With my first semester of college coming to a rousing finale, going home for break will mean getting bombarded with questions, not only from my parents and older siblings, but from my younger friends who are still in high school. Before their winter break, Conrad (my old high school) has an event where alumni speak to the juniors and seniors about college and our majors. I know for a fact they will ask me how I would compare and contrast the two, whether college is everything the media portrays it as, and which tips and tricks I would suggest for passing.
Now there are countless videos and articles in which students recap their time in college, discuss what they would’ve done differently, and address any incoming students on what to expect. While that can certainly help, in reality you can never truly be prepared. But that’s not a terrible a thing.
For me, the “prepare for college” phase started junior year of high school, the year grades matter the most. Within those two quick years, it was nothing but getting slammed with schoolwork, all while balancing any after-school activities with tedious college applications. This was supposedly a cakewalk to prepare us, because the teachers constantly mentioned that “it only gets tougher in college.”
This did not prepare me at all for college. In high school, graded work is hours of homework followed by tests and projects. In college, my experience so far has included graded work that is mostly test and project based. In fact, most of the homework I’ve completed is not graded or even turned in; it’s just expected to be done and used as a study aid.
During that same time, my older brother Justin was just starting at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Whenever he came home, it was clear college had taken a toll on him. I would always be amazed by the fact that he insisted on picking me up from school. This was so he would have an excuse to go back and talk to his old teachers. During my four years, I took all honors and AP classes ending with a 4.0 GPA.
When I asked him, “Do you think I can handle college if I just keep doing what I’ve been doing now?” he told me “more or less, but you really have to cut back on your Overwatch time.” He was right of course, but I didn’t really understand what that meant until actually experiencing it for myself. I barely even touch my Xbox anymore.
Apart from first-year requirements, college so far is not what I expected. It certainly has its own workload, but not to the same extent. I underestimated how busy it gets, how much it would ruin my sleep schedule, and how easy it is to burn through cash. A lot of people go in with the mindset that college is an opportunity to go all out and take a new approach. In my case, it was to be more social and involved in events. Eventually I did. I began going to meetings, joining D&D club, attending Weekend Blitz trips, and talking to people other than the ones who were in my locale; however, that didn’t happen all at once. It happened over time.
When the high school students ask me what to do in college, I’ll say that you shouldn’t go in with a pre-determined mindset. Forget what you think you know. Take a blank slate approach, rather than going off of what others have told you beforehand. Most importantly, go at your own pace, because it takes time to adjust to being on your own no matter how self-sufficient you already are. That’s the best advice I can give. Whether or not you take it is up to you.