When most students think of college, they become giddy with the excitement of finally embarking on their journey through “grown-up” life. They love the idea of forging their own path, commanding their own time, all while finding themselves and their purpose on the way to adulthood.
I too have been dreaming of these things for years. We are all curious about the world outside our hometowns, beyond the comfort and safety of living with our parents. We long to search what lies far past our towns, our cities, our state, our country, or even our Earth.
College is the ultimate thrill at this point in our lives. Adulthood is beyond the precipice, and we are standing on the edge looking into our future. We feel prepared, as though we can do anything, as though we are invincible. However, we are still young, in many ways still children. Both physically and mentally, our brains and bodies are still developing (changes that won’t cease until around age 25!).
As with any great adventure, there are a variety of fears that students have about their college journey. They fear the inability to fund their education. They fear the independence, and they fear not being accepted. Although these fears may rock our confidence in the college search and while on campus, we still find ways to carry on. We seek guidance from our counselors, parents, and friends. We find support in the people closest to us, because their experience gives us wisdom. My fellow students and I have experienced many fears about college, and we have sought advice from those who can help. I will share their advice with you.
Fear and stress
I know from experience that fear brings stress, and with stress often comes paralyses. When I found myself in that kind of stressful place, my favorite person in the entire world would grab me by the shoulder, look me dead in the face and simply say, "Calm down." Even if you don’t have such a straightforward friend in your life, remember that deep breaths go along way. Take a moment to calm yourself.
Not too long ago, I was walking in my neighborhood with a classmate, and she ended up having a panic attack about college. She was afraid that her SAT scores would not allow her to get into the college she's always dreamt of. She was afraid she wouldn't be able to pay for it. So I looked her square in the eyes, and you could guess what I told her. As we stood in the middle of downtown with the hustle and bustle of people all around us, she seemed a bit frazzled, and I could tell I had given her a shock. I then proceeded to tell her that she is brilliant, so her scores will be great. Financial aid and scholarships will come eventually. I told her that college will be the beginning to the rest of her life. But at that moment, she needed to calm down. Sometimes we need someone to help us come back to reality, to say, “Yes, the unknown is frightening but giving into fear it does not change the fact.” We must simply breathe and tell ourselves to "calm down."
Fear and letting go
My greatest fear about my college adventure is the process. How will colleges know I'm different? What will allow me stand out amongst the waves of SAT scores, high school transcripts, and entrance essays? But a teacher of mine told me not to worry about it. I looked at him as if he had two heads. He then went on to explain that what sets you apart is doing what you love to do. If you’re an artist, make art. If you're a musician, make music. If you are a thinker, ponder upon thoughts that will change the world. Then you won't seem like anyone else. His advice was to go through my high school career doing my absolute best, so when the admission committee picks up my application, I won't just be applicant 2468; I'll be the girl who did what she cared about in a way that benefited everyone around her. And that’s my advice to you.
Nelson Mandela once said, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” The journey to college isn't to be feared; it’s to be appreciated. It is a cathartic feeling to let go. So be fearless. Do not be afraid of your future—embrace it.