Getting Ready for College: Students Share What College is Really Like.
Updated: May 18
It’s that time of the year again. After all the studying, exam taking, essay writing, college researching and application submitting, many high school seniors are now anxiously awaiting university acceptance letters, finalizing commitments, and dreaming about life after graduation. It’s an exciting time of life. Congratulations to all of you seniors on your hard work preparing for this wonderful milestone!
Now, as those final decisions are being made, you are undoubtedly dreaming about what your fall classes might look like, who your roommate will be and how you’ll decorate your dorm room. A lot of time in high school is spent working on academic requirements, extracurricular activities, and the logistics of getting into and paying for college. As important as it is to celebrate this wonderful milestone, now is also the time to start having meaningful conversations about what to expect as you make the college transition come fall, and the resources, tools and habits that will support a smooth transition.
Many students arrive on the doorsteps of their new universities in the fall with mixed emotions including excitement, uncertainty, and sometimes pure terror. Within weeks academic challenges, home sickness, and loneliness can arise. Starting college can be a daunting experience, especially for those who are leaving home for the first time. Along with learning new academic concepts, it’s important for college students to develop essential life skills that will help them navigate through this next phase of life.
Over the coming months, I will be sharing some additional information about the conversations, important habits, and resources that first year college students can benefit from, prior to move in day, to support a thriving transition. In the meantime, here are some thoughts from current college students about the reality of what college is like for them, and the things they've found most challenging:
Abby – “One thing that was a challenge for me when adjusting to college life was the different paths everyone was on. It was difficult not to compare myself to others going into the medical field, what they were doing, and their successes. It seemed like everyone had everything figured out when in reality no one really did, especially the first couple years of school, and it took a while for me to realize that this was totally ok”.
Noah – “I wish I had known the way to study that works best for me. I felt like in high school it was easier to study and get my work finished on time. In college there is more free time, so it has been harder to manage my time and not procrastinate. I’ve had to relearn how to study and create a routine.”
Orion – “The hardest part about adjusting for me was being so far from home, especially for long periods of time. Being an out of state student, it is hard for me to make a quick trip home to visit family.”
Sophia – The hardest thing for me was the drastic change in external accountability. In high school there are more people checking in on you, like parents and teachers. I must hold myself accountable a lot more and that has been an adjustment. Also, in high school I had a structured routine with school and after school activities. In college I have a lot of unstructured time and have had to learn to create a schedule to keep me organized and manage my time better.”
Beau – “The hardest part of adjusting to college for me was coming here not knowing anyone. As an out of state student, I didn’t come to college with close friends from high school. It was hard to adjust to making a completely new group of friends.”
Ellie – “I have struggled with taking care of myself, like getting enough sleep and eating healthy food. My schedule is busy and sometimes I forget to pack food if I’m going to be on campus for long periods of time, and then I end up eating junk. It can also be hard to get to bed early, even when I know I need to get up for a class because I don’t want to miss out on things, but I always feel better when I get more sleep.”
Hayden – “The thing I found the hardest was meeting new people. The pandemic made this especially difficult because the types of social interaction that we were allowed was severely limited. Frustratingly, I spent several nights alone in my room simply because I didn’t have friends to do activities with.”
Thankfully, there are many wonderful adventures ahead for those headed to college in the fall and nothing should take away from the excitement of dreaming about the possibilities, meeting roommates, and planning dorm room décor. However, as you can see, study and time management habits, loneliness, homesickness, and feelings of self-doubt are common and expected for first year college students.
In my next post, I will share some powerful questions to help spark meaningful reflection and conversations in the weeks leading up to the college start. You can also check out some additional tips here.
Hi, I'm Yvette, an educator and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is an exciting and sometimes complicated and challenging time of life. Utilizing techniques grounded in behavior change theory, motivation and human learning, I help my clients realize their unique potential, see life's challenges as opportunities to learn and grow and gain effective habits and tools to support their lifelong success and wellbeing.
Yvette Morton Ed.S, MA, NBC-HWC