Every year students across the nation complete their high school career and prepare to enter into their chosen colleges. College is a symbol of independence, adventure, and individual growth, a stepping stone towards becoming responsible, mature young adults. Whether the college is located in the same hometown or 300 miles away, a transition from high school to college is something that every incoming freshman must face head-on. This transition can come easily for some, while for others it might take a while to adjust. So what exactly is the transition?
For some this might mean adjusting to a new environment, making new friends, developing stronger studying skills, being home away from family, or dealing with culture shock (or a combination of several factors). Since every incoming freshmen will experience college differently due to a variety of different reasons, it is difficult to give a general summary of what college will be like for a student.
Karen Corral, who just finished her first year of college at St. Edward’s University in Texas, reflects back on how her expectations of college changed over the course of the year. “My expectations of college before entering was that it [was] extremely fun as my friends and social media made it seem…[but college] is never what you think it is and you should not go in there with a closed mindset,” explains Corral.
Diving deeper into her own college experience, Corral acknowledges that she had a culture shock even though the university was still within the same state as her hometown. When comparing the two cities, she realized that the “places are complete opposites.” Moving from Austin to El Paso, Texas was the biggest culture shock for Corral.
The culture shock was not the only thing that she experienced at her new college. She had to learn how to manage her time better, become informed about mental health, how to deal with homesickness, and she realized how hard it was to keep up with high school friends. For those that are entering college soon, she advises that “you should not go with an expectation either high or low, but instead with realistic goals, tips, and an open mind to get the best of the college experience.”
Isabella Drogo, who just completed her first year at the University of Rochester , had similar yet different experience to Corral. Drogo recalls thinking that her primary concern was just going to be the academics and nothing else. However, Drogo decided to join the Women’s Rugby team, something that had been her passion since high school. “Joining Rugby was the best thing I did all year since it helped me ease comfortably into college environment, find close friends outside my residential hall, and I got to meet a lot of interesting girls,” laughs Drogo.
With the newfound sense of independence that Drogo felt in the first week of college, she felt ready for the college experience. Although she felt free, she did not forget about her close friends from back home and how “they were always there for [her].” Since Drogo is a native of Buffalo, about an hour away from her university, she was comforted with the knowledge that she was close enough to visit her friends and family.
There is no way to predict what will happen in the following four years to come after high school. Majors might be switched, a class might be too difficult, the pass-fail option might suddenly become reasonable, or an unknown sport to you might perk your interest. Having strict expectations of what a college experience should be like, might prevent one from actually enjoying what the college has to offer. Apart from the academics, college is also about learning how to adapt to new situations, knowing how to navigate with more added responsibilities, effectively manage stress, and learning how to cope with possibly being away from friends and family. College is not just an opportunity to further your education, but it also gears students for the “real world” after graduation. Although the college experience will vary from individual to individual, and there will sometimes be uncertainty of what the future holds, the unexplored possibilities that any college offers should be taken advantage of. What the individual chooses to their experiences to be, that is what will be given.