The general image of college years as the best time in a young adult’s life is somewhat distorted - and I don’t want freshmen to stay in the dark. It’s my duty as a college veteran to describe what the college experience is really like and tip freshies off.
Making friends in college is difficult
Yeah, you know, befriending 18 or 19-year-olds from who knows where doesn’t come as easily as ‘pinky promises’ in kindergarten or even ‘BBFs 4EVA!’ in high school. Your college mates are not exactly a different breed, but you’ll likely be a bit discombobulated by the diversity. You’ll meet at least 100-200 people, if not more. Selecting friends or belonging to one gang or another won’t be easy with the different schedules and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Tip: Be mindful when choosing your friends. Too much socializing doesn’t necessarily form tight bonds with real friends, but being there for your friends and helping them out does.
Much of the studying in college is self-studying
t’s a widely known fact about colleges all over the world, but it can be shell-shocking for Egyptian students who haven’t tried learning methods other than rote memorization. Recover quickly though because you can’t always expect to be saved by helpful TAs and professors. In my opinion, students dependent on their TAs and professors for understanding the entire curriculum have low confidence in their abilities. Self-studying pays off nicely in the long-run when you can proudly acknowledge that you taught yourself to solve this equation or draft that academic paper.
Tip: Acclimate yourself to YouTube, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, DataCamp, edX, and other educational platforms.
Taking good notes is hard
Most - if not all - students have no idea how to take lecture notes. The reasons include A. There are too many ways of taking notes, B. Classes and lecturing styles call for different note-taking methods, and C. The wish for a one-size-fits-all method is what it is - a wish. You’ll experiment with several methods before settling on one or two. You may find that word for word notes that read like transcripts of a recorded lecture; are a pain when writing and rereading. You may like the “Cornell method”, which is both for note taking and studying, but it may miss out on the kind of tiny details you need for an MCQ exam.
Tip: Ask older students about their note-taking methods for each professor. See which method works best for you.
Feeling ‘meh’ is all too common
At one or more points during your four-seven college years, you may reach a point of stagnation where all your energy and passion runs dry. Instead of drowning even deeper in the sea of lost desperation and hopelessness, take a mental break to assess where you stand academically and embrace that ‘limbo’ state as an opportunity to seek counseling or maintenance. It’s fine to feel as though your target has grown hazy. We’re only human. We break down so that we can replenish our worn-out pieces.
Tip: To get out of these dark pits, experiment and try a variety of different jobs & internships to gain as much experience in different fields as you can before graduation.
“I-am-too-busy is a hoax.” You have the freest schedule ever
If you’re like most freshmen, you probably think you’re overwhelmed with doing assignments, socializing, sleeping enough, and generally staying on top of your workload. But, please don’t wait until graduation to discover you had a pretty manageable schedule - the most manageable you’ll probably ever get.
Tip: Hit the ground running already. You can take on a part-time job, enroll in language or drawing or programming courses, hit the gym, and still ace your exams.
Changing majors is O.K.
Only a few brave souls decide to change majors halfway through college or even after obtaining their first Bachelor’s degree. It’s so psychologically hard and socially unacceptable for undergrads to backtrack in their first ‘adult’ decision - if it really was theirs in the first place - and risk wrecking their future career. But what graduate students will tell you is that it isn’t at all wrong to shift majors when you can no longer bear the one you feel stuck with. After all, what’s a couple of additional years of undergrad life compared to a detested major tied to an equally despicable career path? which is easier to do? change your major or your whole being?
Your bachelor’s degree probably matters least post-grad when compared to your extracurricular activities and work experience.
Tip: When you do decide to switch majors, research your other chosen major well so that you’d see whether you’ll fit. Also, join one or more extracurricular activities.
Opening a bank account now isn’t too early
To seriously assume an adult lifestyle and live up to your responsibilities, you should consider opening a bank account. Not only will you be more conscious of your spending pattern and, hopefully,save money on junk food and drinks; but you’ll learn to set a financial target. What’s more, you can then use your budget surplus, to invest in something you need after graduation or during summer vacation, like traveling abroad.
Tip: Open a “Youth Savings Account” to better track your expenses.
Over to you!
Do you disagree with the opinions listed? What are other widely shared yet unspoken opinions about college years? Share yours in the comments!