You know what’s hilarious? When people think they have life figured out in high school, and then they get to college, and reality winds up for that much-needed reality check that some folks never see coming, that’s absolute comedy gold sometimes, unless a person happens to land in the gutter and can’t find their way out, then it gets a little tragic. But having been through college and also having experienced a great number of the highs and lows that it has to offer, it’s easy to speak on what people think it is versus what it really is. Are you ready to learn what college is all about and why the saying is true, that it’s not for everyone? Meh, ready or not, here we go.
Getting in isn’t as simple as people might try to make you believe.
The struggle you see in the movies and on TV is very real, and there’s a reason for it, or at least there used to be. See, the thing is that no one HAS to go to college. It’s not something that’s mandated for those that want to move forward in life. Some folks have skipped college and done very well for themselves, while others have gone on to scratch out a living and wish they would have kept their grades up. But the thing about getting into college is that in some schools they care about taking the most qualified, while others will take you so long as you have the money and at least a halfway decent GPA that can be worked on. There are few things you need to know about entry into the next level of education though, such as:
- Good grades don’t guarantee you a spot: Seriously, if you think that having a 4.0 GPA is all you need then someone lied to you. Just getting good grades is great and it’s impressive, but it’s not everything since if you managed to get straight A’s in high school, whoop-de-frickin-doo. You might have impressed your teachers in high school, but college professors might nod in appreciation at your accomplishments, then remind you that you’re starting at the bottom once again when it comes to college. Most people don’t walk in being lauded as geniuses, since even those that are actually the smartest people in the room are going to need to prove themselves all over again. The high school level is there to prepare you for what comes next, it’s not the pinnacle of education. But if you do have the grades then you’re one step closer to succeeding, if you can maintain them.
- The cost of college is important to look at: If mommy and daddy are willing to foot the bill then lucky you, because otherwise, even community college tends to cost an arm and a leg now. I’m old enough to remember when I could pay for classes out of pocket, but there’s almost no way that can happen today unless students are already rolling in the dough, which begs the question of why they would want to further their education if they’ve already found a way to make money. Like it or not, this is one of the goals of any educational institution, to find you a job/career that will help pay back student loans and hopefully get you into a great job and a stable life.
- Unless you luck out, you will not be as popular in college as you were in high school: Remember how I stated that you’d be starting out at the bottom once again? It’s bound to help if you’re a cool person and know how to adapt to any given situation you find yourself in, but in college you still have to pay your dues, you have to find your way, and you certainly won’t be at the top of your game for a while. If you’re lucky then you’ll skate by without people hazing you in any way, but for a lot of people just getting into college, it’s a new world and for the first few months to a year, you’re the new fish in a wide ocean.
Now that you’re in, now what?
This is why it’s smart to either enroll in Head Start in high school, visit a few campuses that you’ll be applying to, and possibly even meet up with advisors, counselors, and students that have been there and done that. Don’t rely on your parents if they went to the school, since they can give you memories, tell you their experiences, and a great deal of advice, but the average college parent will have graduated or attended school long before their kids get there, and their advice is bound to be a little outdated. But being prepared is advisable since otherwise, you’re walking into a place that can tear you up and leave you wondering what the hell just happened in a very short time. Here are a few things to think about:
- This is college, you’re on your own: There might be a few people that can and won’t mind helping you, but don’t count on that. IF you make a friend or a group of friends then do everything you can to hang onto them, so long as they’re going to build you up. Otherwise you’ve just entered an intellectual battlefield where allies are more valuable than gold and diving into a foxhole is only going to get you left behind and forgotten. In other words, college isn’t a place to be timid or afraid, since this a further induction into the world that you need to endure in order to become a functioning member of society. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But college is a trial by fire that weeds out those that aren’t serious about their education, while tempering and strengthening those that have the willpower to succeed.
- If you want to pass, then pass on the partying: TV and movies have probably filled your head with all kinds of images and ideas that this is going to be a non-stop, booze-infused orgy that will last a few years before you really need to get serious about life. Some schools might look the other way when it comes to partying, but when it starts to affect your grades they tend to focus up and ask the hard questions such as if you’re serious, if you mean to graduate, or if you’re just waiting boatloads of money to get wasted and laid whenever possible. Like it or not, college is supposed to be a fun and eye-opening time in your life, but if you don’t do the work, the fun is going to dry up quicker than you realize. Keep in mind, the fun is a reward, a way to blow off steam after hours spent studying and applying that knowledge. You want to party? Then study first.
- Your teachers are there to get paid, if you’re lucky they’ll pay attention to you: This is why you should appreciate your teachers in high school, since on average they ARE trying to help you succeed. They’re also trying to open your eyes to the world beyond high school, where no one will care for excuses, and you’ll be left with nothing if you decide that you don’t want to listen or follow the teacher’s rules. College professors will actually toss you out of their class if you don’t do as they ask. They’re there to get paid and teach the next generation that’s willing to listen, not to cater to some charity case that will graduate simply to get them out of the school. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for some folks it’s very true, since college professors aren’t paid to care, they’re paid to teach. If they do care, then it’s because they want to, not because you’re their entire life.
There are a few preconceptions that you should leave behind.
One thing that you should definitely leave behind is the idea that you know something about everything. This isn’t to say that you know absolutely nothing, it’s saying that when entering college you don’t know as much as you think, and need to get in the habit of no matter what you know, you don’t know everything. I’ve seen too many newbies come in right out of high school, thinking that they were going to teach their professors and fellow students something, only to realize that no one is impressed by what you think you know, but everyone will make it clear that you know less than you think.
- College isn’t going to be one big party. You might get to attend a few, but you’ll be expected to attend classes and do the work as well, no matter how hungover you are.
- Money can get you in, but it won’t purchase your grades. If it does then you’re worse off than anyone else, since you haven’t learned a damned thing.
- Get it through your head, if anyone cares about you it’s because they choose to. You’re not here to be pampered, you’re here to grow up and realize how the world works, at least in part.
- Becoming an activist is all well and good, especially if you believe in something worthwhile. But if all you learn is how to disrupt the lives of others, then you’ve wasted your time and money.
- College is for your benefit, but you have to make it work since no one is going to hold your hand and guide you through it.
- Getting into college is hard enough, don’t slack off once you’re there, because it’s only bound to get harder.
- You get out of college what you put into it. If you don’t do the work and fail as a result, don’t bother to go whining to anyone else, they won’t care. In fact, they might even tell you what I’m saying right now.
It’s time to grow up.
This is college, and as a result, this is another step into real life. If you’re smart and wise enough to see it coming, then preparing for it is a good idea. If you think you can skate through it because you’re smart enough or are a good enough athlete, then you’re in for a serious wake-up call when life decides to kick you in the nethers. And yes, people will laugh at you when you fall, especially if you expect someone to help you up. This is college, get your butt up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.