Four Unexpected College Experiences You'll Need to be Ready for
If you’re heading off to college, you’ve probably already heard about all the life changes that are going to be greeting you. And if you’re a determined student, you’ve probably already spent some time getting ready to meet these changes head on, and begin your post-secondary education properly prepared. Your courses may be in order, your finances may be worked out, you have your textbooks, you know where you have to be and when, but there’s more to college than that. As prepared as you think you are, life’s unpredictable and can take you by surprise. Here’s a few challenges you may not have thought of that you ought to prepare for.
Missing your friends, even if you’re not away
First, there’s a difficult truth you’ll have to be ready for: You’re going to drift away from a lot of friends from high school. This doesn’t mean you’ll lose touch with everyone, though. But remember those people you casually knew, who you’d sit with at lunch? You probably had two or three classes with them, but you never went to their house, or gave them gifts on their birthday. You’ll drift away from a lot of those people, and it can be tough if you’re not ready for it. The good news is that your true, close friends can always be with you, though seeing them will be tough, too.
The second truth: You’ll have less time to see those good friends. That seems like an obvious thing if you’re travelling to another city, or even another country for school, but it also happens when you don’t move away, when you’re still in the area, even when you’re going to the same college. Like it or not, your life is going to be a lot busier, and between homework and classes, it’s going to become harder to see those friends. You’re going to have to set aside specific time to maintain those friendships. It can be tough, but worthwhile.
The good news is that you won’t be alone. During college, you’ll meet new people every moment. And thanks to the diversity present in the college setting, you’ll meet people from all over Canada and the world, as well as people of all different ages and walks of life, expanding your social horizons. You should make an effort to make friends in your new classes. Aside from keeping you sociable (and I’ve written on the importance of that before), your college friends will be your support network in times of academic or social trouble.
The tiredness, and a need to reorganize your schedule
It isn’t just that college can be more work than high school. Between classes at odd hours, commuting time and more homework, you’ll start to feel a persistent burnout if you’re not careful, and there will be days when you won’t feel up to going anywhere or doing anything. And coffee will only get you so far, since as this Thought Catalog article notes, you’ll develop a tolerance after awhile.
Sooner or later you’re going to have to put sleep first. If that means at the end of a long week ignoring the rest of the world so you can flop into bed at 10:30 at night, then so be it. There’s another Thought Catalog article that considers a lack of sleep an inevitability, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It does note that the body just isn’t designed to run on a few hours of sleep a night, though. Really, you shouldn’t be pulling all-nighters. If you’re able to schedule your time effectively, then you should be able to go to bed at a decent hour every night. The all-nighter is a symptom of leaving things to the last minute, or not making effective use of the work time you already set aside.
The potential for bad health
The “freshman 15” (the idea that first-year students gain about 15 pounds of weight) is real, and it doesn’t just have to do with poor diet. It’s getting your meals in at odd hours, not having time for any physical activity, and the above-mentioned lack of sleep all coming together in an axis of poor health. There’s a change in lifestyle, and your body sometimes won’t be able to cope. And if your body suffers, your mind will too. You can’t just resolve yourself to have a mind over matter philosophy. If you’re in poor health, your academics will suffer. As I wrote in a previous article, though, there are ways to counter it. Essentially, you’ll need to stop taking physical health as a given, and actually begin to work at eating right and staying active.
Learning to roll with it
Really, though, if there’s one thing you should be prepared for, it’s the fact that you can’t be prepared for everything. It’s guaranteed there will be many more unexpected obstacles than the ones mentioned on this list, and even if you think you’ve got a handle on everything, there will always be new challenges to face. That’s the most important lesson of both college and growing up: Being able to cope with the unexpected, and not just assuming you’ve planned for everything. If you learn how to be adaptable and roll with problems as they come, success is all but guaranteed.
By Anthony Geremia