College is a big change regardless of whether you’re attending a college from out of state or commuting you’re your parents’ house. You’re transitioning from a high school where you spent some of your most impressionable years with the same group of people and now you’re in a completely new environment; new professors; new classmates; new schedule.
It’s exciting! It’s daunting. It’s a roller coaster of emotions that no one person can really prepare you for. That said, here are some things you should expect.
1. With great freedom comes great responsibility
You are in control of your schedule; you have the freedom to add classes that appeal to your lifestyle. Tired of waking up early? Book some late afternoon or night classes. Want to work out midday? Schedule classes around that time slot. You have the flexibility to arrange your courses however you want. That said however, no one is going to micromanage you to ensure that you attend the classes – let alone show up on time.
Whereas in high school, you may receive a detention or a phone call home for missing a class. In college, it’s completely on you to monitor your schedule. If you don’t, you’ll be dropped from the course, which may not sound like a big deal now, but if the course is only offered every Spring semester, then this can easily add on additional semesters (or even years) to your college career.
More freedom means more responsibility, remember that. Professors will treat you like the adult you are, so don’t necessarily expect them to approach you about late assignments; if you’re struggling with the workload, you need to approach your professors.
2. It can get lonely
This applies to students commuting to school or living on campus. Typically, there’s a great deal of excitement right out of the gate, but when times get tough and you start feeling the stress of midterms, you may yearn for your familiar friends and traipsing across your old stomping grounds.
It’s natural to feel that way, but don’t give up. You’re being exposed to a tremendous amount of change and some of your endeavors, extracurricular activities and friends will pan out, others won’t. Remember that this experience is almost as much about getting a bachelor’s degree as it is about finding out who you are. In these moments of hardship, don’t make rash decisions about your major or your new friends and pursue your faith. One of the benefits of attending a Christian college is you have a community of people who are there to welcome you with open arms, who understand hardship.
It’s easy to fall back on what’s familiar, but Christian universities foster a community that’s ready to support you and embrace you for who you are.
3. Being a student is a full-time job (and then some)
It’s not just that you have a lot of homework, but you have a lot of reading, projects, papers – oh yes, the papers. No matter what your major is, chances are you’re going to need to write a paper for it. It’s not simply that classes are lengthy, but the homework is a hefty load as well. Even if you only have 3 hours of classes one day, the country averages you have two hours of homework for each class – and any college student will tell you, that’s a conservative estimate.
No matter how well you plan, chances are high that you’re going to have a few all-nighters trying to finish (or perfect) a paper. It is not easy. However, the best way to overcome this stress is to treat school like a full-time job. Budget time for homework; budget time for breaks. If you’re feeling exhausted, make time for a nap and reward yourself when you can.
Plus, this is in large part why colleges offer so many extra-curricular activities and events. You need to be able to unwind, to release stress, to socialize, and to have fun. It’s about finding a balance. You will learn to organize as a consequence of stress and this is a skill that will only help you in life.
4. You need to slow down
Chances are, when you first enrolled in college, you saw the sum of all the units you need to graduate and the list of classes, and you felt overwhelmed – maybe a little excited, but ultimately overwhelmed. This is four years you’re committing to and it can feel like a lot, so much so, that you may feel driven to sign up for a lot of classes initially and overextend yourself to try and speed up the process.
By this point in your life, you don’t need to be told “life moves so fast,” as you’ve already been told this on repeat from your parents (and everyone else’s). However, four years is a long time and you don’t want to miss out on meeting friends and trying new activities by bogging yourself down with endless studies.
In addition to this, you may feel like general education courses are limiting you – as many people want to dive into their majors right away. The fact is though, students change their majors and the last thing you want is to enroll in a slew of major-specific courses, only to realize that it’s not something you want to pursue beyond college. General education courses may feel like a formality and, at times, tedious, but these courses not only introduce you to other fields of study, but they’ll also pair you with students you would otherwise have never met. Embrace this.
5. You will learn who you are
Each year builds on top of the others and you will discover your likes and dislikes. Your group of friends freshman year may be completely different by your senior year. College reintroduces you to yourself. It puts you in a new, high stress environment and you have to adapt to it.
Don’t feel beholden to epiphanies you experienced in high school, be open to new ideas. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, he writes, “Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today. – You shall be misunderstood. Is it so bad to be misunderstood?”
That’s the point, you are not limited to who you were, but being a student means becoming more of who you are everyday; constantly learning; constantly changing. And if it sounds scary, then you should doubly consider attending a Christian university. In times of great stress, you will have a community to lift you back up if you fall.