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Student Life

Examining the College Journey

The freedom that you’ll have once you arrive on campus is unlike anything you’ve ever known, but there are some aspects of this liberty that may surprise you.

Laura Magerkurth

September 10, 2013

Examining the College Journey
We all know that college is different from high school—that’s what gives it a lot of its appeal. The freedom that you’ll have once you arrive on campus is unlike anything you’ve ever known, but there are some aspects of this liberty that may surprise you. Independence You may have had your driver’s license, your own car and a late curfew during high school, but college is completely different. Now, you are the one who decides when you should go out and come home, when to study, when to eat, when to sleep, what to become involved in…the list goes on and on.

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Your parents are still a part of your life—and, believe me, you will ask for their advice much more often than you ever thought you would after you move out—but the daily decisions that you used to share with the members of your family are now yours alone. This is a wonderful opportunity, but it’s also a little bit frightening. In high school, you can still count on your parents to support you. You’ll always be able to count on them, of course, but they can’t do that on a day-to-day basis in college. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll plan to get up early for your 9:00 class and your blood will run cold when you wake up, look at the clock and see that it’s already 9:30.

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You’ll aim to start work on a semester-long project one day and then put it off to the next…and the next…and the next because you’re so busy with everything else.
I have done both of those. But you know what? They each only happened once. That’s what being independent in college is all about: making mistakes and—wait for it—learning from them! Not to mention knowing how to handle them if they happen again.

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Workload I think you’ll be glad to hear that the amount of busy work assigned in college is much less than you have ever had before. For the most part, every paper and quiz and test that you do will be crucial in helping you learn the material—for that reason, you can tell that you’re actually learning! The bad news is that, because there are fewer assignments that are all worth more points, you need to get at least a C on each one to manage an okay grade in the class. You will have more time to work on all of them, though, so starting early on is the key to succeeding. Pressure The end goal of college-bound high school students is, obviously, to get into college. But what happens when you get there? Your goals will change rapidly when you enter school for the first time. In high school, all students strive for a diploma, but getting a degree (or multiple degrees) is only a small part of the process of getting a college education. Figuring out what to do with your knowledge and where you want to go after marching across that stage is a much more major issue (pun intended) that college kids face. Take my major, for instance. I am a communication disorders student with minors in Spanish and disability studies. Many of my classmates will go on to graduate school to become speech-language pathologists or audiologists, some are considering entering Teach for America and others are planning to pursue careers in special education. With this kind of degree, you have a lot of options: medical school, law school or working as a science writer, for example. I am thinking about taking a year off between college and grad school to work as a speech-language pathology assistant so that I can hone in on what I’m interested in doing in my field or even outside it. The point is, even if you have a very specialized major like me, there are a lot of different directions to take it! The great and terrifying thing about college is that you are in the driver’s seat—you’re able to take detours, speed up, slow down and look at a map. You’ll also get into traffic jams, accidents both big and small and sometimes you’ll need to pause and make a pit stop. However, I can promise you that you’ll get more confident as the years go by and that you’ll enjoy most of what this new journey will offer you.

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Are there any other aspects of college that surprised you?

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