For this weeks guest post, I bring to you, Rachel Tindall. She is a teacher and a writer and is currently working on a novel. Her website https://capturingyourconfidence.com/ is a motivational ensemble of ideas which is bound to drive you forward. Her articles are directed towards helping college students and teachers alike! Here is some more about her in her own words.
Do you remember your first day of high school? I do. I walked into a huge building all by myself. There were older students already standing around, and although I kept my head down, I desperately hoped to see someone familiar.
Thankfully, I found a friend after a few minutes, but the initial feeling of being in a new place with mostly new people and a new set of expectations I hadn’t fully learned yet was terrifying!
When we go to college, we relive this experience on a larger scale.
Why is college scary?
1. New people
Unless you’re staying local or attending the same college/university with a friend, you probably won’t know anyone your first day. If you’re staying local, your friends may or may not be in class with you. Everyone has their own program they’re working on, which have different requirements. Your friend may not have the same requirements as you.
If you’re going away, you’ll probably have at least one roommate to contend with – possibly more – who is completely new to you. And you will be living with him/her/them! You will also meet a whole class full of people you don’t know every day your first week of classes.
2. New place
My first year of college I shared an 11’ x 17’ dorm room with a girl I didn’t meet until we moved in. We shared a bathroom with 32 other girls. If that’s not scary, I’m not sure what would be. Not all experiences are like this, of course, but if you’re going away, you’ll be in an unfamiliar place. It will take time to learn where your classes are, find the best food options, and how to best navigate campus.
If you’re going to college locally and living at home, this element might be a little less scary. Perhaps you stay with your family or friends who have known you for a long time. This doesn’t mean that learning to navigate a new campus isn’t intimidating!
3. New routine
Depending on how your high school education was scheduled, you might have had 4-7 classes per day. They were in the same order every day, and only changed once per semester. Adjusting to a more flexible schedule in college from the every-day-is-the-same routine is definitely challenging!
Assuming you’re a full time college student, you will have 4-5 classes, but they’re likely to be scheduled once, twice, or three times per week – not every day. You might also encounter the opportunity to take 8 week classes, which are only half the semester.
Either way, you attend class for a couple of hours, but usually not all day, and then you’re free to plan your own priorities the rest of the time. This includes studying, being social, and perhaps having a part time job or being part of an academic organization.
4. New ideas
This is probably the hardest concept, but the most important. On top of all the other changes going on around you, college constantly inundates students with new ideas. That’s kind of the name of the game, right?
This can be really scary because most people grow up learning about one predominant set of ideas. We learn some version of manners, behaviors, morals, and spiritual beliefs, among other things. So when you get to college and hear about the numerous other ways people live that are different from your own experiences, it can really change your whole life outlook in a significant way.
College is different from any other schooling you’ve done, though.
College doesn’t have to be an anxiety inducing experience that makes you second guess everything you do. It doesn’t have to be the pressure cooker you (and your family) put yourself in to get a “good job” or find the “best path” to a successful future.
1. You are excited!
Hopefully, college is as exciting for you as it is scary. After the monotony of high school, during which time you didn’t have much freedom at all, you get to actually make choices for yourself and your future. Personally, I’ve always loved to learn, so the prospect of being able to learn that intensively was almost more exciting than going away to school (not quite).
College is also a time when you get to discover what you like and what you’re actually good at. Sure, you already have strengths and hobbies you enjoy. Here’s the thing, though. There is so much new information coming at you so quickly, you are sure to find more you love and are good at. Sometimes this is an extension of something you already love – for me, that was writing. But sometimes it’s something completely different and unexpected, and that’s perfectly fine.
2. You make more decisions
You probably picked some classes in high school. Maybe you were able to pick one class out of two choices. Or maybe you were lucky enough to be able to take a college or advanced class that you got to pick separate from the “standard” curriculum. But, you still had to get a hall pass if you were late, had to ask to go to the bathroom during class, and had to have your parent or guardian call in to school if you had to miss a day when you were sick.
In college, you get to decide pretty much everything. You choose your course of study, the classes you take to get there, and what activities you do to supplement your college experience. You also get to decide more basic things like whether or not you want to attend class, how much effort you want to put into your assignments, and whether or not going to a party on a Thursday night when you have an exam on Friday morning at 9 am is a good idea (think hard about this last one… it’s probably not worth it).
3. You study things you like
Because you’re making more decisions, you can choose to study subjects you actually enjoy. This is not to say there won’t be some requirements you dislike. I’m not a fan of math and science, but those are requirements of most degrees, mine included.
Typically, though, you take most required classes early on in your college career. By the time you get into taking courses for your major, you will be able to choose what class interests you most that will count toward your degree. Some universities even allow independent study, which essentially means you get to design your own course with the help and guidance of a professor.
4. You meet people who have similar goals and interests
You probably had at least one friend in high school, right? Perhaps even a group of friends who you thought were going to be your best friends forever. You bonded through similar experiences and because you were all stuck there together. This doesn’t mean that you all liked the same things, but you were there and supporting each other anyway.
College opens you up to a whole new world of friends who like to do what you like to do, and who excel at what you excel at. Because these new friends like and excel at similar things, they will likely have similar goals for the future. This is great! Not only do they support what you’re trying to do, but they also understand the struggle and doubts you sometimes feel about your specific goals. They, too, question whether they are doing the “right” things. They also love having deep conversations about the same things as you.
I’m excited about college, but still scared! What do I do?
1. Let yourself be scared
A little fear never hurt anyone. College is new! You’ve done school before, but not like this. There are a lot of changes going on around you – and that doesn’t even account for personal changes. It’s okay that you’re scared, and most people are (even if they don’t want to admit it).
2. Think critically about why you’re scared
If you know you’re scared, work on filtering through why. Ask yourself what you are actually afraid of: is it being away from home? Not having any friends in a new place? Learning something that challenges your entire belief system? It’s okay if there’s more than one thing you’re scared of. In fact, there probably is! But, if you want to be able to take control of your fear, you need to be able to decipher what it is that you are afraid of.
3. Take baby steps
You don’t have to feel comfortable at college right away. You might not feel like you fit in the week classes start, or even the first month. New challenges and situations will arise that you can’t anticipate that may leave you thinking “what am I doing here?” or “maybe this isn’t for me.”
My dad always used to tell me, “patience is a virtue to be pursued with the utmost diligence,” and I always rolled my eyes and sighed. But, the older I’ve grown, the truer this becomes (although it has not gotten any easier). If you have identified your fears, take tiny steps to overcome them.
So you’re scared that you don’t have any friends at school? Maybe say hi to the person who sits beside you every day in your Monday class. You’re scared you don’t know anything about your campus or new city? Walk around one weekend: locate your classes by walking to each classroom individually. Find where you will go to get food (this one is super important!). Find the library – the library will be your friend throughout college. If you have a friend or roommate who wants to tag along, great! If not, you can definitely manage this flying solo.
4. Don’t let your fear stop you
The biggest thing you can do to overcome your college jitters is to simply do it anyway. Take the class that interests you, even if you don’t know anyone taking it and your parents may or may not approve. Say hi to someone in class even if you don’t know them – they probably won’t bite. They might even like you! Write yourself encouraging notes and stick them in places you are sure to see them.
The more you encourage yourself to step out of your comfort zone, the more your fear will become manageable. Likewise, if you don’t ever take steps to manage your fear, it will rule your life. You will miss out on things you later wish you had done. Trust me, take the 30 seconds, breathe, and take that first step out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s tiny. Even if it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done. You won’t regret it.
So, first, congratulations! College is a big adventure, and I know you’re going to do great. As you begin the semester, know that it’s okay to be afraid: you’re not alone. The first step is to acknowledge that and figure out what it is you are specifically afraid of. Take baby steps and get out of your comfort zone just a little bit. This is the hardest part! But don’t give up. You can do it. You are on your way to finding your place in the world, and I applaud your effort.
You can read more of Rachel’s content on capturingyourconfidence.com. She would love to help you through. Having gone through the first weeks as a student and teacher!
Some related posts in technical me section are:
5 Online Course Sites Every College Student Should Check Out
21 Ultimate on a Budget Planner and College Supplies
11 Cutest Bullet Journal DIY to Boost Planner Organisation (With Freebies)