Freshman insights on the realities of college

My senior year of high school was by far one of the hardest years of my life. Not only do seniors have to deal with making good grades while balancing extracurriculars, friendships and jobs, we were expected to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives: where to spend the next four years. It was one of the most stressful years of my life, but also one of the best. From my school production of Addams Family to the homecoming game, to prom night, those memories will last forever. But now it’s time for the next chapter of my life.  

No one I went to high school with was going to the University of Montevallo, except for one. Yet, from the moment I stepped on these bricks, I immediately felt at home. Simply stated, the community here is incredibly wholesome and welcoming. 

That being said, there were a lot of misconceptions I was told about college culture, especially about social life, living in residence halls, the people I’d meet and the classes I’d be in. 

Due to the influence of the media and the people around me, I made assumptions about the social climate of college, but my assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong. In high school, there’s a strange hierarchy with popular jocks and preppy cheerleaders at the top and everyone else at the bottom. In college, though, no one cares what you did in high school. Of course, you’ll find people with the same interests, but generally speaking, no one cares about your social status.  

In the world of romance, you always hear the “we met in college” stories, my parents included. I had a preconceived notion that I too could find my future spouse here. I’ve been here for a couple weeks and I’ve since realized that it’s okay if I don’t. The next four years are about finding myself, not finding someone else.  

When I was in high school, we had several foreign exchange students, most of which I was good friends with, and I expected that to stop when I got to college. I expected maybe a few out-of-state students and some transfers, but the reality is that people from all over the country and even the world are present with me in class, eating next to me in the caf or living in my building. They have their own stories just like me. 

I had a lot of worries when it came to living on campus, especially about having a roommate. My best friend is a sophomore in college who had a lot of beef with her now former-roommate, which made me paranoid about my own on-campus living experience. However, I couldn’t be more relieved; my roommate and the friends I’ve made in my residence hall are genuinely amazing women. 

The first class I walked into made clear to me that professors in college are unique individuals and not the holier-than-thou figures you see so often in high school. Obviously, the work is harder and there’s more of it to be done independently. Yet, all the work serves some sort of purpose, unlike the busy work of high school. Additionally, learning takes place outside the classroom, and the class isn’t geared toward passing a test. In this sense, academics are not at all what I expected. 

The most profound thing I’ve learned so far is how it’s okay to not have all the answers just yet. I’m an undeclared major, and that is okay. I went to high school with so many people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives, but the beauty of attending a liberal arts college is that even if I haven’t finalized a decision, I have the opportunity to experiment and explore. 

However, I still have some unanswered questions. How do mid-terms and final exams differ in college? What are the resources I’ll need to succeed? What will Greek life be like? Am I purple or gold? Hopefully, the answers will come with time. 

Independence is empowering and invigorating. There’s no one looking over my shoulder. No matter what happens, I’m excited to experience what this school has in store for me. 

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