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Losing My Fear Of Having To Handle College Alone

This piece is the third in a series by students and counselors from Bottom Line, a nonprofit that aims to bridge the college-readiness gap by supporting high school students as they transition into college.

“No one will be there for you. At college you are on your own.”

This was a line that was continuously repeated to me in high school. I first heard it freshman year and only appeared more frequently as I got to my senior year. Soon, it became my biggest fear for attending college. “What if no one is truly there for me? What if I’m really a number amongst hundreds of thousands of smarter and more talented numbers?” I thought to myself, “How am I going to make it all on my own?”

But after the first week of being a freshman at the University at Albany this fear went straight down the drain. I met more than enough people willing to lend a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on. After spending just a month on campus I’ve met faculty and friends who I feel like I’ve known for my whole life. My Bottom Line counselor has visited me on campus a few times and being friendly and practicing positive body language truly does take you a long way. I’ve noticed that the students who are outgoing and maintain higher spirits are the ones who receive the most support in college, rather than the students who maintain a pessimistic vibe.

Unlike high school, college provides a lot of freedom. However, with that freedom comes even more responsibility. In college I am in control of every decision I make. I can do whatever I want but with every choice there is a consequence. I can choose to party all night long, have sleepovers every night with my friends, or even play manhunt until 7 a.m. — but if I choose to do these things then that means I am choosing to accept whatever consequences come with it. In high school, my parents and teachers were always around hounding me to make sure things got done, but in college there is no one to take on that role. In college if I choose not to attend class or do my homework, the only person who will notice is me. In college you get out what you put in and if you slack off and don’t care it will definitely show in the future when you look at your report card or try to get an internship. It also probably isn’t the smartest choice to slack off when you are paying thousands of dollars for an education.

Don’t get me wrong though, college isn’t only about the academics. There are many ways to get involved both on and off campus and attending a couple of parties isn’t a bad idea.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last two months is that you have to learn to balance your time. I have had a lot of help learning to do that by attending many sessions about time management and how to be a successful freshman both with my Bottom Line counselor and with my freshman study skills group. For me, the previous techniques that I learned in high school no longer worked with my new life at school. I had to learn new ways to keep track of assignments, prepare for tests, and maintain a healthy schedule. I tried a few techniques shown to me by Bottom Line, like creating to-do lists and leaving little post-it reminders around my room and in my notebooks. I keep a calendar of the semester filled with all my syllabi information, due dates, and test dates. Therefore when there is an upcoming test I can study ahead of time. Those are some methods that worked for me, but learning how to manage academic excellence with a social life is something that each student has to use discretion about and figure out what works for him or her.

Adjusting to college can be overwhelming but I have learned that is not a process that I have to take head on by myself. There are numerous people that work on campus and other organizations that I can reach out to for help. When it comes to asking for help, I am reminded of a quote I once heard: There is nothing such as a dumb question — it’s only dumb to refrain from asking a question.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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