture if you want to, although it’s disrespectful. As an adult, it’s your choice whether or not you want to go to class. It’s your money, your grade and your future. The professor usually leaves it up to you. Part of growing up is realizing all your actions impart consequences. Adulting means being able to think through to the outcome.  

I spoke to some friends who contributed to my never-ending list of grievances. Some wish home economics was something that was taught in high school, as you learn useful everyday skills. Others regret the lack of emphasis on sex-ed, or wish they had help figuring out the college hookup culture. Caitlin Close, a junior at UF, said, “High school focuses too much on teaching specific information that will be useful in future courses, instead of actual study techniques.” Sure, freshman year is nice because you already have a basic understanding of most of the material you are learning. After that? Good luck learning new information while struggling to figure out basic study tactics.

It all boiled down to one general idea: The most outstanding shortcoming was that high school failed to prepare us for management in general. All my high school teachers insisted they were preparing me for college, but I walked in blind. Although I’ve experienced some of the best years of my life in college, some of it was impeded by having to also learning how to:

  • Manage money effectively

  • Make proper eating decisions

  • Manage conflict with roommates

  • Equally balance study, sleep and a social life

Nothing prepared me for the sacrifices I’ve had to make to stay afloat. We are expected to keep up a social life, while still getting enough sleep, while eating a balanced meal, but still having enough money for activities, while learning how to interview, while having a job, but also an unpaid internship, all while getting straight A’s. A small price to pay to have a career, right?

High school never prepared me for the intensity and rigor of college. It taught me how to get into college, but never how to deal with what college has in store,” said Peter Ong, another third-year student at UF. College is when most of us find independence, become comfortable in our own skin and start settling into our roles as productive members of society. High school doesn’t have to send us into college already knowing everything — then we wouldn’t need college. A little push in the right direction would be nice because leaving home and living on your own are big enough adventures. A little knowledge would go a long way in making the scary college adventure seem just a tiny bit friendlier.


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