Friday, June 9, 2017

The Student Side: What to Expect When You're Expecting (to be a College Student)

We’re sure you’ve heard it many times before, but CONGRATS! YOU’RE GOING TO COLLEGE! This is the first of our weekly student posts which will vary in topics from housing and registering for classes to being part of different communities on campus to NSOP. We (Rowan and Paige) are excited to start this journey with you.

This is a quick and dirty guide to the main things to keep in mind as you transition from a high school student to an independent college student.

Did you notice the word independent?

For many of you, going to college is the first major step in becoming an adult. And when you’re an adult, things are a little different.

Many of you will be living away from home for the first time. This means simple things like making that dreaded phone call for a doctor appointment, along with more complicated tasks like learning how to self-advocate to professors, speaking with financial aid, and dealing with interpersonal conflict, are all primarily on you to deal with without adult intervention.

It’ll be a learning curve. Like many things, you’ll adjust. So when you have a question about a form or you’re confused about registration, don’t be afraid to call or email the proper office yourself rather than having your parents/guardians do it for you. Most of the time, offices prefer to speak to you, the student, because their decisions and actions affect you most greatly. These are skills you’ll need to utilize going forward in your lives and careers so it’s really in your best interest to get a jump on them now (even though they’re often scary and sometimes unpleasant).

Time management is going to be different in college. Unlike high school, every minute of your life will not be planned out for you. You get to do that yourself! This is great because it means you're able to schedule when you’re free for when is most convenient for you. Do you study better in the mornings, night, middle of the day, or does it not matter to you? Do you like waking up early for class or does it fill you with a sense of horror and pain? Make your schedule around those things when you can -- and often you can!

It also means, however, that you’re responsible for getting things done in the appropriate time period. Professors will not check up on your progress for each assignment. You'll be give an assignment several weeks in advance and be expected to get it done by the due date, so organize wisely!

When you’re not in class, you’re also in charge of how you’re spending your time. Do you need an afternoon power nap? Can you really wear those jeans another day or do you need to clean them? You decide when to sleep, when to do your laundry, and if you’re going to be involved in any extracurriculars as well as balancing friendships, jobs, relationships, and any of the other amazing things you're going to be involved in. One or several of those things will ultimately fall through the cracks at some point during your first semester -- DoN’t P@nIC! We all need periodic reminders that these things won’t just happen by themselves and, yes, sometimes you need to plan when you’re going to shower.

That being said, sometimes it can be overwhelming, and especially during your first-semester, you may take on too much. This is when checking in with yourself, talking to the people around you, and self-care come in.

Above all else, college should be about learning your limits. Take care of yourself and take care of the people around you. Being independent doesn’t mean doing everything seamlessly, never making any mistakes, and being a happy butterfly 100% of the time.

Call your parents if you need to. Skip the club meeting tonight so you can nap or cry or go to the gym. Have your first serious conversation with your new college friends and be honest about feeling overwhelmed -- they're also juggling a lot and are probably as stressed out as you are. Validate each other. Find resources that feel safe and helpful to you, such as Well Woman or the Furman Counseling Center.

It’s okay, and expected, to drop things. Just because you did it all through high school doesn’t mean you have to continue. Volunteering every weekend because your parents said it would get you into college? Guess what? You don’t have to do that anymore if you don’t want to.

This goes for all things: sports, extracurriculars, jobs, a major (pro tip: adults will ask you how you’re going to use your major “in the real world” at SOME POINT, REGARDLESS of what you choose to major in. Don’t let it get to you. WE are the future of the “real world.” Not Them.)

This even goes for friendships, new and old. Just because you decide on the first day of NSOP that you and your gang are going to be friends for the rest of your lives doesn’t mean, if they turn out to be unhealthy or unproductive friendships, that you don’t reserve the right to end them.

This is the thing about CONSENT, folks. Situations will arise where you will have to choose to engage or not. Always take a moment before you make any decisions. Ensure that it’s something you want to do for YOU, not for the resume, popularity, or any other reason. Also keep in mind that agreeing to something doesn’t mean you have to follow through with it. Two years into a club you may realize it’s not what you want to be spending your time doing anymore. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to back out. You’re going to grow and change a LOT during college.

Remember that you’re living in New York City, with all of the advantages, opportunities, as well as risks that come along with it. So take whatever precautions you need to in order to feel safe. Be smart. Use your judgement.

Ultimately, your college experience is what you make it. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s going to take some time to figure out what feels right for you.