I’m sure for a lot of you, school has started up again. This back to school season I wanted to take the time to talk about the expectations others may have about you, or you may have for yourself. College can be a great time in your life, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the easiest or the smoothest years of your life.
1. It’s okay to take some time to make friends.
I see a lot of people posting something like “It’s almost the end of the semester and I still haven’t made friends.” Or “Is it weird that I eat lunch alone?” This is totally normal, especially if you go to a state school since people will tend to hang out with people they know and are reasonably comfortable with. It’s important to branch out and try new things, namely approaching classmates and joining clubs. I’ve had some of my best memories from hanging out with people I’ve met through a club that was about a different major!
And for the thing about eating alone, everyone phases out of it by senior year. I know that in high school you had a lunch period and everyone was clearly on break, so it was natural to eat with someone. But in college you live there, your classes aren’t all the same, and if you’re not hungry it would be wasteful to get food. Take friendship one day at a time and you’re bound to make a close friend.
2. College isn’t just about partying.
With an endless source of Hollywood movies depicting college as one huge frat party, it’s to be expected that freshmen get to campus feeling like they’ll be getting into wild parties. While it’s true fraternities throw parties, you may be a bit disappointed if you’re a guy. It’s common practice to either pay up to enter, or bring several girls with you to the party, or find out that it’s a tight invite-only party.
For girls it’s easier to get into parties, but when you realize they specifically want girls around, it feels a bit weird hanging around in their basement. But don’t think that this means there are frat parties all the time – while every occasion will probably warrant a party somewhere, people generally don’t go out during exam seasons. After all, many of these greek organizations have minimum GPA’s to stay in the group.
3. You might not graduate with the major you started with.
This may surprise some students (and parents) but 75% of college students change their major. According to that article, this is because high school students come from a background where they believe in “right and wrong” and thus believe there is only one “right” major for them. This is untrue, and can be damaging to mental health.
If you believe that your major is the only path for you but struggle in classes, it can really impact self confidence and your body will react to the stress. Take the time to explore various classes and career options, not just the one that makes the most money. It’s common to see parents push for six figure jobs, thinking “if my child struggles for 4 years, they can live a wealthy life forever.” This isn’t necessarily true (look out for another post on job searching during college!).
4. Don’t expect to find the love of your life in college.
College is a time to wet your feet into the real adult world and also explore who you are. We all know people change, but always become surprised when they change in a way we can’t deal with. This goes the same way for people entering college with high school relationships.
As you and your partner change, understand the positive perspective that you two are just growing in your own ways. Because of this not everyone will leave college with a significant other or stick with them for long. Of course a good chunk of people will meet someone special, but I thought it was important to note for some of the freshmen who are feeling down they haven’t found a long-term partner.
5. College isn’t just about studying.
Wait, what? After all the SAT tests, admissions essays and recommendation letters, this might come as a surprise for many of you. Now I’m not saying don’t put your academics first, you should, but don’t let your academics engulf you.
Your relationships with your professors and deans are important, as well as your relationships with the teacher assistants and peers. If you’re considering graduate school, you need to put aside time talking to your faculty. This may mean staying after classes and going to office hours. Your friends could also connect you with relatives who can help you land an internship/job interview. It could also be about buying cars or renting a place in a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with. Your peers are much more important than you think.
I personally have gotten a lot of help in finding a car, renting apartments, finding roommates, applying for jobs, getting transportation to job interviews, buying the right interview clothes, and learning what’s not listed on the job description. Remember that while you’re all students now, one day you’ll be working adults with your own connections and experiences.