College, man. Where to begin…
Freedom to Make Decisions for Oneself
Personal Choice of Enrolled Courses
New Social Experiences
Diversity in Student Life
Gaining a Collegiate Education
But, you’ve seen the brochures.
There are a few things, however, that aren’t written in a course catalog. There are tons of things you have to learn as you go. (Especially if you’re planing to commute and work a full-time job.) In doing so, I promise, you’re going to make tons of mistakes. That’s okay. We’ve all been there. Here are some things I’ve learned along my journey.
1. PREPARE FOR CHANGE:
You may have a solid idea in place for your future. You may be entering college with a formulated plan for the rest of your life. If so, major props. For the rest of you, however, college is a time to discover what you plan to do and declaring your major is the first big decision.
It’s important to have your plan in place, but it’s also important to realize that you might change your mind. I would encourage you to work on your core classes first, while adding in a course or two in the field you’re most interested in. This will help you get a feel for the courses and the instructors to see if you’re a match for that major.
As a freshman, I was determined to be an art major. I dropped those dreams after the first semester and decided English was my thing. I had always wanted to be a writer, so that was an obvious fit, right? Not so much. After two more semesters, I was introduced to the Communications department. There, finally, was my fit.
2. DON’T TAKE ON MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE:
I held a part-time job during my last three years of high school. After graduation, I was offered a full-time management position. Knowing that college would be expensive, and that rent wouldn’t be cheap, I accepted. That summer, I moved into my own house and began working full-time.
When I started college in the fall, I already had so much on my plate that I was letting things slip by from the beginning. I would miss assignments and often have to miss classes to make sure I had a decent paycheck. This should have been a wake-up call, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I could either give up my job and move back in with my parents, or I could suck it up and slide by in school.
I chose the latter, because I was too prideful to be “that guy” who couldn’t make it on his own. Soon, I ended up dropping out of school because I felt that getting ahead financially was more important than attempting to pass college classes. (It didn’t help that I was still majoring in fields I had no passion for.)
If you have to work, make sure you find that allows you to make school a priority. Though I’m back on track to graduate next semester, I could have done so two years sooner if I had realized my limits.
3. FIND YOUR ROCK:
We all go through hard times. College offers its fair share of challenges. As if the courses alone aren’t enough, you have to add in the social and spiritual issues you’ll face. Find a way to stay strong.
For me, Christ is that rock. My relationship with the Lord has gotten me through many trials in my college career. The full-time job I mentioned earlier, which became a top priority in my life. I had moved up even further in the chain of command, taking on more responsibilities. It began to be too much. I had recently started back in my third attempt at school, when the job presented factors which could change that.
I prayed for a way to stay on track, then decided I needed to put my relationship with God before work and before school. Soon after I got involved with my church again, I left my job.
Then, days later, I was offered a job working for the local paper. (Remember how I told you that I wanted to be a writer?) A job which allowed me to work completely around my school schedule. Though it included a significant pay cut, I knew it would be worth it. That job has allowed me to get on track with my schooling, and has given me an incredible amount of experience to add to my resume. Without Christ, that wouldn’t have happened for me.
Find the thing that can give you strength and help you through the twists and turns. (I would love to share mine with you.)
4. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS ON CAMPUS:
I am the first to admit that, as on off-campus student, my campus life is almost nonexistent. Very few of my high school friends attend the same campus as me. Since I don’t live with my peers, and I still have priorities outside of school, it’s harder to develop relationships with students.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a handful of friends on campus, as well as several acquaintances. I also have a great relationship with many of the professors. But, if I could do it over, I would make my campus life a priority.
Attend your campus socials when possible. Reach out to those in your major. Build a network with your professors. You need them.
5. STUDY, OR AT LEAST CRAM:
I can’t study today and remember the things I read tomorrow. It’s just not how I’m hard-wired. But, I am all about the all-night cram session. You need to decide what works best for you and use it. Study Guides are pretty much a things of the past, so… good luck.
High School Studying:
6. DON’T GIVE UP:
It has been a long ride for me, but I will be at my last stop next semester. There have been several times, even within the past week, when giving up seemed to be a great idea. But, as someone who can look back on the TWO (we won’t touch on that part) times he took time off, I realize that I will never be content until I have my degree.
It’s not even about the money at this point. (Let’s be real, I’m a journalist.) It’s about the challenge I’ve accepted to finish my degree. It’s about the knowledge that all of those break-downs and falls along the way have paid off.
So, if you’re facing a situation like mine, be cautious. Make smart moves. And when you don’t, make sure to learn from your mistakes.