What to Expect as a College Student
I’m feeling a bit old as our wonderful, vibrant Class of 2019 settles in at Kenyon. Why the sudden onset of this sense of oldness? One explanation would be that the line “Back to school…” immediately makes me think of the 1995 movie Billy Madison — which came out before you high school students were born! Yipes. Have any of you even heard of this movie?
But also, NPR’s recent in-depth coverage of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has reminded me that it has been 10 years since I was a wee little college first-year.
Even after a decade, I am struck by the fact that for some reason I still remember my own first couple of weeks of college so vividly. And really this “some reason” is that those few weeks make up one of most exciting, tumultuous periods of my life thus far, as I settled in to a college and student experience that would leave me very changed.
And so, I charge YOU — the high school seniors out there in the interwebs reading this blog — to GET WICKED SUPER DUPER PSYCHED about college! I fear that at this stage you might be more nervous about finishing your summer work and the impending deadlines of college applications, but for a few moments let us take a breather (Literally. Please take a deep breath. Relax. Whew.) to talk about what might await you come this time next fall.
First off, I will admit with some embarrassment that the biggest thing that caught me off guard during my first fortnight at college was that I suddenly had to wear shoes. Yep. Shoes. Let’s just say that I’m not what you could call the “coolest kid,” and in high school I was able to rock an assortment of socks and sandals as my go-to daily footwear. Though my home state of Massachusetts certainly gets cold and snowy, come the first sign of wintery weather I would just swap my cotton socks and Birkenstocks out for fleece socks and waterproof Adidas sandals (which also doubled in function, serving me well on the pool deck during the winter swim season). In my senior year, when a teammate came back on spring break from her outdoorsy West Coast college, I was introduced to and immediately embraced the glory that is Crocs. Again, I emphasize that I’m not the coolest kid. So picture me then trying to pull off this style on a college campus as the still-violent remnants of Katrina struck my coastal school. Very quickly, I realized my holey, absorbent foot gear was not going to cut it. Apparently in college you get to walk more places outdoors! Freedom! There’s no door-to-door yellow bus service! So though Gray Clark ’17 already very helpfully addressed boots as a must-have for college, I say to you that rain boots in particular are a wise pre-college investment. And for the love of all that is good, please don’t follow in my footsteps (pun!) and show up to college with three sets of Crocs.
Young Jessamyn, rocking the Crocs.
Along with this newfound freedom to romp outside, gleefully muddying your new rain boots on Middle Path, you can anticipate an awesome change in your daily schedule. No longer will you be held to the sleep-deprived march from math to science to art to advisory and on and on between the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Instead YOU are the keeper of your daily schedule! And it will be a schedule with much more flexibility. At Kenyon, most students take four classes a semester which generally meet for a few hours a week. So think about it: your typical Tuesday might be Ecology from 9:40 – 11 a.m. followed by Topics in Social Stratification from 1:10 – 2:30 p.m. That’s it. It is then on you, not mom and dad or teachers or vice principal whatsherface, to fill your day. Which means you can take full advantage of exploring Kenyon’s 150+ student clubs and organizations! Or the Brown Family Environmental Center’s many gorgeous trails! Or heck, you could even sneak in a quick nap before your 1:10 p.m. class. It. Will. Be. Glorious.
Possibly the greatest aspect of your first couple of weeks of college will be the huge number of people you meet. In the world of small liberal arts colleges, you’ll probably not really know anyone going into your first semester. Yet, instead of this seeming even remotely scary, embrace this as an ideal opportunity for a fresh start. Remember, everyone else is in the same boat as you! All the other first-years (and even upperclassmen!) want to make friends, want to engage with you and want to get to know you better. Throw yourself into Orientation completely open-minded, not ready to judge or make stereotypical generalizations of who is who. Everyone else is also nervous, and many of your new classmates may be dealing with the same anxieties and uncertainties as you. Never think you are alone. It is always worth it to push yourself to open up and talk it out with those in your residence halls, in your classes, or in your choir or on your soccer team. You will connect genuinely and honestly and — guess what — you WILL make friends. Lots of them. I promise.
If I can somehow make life-long friends whilst sporting some sweet purple Crocs, you all seriously got this.