When I was graduating high school I remember so many people warning me to “stay on top of your studies, because there’s a big jump between high school and college.” I was terrified of what would happen once I clambered into my first huge lecture class: maybe the professor would hate me, maybe I’d sit by a kid that smelled bad, maybe I wouldn’t be able to pay attention and I’d mess up one comma in a paper and fail the entirety of university. Then I’d be forced to go back home and work a crappy minimum-wage job until I die. (Dramatic, but what can I say? I was terrified.)
Between moving out, new classes, an entirely new city where I knew basically no one, and fending for myself with only a call home to comfort me, I was a bit more than stressed about university. I thought the communal showers were bad enough, but then came the night before my first college classes. It was so much worse. I tossed and turned all night and barely grabbed six hours of sleep, so when my alarm rang at eight-thirty the next morning, I was less than enthused. But I got dressed and began the morning routine of my next chapter of life.
I remember checking my bus schedule at least a hundred times before I actually stepped onto a bus, and then I nervously checked again, fearing I’d grabbed the wrong route. Thankfully, however, my nervousness did not get in the way of literacy and I made it to class, albeit forty-five minutes early. (I spent a lot of time at the nearby Starbucks to avoid looking like a creep in my classroom.) I tried to look casual, just mess around on my phone, you know, the usual. Then class started. I saw my professor walk into the room and I was scared into silence.
At least for the first fifteen minutes.
My professor was incredibly amicable; she made jokes, told us about her life, and encouraged open discussion for the majority of class. To be honest, that professor in particular holds an incredible amount of respect and admiration from me to this day, and she stands as one of my greatest inspirations. I was lucky to have her as my first professor, because trust me, they aren’t always that friendly. Don’t get me wrong, college classes are infinitely more interesting than the ones you take in grade school. With my program in particular, I’ve gotten to read things such as the history of sex, an analysis of the word “lesbian,” and an abbreviated history of the life of Jimi Hendrix (tldr; drugs). College is an entirely different level from high school, both in difficulty and subject matter. It’s definitely more difficult, but usually manageable if you keep up with your reading. But the fun part is when you can take classes on Harry Potter, dead languages, or even memes (if you attend UGA take this your freshman year, I’m not joking). You’ll find yourself writing papers on drag queens, on Sappho, or perhaps a short biography of Robert Downey, Jr. Honestly you never know when it comes to post-secondary education. But it’s so much better, and so much more fulfilling.
Despite all this, however, don’t be fooled into thinking college is a funfest. Especially if you’re a STEM major, you’re going to have your share of classes that just…suck. You’ll have classes where your entire grade is based off one or two papers, and you’ll have professors that could care less if you pass (I actually had a professor tell me that—he gets paid whether I do well or not). But you’ll find that the people teaching you are so overly-qualified and knowledgeable about their subject, especially as you get into your major-relevant classes, that regardless of whether you’re interested or not, you’ll be impressed with the stories they’ll tell, of the adventures they’ve had, and the passion with which they discuss the topic. You should start studying for tests at least a week, if not two, in advance, and finals? Give yourself a good month and enough time to gather prayers; you’ll need it.
College isn’t a joke, but don’t spend all your time holed up in a book, either. There’s so many places to go, so many clubs to join, and so many people to meet, you have to find a balance between socializing and actually passing your classes. But don’t freak out so much; just stay on top of your reading and assignments, and you’ll pass, no problem. Most professors aren’t out to see you fail, and they’ll often do whatever they can to make sure you’re absorbing the material. They’re an important resource, and never feel scared to go to them for help or advice. Just take a deep breath and walk with your head held high. You’re going to be great.