Making decisions is hard. There are so many choices to make...little ones, big ones, ones that will impact your day, or ones that will impact your life. When you are choosing a college--that is one of those decisions that affects your life. Now that doesn't mean your choice is irreversible; there is such a thing as transferring. However, it is much easier to choose a college and stick with it so you only have to make the initial transition one time.
But, I just have to say something. How on earth does this society expect me to choose both a college to attend and a degree to pursue at 18-years-old, when I have a hard enough time choosing what I want for dinner? I am definitely one of those people that likes to have at least a general idea of what my life looks like. Don't get me wrong; I want some excitement and some unexpected surprises, but I also like having a goal that I can aim for and strive to reach. I think I at least need a sign that points me in the right direction.
Welcome to college, where your whole life changes drastically and you are all of the sudden forced to make a lot of tough decisions. And it starts from the moment you have to decide where you want to move for at least the next four years of your life.
All of a sudden, as if figuring yourself out wasn’t hard enough, you now have a diverse group of people from different states and countries around the world that surround you. They will try to influence you in good ways and bad, and will open your eyes to things you never knew existed. I used to think that being mature was a choice, that it was based on wisdom and how much knowledge you soaked up. Now, I admit that there is such a thing as “experience.” Your parents will always be wiser than you are and that’s simply because they have lived longer than you. It’s a fact I had to face and you will too. Some people relish in the fact that they don’t have to grow up quite yet. Again, welcome to college...a place where kids are trying to transition from kids to adults, but they’d rather stay a kid and shun their responsibilities.
Let me tell you, no one ever told me college was going to be so hard. It’s funny how life seems to get progressively harder. As a middle-schooler, you think life is difficult and confusing. Then you get to high school. There’s no way life could be any more difficult. And then you get to college. I only hope the trend doesn’t continue and that I’ll one day figure out my life and become better at it so it gets easier as time goes on.
Now that I've scared you with how challenging college sounds, let me tell you the bright side. You didn’t think that was the end of the story, did you?
- College is where you make life-long friends
Remember when you left your high school best friends and you promised to be bffs forever? Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but more than likely you only talk to one or two of those friends from high school throughout your freshman year of college. That’s okay though, because you will make so many friends in college and these friends will last a lifetime. Why is it different? Well, for one, you live with them. It’s hard to not get close to the people you are with 24/7. You reach a whole new level of close. You would give an arm and a leg for these people. And then, when they go back home for break, most likely they are from out of state or at least a different city than where you are from. Because of the drastic change of going from living together to being miles apart, you will make the effort to skype and communicate with them, no matter how far away they are.
- Late night talks
So...you know how they say college students don’t sleep? That’s the truth all right, but not necessarily because of homework. For me, I spent countless nights awake until at least 3 A.M. And it’s only because I would be in a deep conversation with someone from my floor. I found that I loved meeting people that were so different from me. We had so much insight to share with one another and, before you knew it, you were sitting on the hallway floor half asleep, talking about some random experience. It’s seriously the best.
- Living with your best friends
No one will argue that living with your best friends is not the best thing ever. Sure, you might have a random roommate for your freshman year, but that doesn’t mean the relationship can’t grow. My roommate and suitemate became two of my best friends. My other best friends were doors down from mine. I had some other close friends that didn’t live on my floor, but most of my closest friends were within 20 feet of where I lived. I’m here to tell you…ENJOY IT. You will never be able to live with your best friends like this again.
- No parents
This one is bittersweet. Not having parents around seems so exciting to most 18-year-olds who are about to go to college. But I’m telling you, it’s hard. Especially if you are close to your parents like I am, it is difficult to not have them there for you every day. One, life becomes super expensive and you realize how much your parents did for you. Two, back to making decisions, you have to make them all on your own and that has been very hard for me. Three, what happens when you get sick or you want a home-cooked meal? You will relish the times you had with them and will be grateful for a visit home. However, being on your own means responsibility and, more specifically, taking responsibility for your actions. This does help a teenager grow up and mature and gain some of that wisdom from experience that I was talking about earlier.
- Make your own decisions
Did your parents force you to go places you didn’t want to go, such as get-togethers or dinner with their friends? Curfew at midnight? No texting at dinner? Well guess what, you are free to make your own decisions now. I figured it would be pretty nice. The funny thing is, I realized I ended up sticking to my parents’ rules, even though they weren’t enforcing them anymore. I realized I missed going to dinner with the family, I needed to get home by midnight if I wanted to get any sleep, and texting at dinner is rude. Part of making your own decisions helps define who you want to be. Your parents held you to a high standard. Are you going to hold yourself to that same standard or are you going to lower the bar?
- Experience things you've never experienced before
This could be a good or bad thing. Some things you’ll experience in college will thrill you and some things will scare the heck out of you. The dictionary definition of experience is: the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation. No matter if you have a positive or negative experience, it will affect you. You will be different from what you were before you experienced it. Just keep in mind, it’s all a part of growing up. Or if you are determined to stay young forever, just realize it’s a part of life.
- It's probably going to be the best time of your life
No doubt, I love college. It is hard and different from anything I have ever done, but it is awesome. You don’t have to be a partier or Einstein to have the best time of your life at college. What other time in your life can you live, eat, socialize, go to class, and be a part of different clubs and activities all in the same place? Yes, sometimes it is almost too much and it is nice to get off campus, but it is so convenient to have your life all in one place. It takes away the stress of the little things if you were to live away from campus. For example, you don’t have to worry about traffic because you walk everywhere. You are healthier because you walk everywhere. You do have pretty much unlimited access to food (which can be very dangerous). You are with your friends 24/7 and you get to learn about something you are passionate about (hopefully). If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, you’ll figure it out!
- You get to learn things about yourself
Without having your parents with you all the time, you start to learn things about yourself. Maybe things you did all your life growing up that you thought you loved, you find out you actually hate. Maybe you get to try new foods that your parents didn’t like and you find you do like. Perhaps you try a new sport or club that you never had the chance to try, and you find you are super good at it. No matter what it is, you will learn a lot about yourself. You are going to change whether you realize it or not, and my hope is that you will find who you don’t want to be so you can find who you do want to be.
- Opens your eyes to a world of opportunities
Connections. That is the secret word to success. Being in college connects you to a world of opportunities. You have the chance to choose any major you want and through that, there are professors and counselors and advisors who are full of knowledge in nearly every major. You don’t even have to be that involved to find ways to get involved. The great thing is, you start to realize how big the world is, but you don’t feel alone. You realize that there is so much to do and that schools like DU have so much to offer. You get to meet people you never imagined you would meet or get advice from someone that you dream of being someday. The list is endless.
- Appreciate the good times
Once you finish your freshman year of college, you will realize that, despite the difficulties, it was worth it. At least that is exactly how I felt. I came to appreciate all the good times and not the bad. I realized that, yes, you have so many choices to make, you have to figure out your life at a young age (or pretend to have it figured out), the change is drastic, and college is hard, but “sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” (Drake) I wouldn’t say life is simple, but I think the concept to life is easy: appreciate the good times. Be thankful. Don’t regret the past or anticipate the future; just enjoy the present.
The University of Denver has a lot to offer and has been a great school for me. I am not even close to figuring out my life, but I have learned a lot over the past 18 years and infinitely more over the last year. I look forward to what this next year holds, but I’m going to take my own advice and simply live in the now.
Kellie Stanton - Media Fellow, Undergraduate Admission