High school is miles away -- literally and metaphorically away -- from the college experience. Although I transitioned from a relatively large high school graduating class to a campus with over 30,000 students, it would be a lie to say that getting onto stable ground was easy. Along with stable ground came a multitude
of impactful experiences, however.
For all of the high school juniors and seniors who are reading this, what follows are the top three unconventional realizations you’ll experience in your first semester of college, no matter the school.
High school typically takes up seven hours of the day, not including the academic and athletic extracurriculars after classes let out in the afternoon. College completely turned that on its head and let me build a schedule based on classes I genuinely wanted to take and when I wanted to take those classes. Even the dreaded general education courses I had to take were classes that I found interesting and have proven helpful in my major courses.
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Apart from classes, the best perk that came out of creating my own schedule was that I could take a nap between classes if I needed to. Sleep is arguably the most precious commodity when balancing everything, and I was surprised and relieved that I now had the option to crash in my dorm, even for a half hour before a class. You’d be surprised at how tired you can get after two back-to-back lectures in the morning; after taking notes for approximately two hours straight, your brain often feels like mush.
According to TIME Health
, “the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds” since the mobile revolution began. Professors will (usually) do their best to keep students engaged, but it’s up to the student to ensure that their brain stays fresh to process information as best they can.
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When class registration comes around, make sure that you plan your schedule around the times of day you’re most productive, and ensure that you include getting food and perhaps a quick nap if need be. To be successful, it’s important to space everything out the way that you need them.
2. Exploring Campus and Surrounding Towns
Though the experience will differ due to geographic location and campus size, one of the best parts of first semester was getting acquainted with the area. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I often found myself going off the main quadrangle and visiting Green Street, which is the central location where mainstream and local restaurants are in my university’s nearby town. I’m comfortable enough to tell people my favorite places to eat apart from the dining halls, which is a conversation that comes up more often than most students would expect.
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Great food isn’t the only thing that’s possible to find; every campus has their own landmarks that are must-sees. I’ve both performed in and watched various productions at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
, cheered at football games at Memorial Stadium, and took part in a tea ceremony at the Japan House
Of course, high school students should not make their decision solely on new places to explore. The environment where you’ll be studying for the next four years should be compelling and stimulating, though, so keep an eye out for interesting areas while college-touring over break.
3. More Than the Classroom
College life makes it clear that there are many things to learn outside of lecture halls and discussion sections. The interactions you’ll have with professors, teaching assistants, advisors, and students from varying ethnicities and backgrounds are impactful in teaching you about how to navigate social situations and about aspects of the world you may have never considered before. These moments will challenge you mentally and help you to realize new perspectives.
Joining student organizations are one way to take a step out of the classroom setting, but simply talking with other people is the best way to gain new insight. As long as you’re open-minded and contribute to respectful debate, you’ll be taking steps to growing yourself as an individual.
College can be interpreted as just another four years of education, but the first semester lays the groundwork for what comes ahead. These three realizations were the most impactful in my experience so far, and they’re sure to become more meaningful as university life continues.