What I’ve Learned in Post-Secondary School
By Sarah Stock
What have I learned in my first year of college? If your professor says “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” and “green plants are green” using really fancy words, apparently it counts as a biology lecture. Run-on sentences are still dreadful past the high school level, and people should not be using them but somehow they still manage to do so – and it still gives me a migraine. Library call numbers can get confusing but the alphabet does not, I repeat, does not change − no, you can not put an HQ in with the M’s. Free meals, or even free cookies, are much harder to come by than one might think considering the 30k yearly tuition. What else is there to know?
It turns out, what I’ve really learned this year is that I came to college having absolutely no idea what I was getting into. As a high school student, I imagined my college self sitting at the window table of a dimly lit café with my big group of super-close, new college friends. All my homework would get done between my classes and I would have my nights free to sip lattes and shoot the breeze. This idea was perpetuated by the parroting of “don’t worry, it’s nothing like high school” by every adult that got the chance. Do not get me wrong, college is fantastic and I have enjoyed most of my experience thus far, but in some ways, it is a magnification of the things people hated in high school.
In a perfect world, the drama would disappear, the cliques would dissolve, and life would be filled with maturity-unicorns frolicking in happy-friendship-sunshine. There is just one little problem: people are jerks. The people who caused problems in high school have regrettably failed to see the error of their ways after setting foot on campus. If anything, they have only catalyzed dramatic tendencies. It does not help that dorms seem to be just the right kind of cramped cesspools to amplitude minor conflicts.
It is incredibly naive to expect people to change over the course of one summer and even more so to think a gaggle of hormonal teenagers will get along when packed together in close quarters 24/7. Friendships will be destroyed, hearts will be pulverized, and passive-aggressive psychological warfare will ensue. On the bright side, the college setting provides plenty of places where you can hide in solitude and count to ten under your breath until you have once more regained your sanity.
If it were also that easy to escape homework, maybe there would not be so many stressed friendships in the first place. It is completely possible to simply not turn in assignments, but not if you feel like graduating. Procrastination seemed to be everyone’s best friend in high school, where it was completely possible to ace a test you crammed for during your five minute passing time. Sure, you can go ahead and try that strategy here, but college is sneaky. Before you know it, that six page paper is put on the back burner for the two exams you are supposed to study for. Meanwhile, you are killing way more time than you should staring off into space or rapid-refreshing social media apps.
As someone who has long believed there is no point in starting an assignment unless it is due the next day, it pains me to admit that college is not a place for last-minute effort. Procrastination was a bad idea in high school, albeit one that most students chose anyway. In college, it is just plain stupid. Unless, of course, you enjoy a good panic-induced mental breakdown followed by a web of lies as you find yourself skipping classes to catch up − not that I would know or anything.
Underneath all of these angsty, cynical complaints lies my real lesson. Reality vs. expectations and drama and the repercussions of laziness are not “high school problems” and they are not “college problems” either. You see, what I have really learned from my first year of college is that college is not one big party in a coffee shop; people still suck, and the idea of procrastination just gets worse as you go along, but those are all facts of life you cannot dwell on. The best thing you can do − the only thing you can do − is accept them, and focus your energy on something more worthwhile. Whether that something for you is music or just sitting outside waiting for an albino squirrel to prance across the Quad. You play Wonderwall on your guitar, you find that albino squirrel, and you make the best of your college experience because, after all, that is all you really can do.