Like every other thing in life, college, too, comes with baggage. The more you try to unpack the baggage, the more you have to deal with. On a typical Friday night, you will be at your room, studying for a test on Tuesday, while you hear your friends party outside. You will maybe be tempted to join the clan or be upset that they didn’t invite you in the first place. You will go back to your work, read a few paragraphs, not understand and think: “Did the professor cover this in class or was I asleep because I had to pull an all-nighter for another class?” Amidst trying to pass your classes – if not ace them, trying to meet a lot of people, trying to get accustomed to a new environment, trying to understand being away from family, you will see that you are also trying to understand yourself as a young adult.
In order to go to your dream school or -for that matter- a school, you will find yourself participating in a system that not only does not make sense but also takes the sense out of you. You will wait until the day you wake up and realize the deed is done: you are free. You will enter the territory of your university and think that you are invincible. After a while, you slowly but surely will see that you might have been wrong. College comes as a surprise at a time when you think that nothing can challenge you as much as high school – especially after a year (or more) of SATs, APs, ACTs or many other capitalized acronyms that claim to exist to evaluate your capabilities.
Although high school’s consequences seem more substantial, the academic structure of college definitely ends up being more demanding than high school. In college, you have to adapt to different disciplines and professors who have a lot of expectations since they perceive you as an “adult” who has declared a devotion to receiving higher education. You might feel excited to take the lead and delve into the world of college, but after a taxing year in high school, you might barely find the energy to do so.
According to the “First-Year College Experience” survey conducted by the JED Foundation and Jordan Porco Foundation, college students mostly reflect on their first year as “an experience lacking emotional preparation”. How so? 60% of students feel that they have carried all the stress from high school to college. While frantically preparing for the SATs, they claim to have overlooked the importance of being emotionally prepared for a new chapter in their lives. Although some of them sought help at college, 50% claimed their access to emotional support was not satisfactory – given that nearly 1 in 5 students coming into college are already being treated for/diagnosed with depression and anxiety. For many freshmen, the circumstances lead them to poor academic performance, and even worse, the need to consume alcohol and drugs. 30% of the students admitted to regular use of drugs and/or alcohol while emphasizing a correlational increase in stress, anxiety, depression and anger.
Inspired by the analytics of being a college freshman, Brain World Magazine decided to conduct its own questionnaire to hear what current upperclassmen or former college students have to say about their freshman-year experience. Even though some claim to have considered taking a gap year, they also added that they eventually did not, either because of a “fear of missing out (FOMO)” or financial concerns. Some of the people suffering from FOMO felt peer-pressured into not taking a gap year before college and some just wanted to “get it [college] over with”. As opposed to the common trend of not taking a gap year, one surveyee claimed to have taken a gap year and saw significant benefits.
So, what do we do with this data? Almost 50% of Brain World’s surveyees said their favorite year in college was their senior year. Does that mean the years before should go to waste – specifically the freshman year? Not exactly so. People’s favorite besides senior year was actually the freshman year. Many described their freshman year as a time for starting a new life, making new friends, feeling hopeful and recognizing endless possibilities. Seeing this year as a source of opportunities may be tough, especially after a year of constant stress, but hearing some advice from peers could actually present new ways to finding purpose and strength.
“Cultivate a close group of best friends, and maintain these friendships throughout your four years. And never give up!”
“Go explore yourselves! Obtain base GPA for your career/academic goals and destroy every status quo!”
“Try and relax. Don’t try to be everything at once. Sometimes you just need a night/day off!”
“Make mistakes. Don’t forget that the greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall”.
“You will change, but you will figure it out; just be patient!”
Is peer advice enough? Definitely not. A lot falls on students as well as school administrations. Suicide rates in colleges around the U.S. are undeniably significant – simply by virtue of existence. Young minds constantly feel under pressure and cannot find the support that they need, worrying about being labeled mentally unstable in a social and academic environment. Many schools discourage its students to ask for help as individuals with suicidal tendencies are usually asked to take at least a year off. Administrations, by evading any responsibility for a future incident, let so much potential go to waste without actually trying to treat its students looking for help. At the end of the day, instead of ignoring a student’s struggle, everybody has to remember that they were once a college student, too, and it was not easy.
By Deniz Cam