We have now reached graduation season, a time where high school seniors are getting ready to embark on a new adventure that is truly life changing! It may be the first time in your life that you feel you have total autonomy! You can decide what you want to eat, when you want to eat, who you want to hang out with, and what you want to do because no one is holding you accountable but yourself! I mean no more curfew? What is that! You have the freedom to do what you want. This may be true for many, especially if mom and/or dad is paying for your education, so you think “I got this”. I can live on my own and be independent — “I’ll show them”. However, typically reality sets in and you realize maybe my parents did know more than I thought they did. You begin to think perhaps a curfew was set to keep me out of trouble because as you know, and I personally heard many times, “nothing good happens after midnight”. I am not saying you cannot stay up late or hang out with friends after midnight because let’s be real, spending time with your friends when usually you would have to be home makes it way more fun! Why? Because you weren’t allowed to before. Many college kids struggle with this new reality and that is ok! Heading off to college presents an exciting opportunity with a lot of new realities and freedoms that we are just not accustomed to.
College is supposed to be about finding yourself, meeting new people, forming relationships, intimate or non-intimate, and honestly making mistakes and learning from them. Yes, the focus is “what do I want to do with my life after college” thus, “what am I going to major in”. But I have found, that at 18, we usually do not know what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing! Heck, at 25 you may not even know! And even then, you find yourself unhappy at 30 — you can always change course! You will make mistakes in college. You may stay out too late and miss a class. That is okay. Yeah, probably not wise to do it on a weekly basis but it will happen. Know that most people do not have it all figured out. Finding that balance of “fun college time” and focusing on your future is hard — especially being 18. We often lose sight of how much pressure this actually puts on us, and it’s okay to seek guidance or assistance along the way. Four years seems so far away. If I could go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self to relax, and that it will all work out, I think I would want to! But, maybe the mistakes I made then would not have led me to be the person I am now. I learned more from the difficult classes I struggled with than that class that you take for “an easy A”. Challenge yourself. It’s how you grow.
My suggestions to you — step out of your comfort zone. Join a club, become friends with your neighbors, attend study groups, go to parties, stay up late watching movies and tv, try new things! It really is the one time in your life that you can do what you want to do with minimal accountability of where and when you need to be somewhere. (Of course with limitations!) Enjoy it–because it goes by quicker than you expect! You will one day wish that you “just” had an exam to study for or an assignment to get done. Also, and one thing that is often lost in translation – take care of yourself. It’s a hard transition, but you can do it! You’re learning to be on your own — you won’t have all the answers! If you need help, reach out to the resources available on campus, a friend, parent — someone you can look to for guidance.
Authored by Emily Baum, M.S., RDN, LD