They tell you going away to college is a lot of things, but what no one ever warned me is that college is the weirdest time of your life.
First things first, you’re 17 years old when you start planning the next four (or more) years of your life, and that’s kinda crazy. I was in 11th grade… I barely knew who I was on that particular day, let alone who I would be four years from that day! So you begin your search with countless hours spent on each college website: Who has the best program for my major? Who has the prettiest campus? Do they have my sport? Are my test scores good enough to get accepted? That’s pretty much what you have to start with.
Location, of course, is huge. Do you want a rural or urban campus? Close to home or further away? In or out-of-state? I thought I knew it all when I committed in the spring of my senior year but looking back now, the only thing I remember is thinking how cool it’d be to be to be out on my own, six hours away from home on the opposite side of the state. Other than that benighted thought, I have no recollection of why I chose that university.
Unsurprisingly, I transferred after my first semester. I swear if Steve Harvey showed up at my door and asked for six reasons why I chose that first university, I would have one, maybe two guesses… my family would have to take care of the rest.
The part of the process that really mattered felt so rushed. In tenth grade, I happily skimmed websites of colleges in cool cities along the East Coast – I swore to myself was too Type A for that West Coast shit. Suddenly junior year rolls around, you’re taking your SAT’s, and it’s time to start the application process before you even start 12th grade. In retrospect, I wonder if I just blacked out for my entire senior year. My SAT scores were good, but thinking back on the schools I was applying to is just.. what the hell, Becca? I let the acceptance letters roll in and then committed to the first school I was accepted to. Is that weird because it seems super weird to me now three years later. I’ll cut myself some slack though and just assume that I’ve changed a lot over the years. Maybe, at the time, I was actually pursuing exactly what I thought I wanted.
I transferred from a relatively small university in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, seven hours back southeast (one hour from the town I call home), to a massive school in Philadelphia. **It should be noted that I never actually formally visited this new (my current) university in Philly. I’d been once for a ceremony in high school and that was it. I probably wouldn’t advise this move to anyone else.. I just got extremely lucky.**
Philadelphia and I are a decent match. Are we soulmates? Probably not. Going to school in Philly brought it’s own new challenges, but plenty more advantages than my previous college. Changes were made as I adapted… I lived in an apartment for a year and a half, then made the decision to commute for my junior year as I’m on track to graduate a semester early.
If you’ve actually read this far, you’re probably wondering where the college antics kick in: 2 a.m. pizza runs, drinking, frat parties, pulling all-nighters. I hate to disappoint but the latest I went out for pizza dripping in grease was around 11pm and it was after my friends and I finished volunteering at a Bernie Sanders’ rally; The only all-nighter I pulled was waiting in the lobby of the ER the night of my friend’s 21st birthday, and house parties stopped being fun after about a year. (See later post: How To Sound Like The Most Pretentious Bitch On Campus.)
They’ll tell you college is “the best four years of your life.” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Personally, I imagine life after college to be far better than what it is now. Assuming all goes well, I’m no longer defined by my GPA, I have a salary to do with (relatively) what I please, a job I enjoy, and nights and weekends to do what I love. College is sort of all-consuming. I don’t even live on campus anymore and I still feel like I’m constantly doing school work or thinking about something relative to my life as a college student. But despite all the ways it invades every crevice of my life, college doesn’t really fill me with purpose. It feels like I’m just waiting, doing whatever they tell me to do, until I can get out there and do what I’m meant to do. Honestly, that’s probably the weirdest part about going to college. You reach a point where you’re just in limbo, waiting for the real world to open it’s doors to you.
So yeah, college is weird. I have friends that have done some crazy shit, and I have friends who are just as much of grandmas as me. There really is no cookie-cutter college experience, I guess. There’s no one “right” way to do it. Even now, as I prepare to graduate in two semesters, I look back and wish I’d done it differently. I wish I’d taken a gap year, or maybe even just gone to CC for a year before committing to a college. I wish I’d been more adventurous in my process; Now I dream of schools in D.C., Nashville, or California. (I’m clearly less of an “East Coast” bitch than my 17-year-old self would’ve liked to believe.)
I think what it really comes down to is knowing yourself and knowing enough to realize that you will change a lot over the next few years. If you know exactly what you want and you can visualize that life for yourself then by all means, dive in. But if you feel a little caught up in the whirlwind, like you can’t see quite clearly, don’t settle for the safest, first stop. Slow down and keep going. In all aspects of life, it’s okay to want different things; to do things a little unconventionally. Take the time you need to figure out what you want. It’ll pay off in the end.