Dorm Diaries // What No One Tells You About College

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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There are a number of things no one tells you about college...just like everything else in life. Because some things you cannot tell, some things you cannot describe. Some things you cannot not even imagine and understand until you actually experience them - like heartbreak, living in another country, marriage, parenthood, etc.

People say that your college years are your best years. But in no way does that mean that your four years at college (or the four years following high school) are blithe, happy, and always full of sunshine.

What they really mean  - but don't say - is that your college years are the best formative years of your life.

Because never again will you have simultaneously such freedom, independence, and security. You are on your own, yet not having to work for your living full time. You make your own choices, but can still turn to your parents when you're confused about adult matters. You live in a secure bubble when often the most stressful things are tests, GPAs, or worrying about scholarships - not taxes, rent, or the possibility of getting fired.

And so they say that college is a blissful four years before true reality sets in. But I do not agree...in many ways, yes, college students do not have to worry about certain "real life" things.

Yet, there are so very many things about college that no one prepares you for. College is not a "get out of real-life problems" card. The most formative years can be the most restless, unsettling, and turbulent years of your life. I smile as I type this because I am aware of how cynical and omniscient I sound. And yet, I think most students would agree with me.

I photographed a private school's homecoming + senior night a while back...and at one point, I lowered my camera and simply watched the high school seniors  - so old and yet so, so young - advance amidst cheers with their parents beside them.

They were so happy. So excited. So innocent.

I laughed at myself during that moment for my cynicism, but I knew the truth. They were walking forward with confidence, ebullience, and enthusiasm towards the next part of their life. And they had no idea of the twists, heartbreak, confusion, despair, and struggles that awaited them.

When you are young and clear-eyed and standing on the threshold of your old world, the one that lies ahead does indeed seem to be your oyster.

But there are some things that no one tells you about college.

No one tells you that you might get poor grades and feel a crushing sense of defeat. No one tells you that work and classes and homework and extracurricular commitments pile up and leave you feeling stretched thin.

No one tells you that free time vanishes when you join college because suddenly everything is a choice that you make - you either choose to go out for a three hour dinner with friends on Thursday night or study all night (it's not until you reach college that you realize how much free time you actually had in high school).

No one tells you that you'll meet both nice guys who are actually nice and nice guys who sometimes turn out to be not very nice guys. No one tells you that you will inevitably gain at least a couple pounds just from eating dining hall food your freshman year. 

No one tells you that you might become incredibly homesick at the most random times, whether it's for your family, friends, or even the surroundings/seasons of your hometown. No one tells you that it can be absolutely terrifying to be on your own, surrounded by strangers. No one tells you that some of the best conversations happen at 2 or 4 a.m., sometimes in the hallway of your dorm. No one tells you that it's ok and even normal if you feel depressed your first semester...or at any point in college.

No one tells you that people will be incredibly different in their views on sex, drugs, and drinking - even if they're Christians and seem like good people. No one tells you that some of the most bitter arguments you and your best friend'll have will be over a boy - either the one you're dating or the one she's dating. 

No one tells you that you'll go through some semesters in a funk and even feel stupid. No one tells you that it's OKAY to go on a date with a guy and not become his girlfriend. No one tells you it's also okay to tell a guy 'no' if you don't want to go on a date with him.

No one tells you that you'll fall hard for someone, despite all your best efforts and previous proclamations. No one tells you how hard your emotions can mess with you. No one tells you that there'll be nights when you're sitting on the bathroom floor crying so hard you can't stop. 

No one tells you how unbelievably overwhelming it is to supposed to have your entire life planned out between the ages of 18-22. No one tells you that it's okay to change your major once, twice, three times. No one tells you it's okay to decide you don't want to go to medical school after all. No one tells you it's okay to be single in college, that it doesn't make you a freak.

No one tells you it's okay if you struggle with anxiety. No one tells you that while cliques exist to a lesser degree in college, there's still separate friend groups at times and you might not always feel like you belong. 

No one tells you that your self-esteem might take a hit because you're surrounded by so many different types of girls who are slender or curvy or thin or model-esque or look like Barbie. No one tells you that you can have fun with fashion + style in college because no one knows you so you can reinvent yourself as many times as you want.

No one tells you that friendships and relationships can end. No one tells you that it will suck for a long time. No one tells you that it's okay if you don't feel okay. No one tells you that you'll probably become close to an amazing senior each year and have to say the most painful goodbye year after year.

However, no one also tells you that you will learn again and again, and again just how strong you are. That you'll pick yourself up and stand up. That you'll laugh and love like you never have before. 

That you can have a drink (after 21!) and it's okay. That it's also okay if you don't like drinking and prefer mocktails. That you can have a hilarious, amazing time without partying or getting drunk. 

That you will learn new skills and finally realize sleep is more important than pulling all nighters. That new friendships will surprise you each year. That you will finally learn to put yourself first and make self-care a priority.

That if you orient Christ as the center of your life, everything else will fall into place. Life will still be challenging, but with His grace and peace, you will make it.

So now you know.

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Grace said...

This is so wonderful. I'm kinda choking up. :) Thank you so much for writing this, Grace! God bless you!

Anne Marie Schlueter said...

This is a fabulous post. Thank you, Grace!!

Samantha Joan said...

"So now you know." <3 Thank you for this, Grace.

Laura @ Life Is Beautiful said...

I just love you. Can you be my little sister?

Keep being you, with all your passion and insight.

Elizabeth said...

This post is wonderful. I am graduating in a few weeks and this is all so true. Thank you.

Emily Elizabeth said...

Fabulous post and it reminds me that as much as I love college I soo want this semester to be over! Because sometimes you just need a break!

Grace K. said...

So very welcome, fellow-Grace. <3

Grace K. said...

Most welcome, Sami - thank you for reading!

Grace K. said...

Thank YOU for reading, Anne Marie!

Grace K. said...

Of course! I've always wanted a big sister...and now I have you + Clare. :) xoxo

Grace K. said...

Aw, congratulations! You're where I'll be next year...best of luck to you in your post-undergrad endeavours, Elizabeth!

Grace K. said...

Agreed!! A break sounds absolutely lovely...thanks for reading, Emily!

Susanna said...

I love this post in its raw honesty and simple beauty. I will be heading to college in the fall and am encouraged to soak up every moment and experience. I am just slightly terrified, but I think what I gathered from this post is that college is not easy but it is amazing and important.

Carey Mooradian said...

This post is so incredibly raw and full of emotion. I can see you in it, homesick at times and joyous in others. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your soul.

Lauren said...

So much truth. I never expected to loose friendships or be hurt in college, or to find so many people who were so insecure that they hurt others to feel better about themselves. But also I never expected the growth that I've experienced from the many different stresses including those. I've changed so much over the past three years and it truly has been a wonderful time of life. Each year has been so unique and I'm pretty excited to see what senior year holds.
Thanks for writing this- I had tears. :)
-Lauren

Little 'ol Me said...

Can I please just adopt you as my older sister? I'm going off to college this fall all the way across the country and am absolutely terrified and excited and nervous and happy and this was just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. <3

Gabrielle said...

This was so beautifully honest, Grace! Thanks for sharing. :)

Allison DeWolf said...

This just about sums it all up. I wish I had read this 4 years ago when I was graduating high school! Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.

Grace K. said...

Yes, ma'am! The more sisters the better! And oh - I'm so excited for you! The first year of college is so special...drink it all up and remember to stay true to your values, but also don't be afraid to change + grow. It's such a wonderful experience. :) <3 Best of luck!

Grace K. said...

You are so welcome, Gabrielle - thank you so much for commenting!

Grace K. said...

Thanks, Allison - it's so crazy how much can happen in four years!

Grace K. said...

Much thanks, lovely. There was definitely a lot of me + heartfelt emotion in it. <3

Grace K. said...

Susanna, like most (if not all) good and worthwhile things in life, it IS terrifying. But then again, so is the idea of moving out of your home as an adult or traveling abroad, or committing to spend the rest of your life with someone, or becoming a parent of a human being...

The good things in life are absolutely frightening because they involve change and trust. Trust that we will be okay, that things will work out, that we won't be the same...but we'll somehow be better. College is going to be amazing and wonderful - just remember that life isn't perfect. That there'll be lots of good times and lots of bad times. And you'll be okay. <3

Grace K. said...

I know! No one ever tells you to be prepared for people to leave you or hurt you...but somehow, those are the people we learn the most from. We learn to be stronger, that our friends (or former ones) don't define us...that WE define ourselves.

I'm also excited for senior year - I imagine it holds even more surprises and challenges and blessings! <3

Hannah P said...

As a high school senior, college both intimidates me and excited me, as you wrote about here. I know that it won't be easy, but I also know that it will learn so much as I lean into God and discover new things. Thank you for the heads up about real-life college, though!

Stephanie Therese said...

Oh my goodness, Grace, literally all of this is so, so completely true. Great post. I think I'm going to share this post with my little sister, who's about to graduate high school and come join me at college in the fall (I'm still in disbelief that she's going to college!)... I want her to hear all this!
God bless, and good luck with the rest of your semester! <3