June 10, 2019
The graduation march theme plays. You walk up the stage. Six years of high school flash before your eyes. The diploma is now in your hands. You smile, pose, and then exit the stage. Just like that, a chapter of your life has ended. Joy and celebration soon come after, and then everything settles down.
It begins to sink in. For the first time since graduation, you get to collect your thoughts. You’ll probably end up with this question, “Am I going to make it in college? How far will I go?”
Not so long ago, I asked myself the same question. I knew that college would be a whole different level in terms of difficulty. I’ve heard stories—some excited me, while others made me more nervous. But there were three things that made the transition smoother and helped me make it through, and I hope that these would help you as well.
Here’s one big challenge of college life: Time is way more flexible in college. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have more time available; it’s just easier to move schedules around. It’s not going to be as strict and rigid as in high school. You have more control over your schedule, but with greater control comes a greater responsibility to make the most out of your time.
College will also present you with an overwhelming number of open doors in the form of organizations, activities, and causes. Because of this, one of the things students struggle with is the illusion of having “no time.” The truth is students find themselves making more commitments than their time would actually allow. It is possible to pursue a lot of interests in college, but it’s just not practical to pursue them all at the same time. So how can you make the most of your time in college?
First, learn to say no. It is simple to say but hard to do. As tempting as it is, you can’t say yes to every opportunity. But how will we know what to say “yes” or “no” to? We must learn to prioritize.Always remember that you are first a student, over and above any interests you might have. Some opportunities look beneficial on the surface, but are distractions in disguise. Weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity that comes your way.
Just because you can handle multiple commitments at the start of the semester doesn’t mean that you can maintain all of them throughout the whole semester. Commitments and responsibilities get heavier over time so have some margins in this area.
College will introduce you to a world of diverse mindsets, beliefs, and lifestyles. The first few weeks will feel overwhelming. There’s so much to take in and to consider. This will be a time to take a step back and reassess what you believe. While it’s not wrong to test and assess your beliefs (when in fact, doing this could help strengthen them), there is always a wise way to do it. To do this without wisdom could lead to accepting every popular or appealing belief, which is dangerous because our belief and perception of the world will affect how we live and how we make crucial life decisions.
What helped me during this time was finding a rock to plant my feet on. I knew that if I didn’t, I would be drowning in a sea of thoughts, ultimately losing myself in the process. After gathering my thoughts, I tried to hit pause and ask myself, “What are my values? What are my convictions?” From there, I developed a filter that allowed me to decide whether the beliefs presented to me are aligned to my convictions. It also helps to be connected to wise people—both peers and mentors—to help you figure things out, which brings me to my last point.
For a while, I wanted to go back to the simpler life in high school. It wasn’t the overwhelming feeling that got to me as much as the amount of additional responsibilities. I genuinely felt for a while that I wasn’t cut out for college; or if I were, I was there to survive and not excel. I was stuck swimming in my own thoughts until there were people that pulled me out.
I hope you find the right people who could become your community and family. They are the ones who will be there for you to remind you of who you are, point you in the right direction, and most importantly, fight for you and encourage you even when you don’t believe in yourself.
All decisions I had to make in college, whether in my time, my commitments, or my convictions, I didn’t have to make by myself. The community I had was more than willing to walk and talk me through the process, often by wisdom of experience.
I was never alone in facing all these things.
Take heart! With the right commitments, solid convictions, and close community, you’ll go farther than you could ever imagine.