The journey I took to college is not quite the usual route, although a “normal” college timeline seems to continually be changing. I waited a long three years after high school before I took the plunge and started attending college in Saint Paul.
I never anticipated, as a high school student, that I would have such a large gap between schooling. I was eager to go to college and become independent, and envied my older brother as he explored bustling cities and met new friends. However, something changed in my head and heart and when I left high school, I stayed at home and looked for a job. My parents probably have a different version of those three years than I do, but to me they were glorious.
They were three really hard, really long, sometimes really lonely years. I struggled with mental health issues and compared myself, a nanny, to my graduating-college having-careers best friends. It seemed no matter what I did, someone was living a bigger, better life and enjoying what they did.
Living at home, struggling to hold down a somewhat-enjoyable job, amid stern conversations from my parents, wondering “what are you doing with your life?”– none of that is what I dreamed of as a little girl, or what I hoped to accomplish as a happy and ambitious teenager.
When I realized that I was ready and wanting to go to college, it came naturally to me. All of the sudden, I would be the college student I had always envisioned myself being. I relished the thought of getting to buy school supplies again and dreamed about walking down hallways filled with learners and dreamers like myself. When my first semester came I was excited and nervous and not at all as prepared as I thought I was. In fact, the longer I have been at school, the more I have realized that I rarely ever know what I am doing or where I am headed.
My parents coached me on dealing with student loans, my older brother encouraged me to try out new activities, and my sister (starting college at the same time as I was) moaned with me about welcome week and so. much. paperwork. But there are several things that no one told me about that I have learned over the last few years as a college student that I’d like to tell you about. Maybe you are about to head into college and this will help you, or maybe you can nod your head in agreement, remembering the many things no one gave you a heads up about before you trotted off to college.
#1 …some professors would be really bad teachers (and some might not even be enjoyable humans
Professors were like mini gods to me. They could do no wrong and were always right. They graded with perfection, never got tired, and never picked favorites. They were smart, extroverted, and able to pass on the knowledge they knew in an understandable and learnable format.
Oh boy. I’m laughing to myself as I write this! YES, there are many good, qualified professors who will teach you about vast subjects and, even more importantly, about life. However, there will also be professors who can’t teach. They will be licensed and educated and have a lot of knowledge to share, but they won’t be talented in the actual teaching part. Some professors pick favorites, some hold grudges. Heck, I picked favorite professors.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget that professors are human. They make mistakes, they have biases, they get tired of grading the same papers over and over again. While I firmly believe that all of those who teach should be able to teach well, some professors won’t. Some will be mean and some will grade you harshly, making you cry yourself to sleep and wondering exactly how on earth you can please this impossible human being. That’s life. Just remember: professors aren’t perfect and they don’t determine or reflect your mind, knowledge, or worth.
#2 …about half the classes you take will have NOTHING to do with your major
This is really frustrating. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Some are required classes that every student takes, some are required for your major but really have nothing to do with what you are passionate about. I began college as an education major and switched to an english/journalism major about halfway through. I still have never found it useful to know the inner diagram of a frog’s organs and algebra continues to be a foreign language for me to this day.
However, along with the “I can’t believe I have to take this pointless class” semesters, there will also be pleasent surprises. As a lover of literature, I didn’t mind having to take some English classes as an education major, but who would have thought that those English classes would have nudged me over into changing my major? I spent a semester in an enjoyable and chaotic art class that didn’t teach me very much art– but did help me understand how to express my opinions and be okay with different political views. While the courses you take might not always be interesting or applicable to your passions or major, they can still help shape you as a person (and who knows? Maybe one day I’ll perform life-saving surgery on a frog and save its life).
#3 …you will grow into an adult and be challenged every day
This is the good part. College has shaped me into the woman I am today. I have had to grow up, take responsibility for my education and future career. I’ve had to show up for uncomfortable situations and nerve-wracking exams. I’ve learned to advocate for myself, whether that’s in a classroom debate or trying to get an on-campus job. I’ve had to struggle and struggle (and struggle) to find a working car to get me from point A to point B.
College is a lot different than high school. Okay, in some ways it’s kinda similar: really immature kids whose parents pay for everything; gross cafeteria food; really early mornings; and lots of homework. But college is also a place where you are challenged and inspired every day. Surrounded by amazing students who are working hard to achieve their dreams, it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be to chase after my own. If you work hard, create relationships, and go the extra mile to get assignments done and network on campus, then your college years can be an amazing foundation to help you succeed in life. Remember: adults have to pay bills, but only adults get to drive cars and get paid to be in art shows and wear high heels without looking like they’re playing dress-up.
What did you learn in college that you weren’t prepared for? Do you agree with the three things I’ve discovered? I’d love to hear about any tips for success or stories from college!