I might sound a bit dramatic, but I don’t care. College is hard. Your twenties are hard. Life as a young adult is HARD. Especially in today’s day and age. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard an elder say to you “your twenties are the best years of your life” & “these next 4 years will be the most fun part of your life”. Yeah, me too. I’ve heard that countless times and you know what, THEY’RE LYING. Okay, that is a bit dramatic. Yeah, college is fun. Yes, I’m grateful to not be dealing with “real adult worries” just yet. But that doesn’t mean college is all rainbows and butterflies and adventures and drunken shenanigans. It can be extremely beneficial and utterly detrimental to the state of your mental health all at the same time.
I’m gonna hit you with something REAL for a sec, so before you freak, just hear me out. Johanna Jarcho, Ph.D., who studies mental illnesses in the brain at the National Institute of Mental Health, did an interview with Vice (if you want to read the full articles click here) and stated that:
Yeah, the vast majority of mental health disorders do emerge during one's adolescence or early 20s. If you're going to have an anxiety disorder as an adult, there's a 90% chance that you'll have had it as an adolescent. Basically, you're not going to develop an anxiety disorder as an adult. You're going to develop it as a kid and then it'll carry through to adulthood. Emerging research suggests that this is because adolescence is a time when the brain is changing to a great degree. We once thought that the brain didn't change that much after earlier childhood, but what we've seen is that the brain continues to undergo really profound changes up until your early 20s. It's still quite malleable, so being exposed to different influences in your social environment can really have a profound impact on the way that your brain continues to develop.
In summation, if there’s ever a time for you to develop a mental illness or experience anything relating to anxiety/depression/etc. It is now. In your twenties. The best years of your life. Yay! Gooooooood times.
I’m not writing this to scare you. I’m not writing this to tell you to prepare for the worse. I’m writing this to make you aware. To let you know, before you get to college and experience lows and think WHAT the HECKIN BOB is going on, that THAT is normal. Not just normal, but it WILL happen because we are still developing as individuals.
I bought into the idea that college is going to be the best time of my life. Do you want me to count all of the times that I LEGITIMATELY thought about dropping out and becoming a flight attendant or moving back home or doing literally anything else? Because I can’t. There were more than a handful, let's just say that. College WILL be freaking amazing. You will meet so many people, create beautiful memories, and find out who you are and what you want to do with your life. BUT nothing beautiful ever happens without hardship, struggles, and lows in life. And I wish knew that before my freshman year.
Because I’m bitter that no one let me know WHAT WAS UP ON THE REAL, I’m going to let you know what, in fact is up. On the real. I asked some of my good friends from Boulder, my previous art school, and others from colleges around the country what they wish they knew before going to college, so that you can be prepared and aware stepping onto campus in the Fall. And this isn’t your bullshit, “the dining hall sucks” “don’t skip class” “don’t procrastinate” kind of advice. So, listen up, take notes-- actually, screenshot (bc wut is paper), and read what my friends wish they knew before starting college:
No one really cares if you don’t go to that party. Literally. so don’t waste so much time partying because there is more to it than the social aspect. -Kathleen Lenarz // Ave Maria University
I think it's difficult because I caME into college with high hopes. Everyone told me it was the best four years of their lives, so that's what I was expecting. And don't get me wrong, it is starting to become phenomenal. The best four years is really in my horizon. But I wish someone told me that it takes time. Really, truly college starts to become those four amazing years that everyone looks back on, but you gotta wait a bit for it starts to get good. -Jordan Eckes (@jordan_eckes) // University of colorado BOulder
It IS indeed possible to stay healthy and fit in college if you want to. With a good life balance, you can avoid the freshman 15. -Abby Harley (@abbyharley_) // AUBURN UNIVERSITY
The first thing that comes to my mind is to not tailor what you are doing based on what the other “cool” people are doing. Don’t obsess on the cool spots to be, how much others are going out, etc. Focus on yourself and do what truly makes you happy even if it doesn’t align with the status quo. When you focus on yourself and the activities you like, then you will surround yourself with other people who can put value in your life and take you higher -Taylor Scheuerle (@tscheuerle) / FSU ALUM
Every mistake I’ve made has been beneficial for me. So know that it’s ok to fuck up. -Hannah Mackinnon (@hannahmackinnon) // University of colorado BOulder
I guess one thing I wish I knew was that college isn’t always going to be that different from high school. You're still going to have cliquey people and groups everywhere you go in life and you might feel alone or a little lost at times, but don’t give up. Be open to finding your place and people, and be kind to everyone along the way. -Francie Hutcheson (@fancyfrancie__) // SCAD
The off the field moments with teammates is what you will remember most. Before, I was so focused on the minutes played, goals scored, better fitness test results; but when leaving college, I remember the late night airport bonding games, the sing along a on the bus, the crazy dancing in the locker room the most. Don't get too caught up in the sport and remember what makes it fun. -Jordyn Listro (@jordynlistro) // USF ALUM
You will meet the people that you truly connect with by doing the things you love, not necessarily by going out to party all the time. So it’s important to spend time on activities that you’ve always loved and make sure to try new ones. You’ll be happier with the people you meet if you stay true to yourself because it’s not high school anymore, popularity means nothing here. -Chase bollinG (@chasebolling) // University of COlorado Boulder
For whatever reason I came to college clinging, very very tightly, to this notion that because I was coming to college for a fresh start I needed to live a life opposite from my one in high school. I had been involved in sports really seriously my whole life, and for most of high school thought I’d be playing something competitively in college. Ultimately I didn’t end up doing that, and because I felt this need to live so differently than I did as the ‘old me’, anything that could be labeled athletic I avoided. This theme carried over to every aspect of my life, with the way I ate, the music I listened to, how often I would party, and how much effort I put into my classes. I was living in opposition to what I knew before; assuming there were only two ways in every ‘category’ of life to either express myself or energize myself. I obviously had to figure out my in-betweens, which at the time was something I didn’t know existed. So, I wish I had known that we all have our own in-betweens! I’ve realized that to be the me I am now doesn’t mean I need to be the opposite of the me I was when I was in high school back in North Carolina.I can be the active person I realized I’ve always been without playing competitive sports. I can put all the energy I want into classes one day, and zero the next if that’s what I think I need to do. I can listen to new music amongst the old, and I can go out and have myself a night when I want to... you get the gist... I love me some in-betweens. I wish I had known that life isn’t black & white, but is whatever color you’d like it to be. -Izzy Sofio (@icsofio) // University of colorado BOulder
I wish I knew how fast it went, how you need to enjoy everyday, and do whatever you want. Because four years goes by so fast! -Cristian DiMarco (@cristian_dimarco) // USF ALUM
I wish I knew 1. How much alcohol I'd consume 2. How important it is to know how to cook. 3. To research how much rent costs at each school you get into. 4. To be careful how you choose your roommate. and 5. To save your money. -Jack Bolgard (@jackbolgard) // University of colorado Boulder
Changing your major or changing schools freshmen year is more common than you think. Not every decision needs to be concrete! -Julia Wool (@julia__wool) // Ave Maria UNiversity
I think one thing I wish I would have known before college is how everyones course in college can be different. There is this a stigma that once you graduate high school in 4 years that your expected to go to college within the next 4 years, and have a very linear path towards your college degree. Everyone has their own path and everyones path looks different. Being a transfer and taking some time off I thought that I had failed but in fact I had learned so much about myself and life. I think the main point I’m trying to get at is that every person is different and we can’t impose certain standards to every person. -Graciela Robertson (@robertsongraciela) // University of colorado Boulder
I would say not to get romantically attached to the first person who shows interest in you lmao...but also the same with not getting attached to the first friends you meet, being open to everyone and not settling in too quickly. I became friends with a lot of older people very quickly as a freshman instead of people my own age and now they’re all graduated or graduating and I’m left like... -Julia Ernst (@juliawensleyyogi) // SCAD
Big thank you to all of my lovely friends for giving me their input and advice for this blog post! And to all the incoming freshmen, have the time of your life & stay true to you.