If you have a child going off to college in the near future, you’ve probably already started thinking about the “worst” that can happen, those years unfolding like a drawn-out, nightmarish episode of The Jersey Shore meets Animal House with a splash of Cops. Well, I have some good news . . . college isn’t as scary as you might think! Despite what you may have heard from your neighbor or seen on TV, there are some myths about college that I hope to debunk to give you some peace of mind about your child’s future:
Myth #1: College is much harder than high school.
Okay, so this one might stretch the definition of “myth,” but it bears mentioning. Yes, college will likely be more academically challenging than high school for your student. Not only that, they’ll probably have more work overall. However, what students don't realize is how much free time outside of class they will actually have to get it done. And they have access to resources like academic centers with free tutoring and even professors’ office hours when they need extra help. So even though your student may feel overwhelmed with work, they actually have more free time in which to get it done and more help along the way—provided they are responsible and proactive, of course. That doesn't sound so bad, now does it?
Myth #2: Students need to choose a major right away.
Don't be too worried if your student has no idea what to major in during the application process and even after arriving on campus. They aren’t alone, not by a long shot. Enrolling undecided is generally a lot safer than picking a major just to have one, which often leads to changing majors, perhaps multiple times, which can mean losing previous credits completed along the way, which can lead to more time and money spent pursuing that degree! Being undecided is not frowned upon. Students just need to complete pre-requisite classes first to get a sense of what they might be interested in, and as long as they declare a major before junior year, things should run smoothly.
Myth #3: Students should have a car on campus.
Although it may seem practical to have a car on campus, it is not something that your student necessarily needs. If your student currently has a job several miles from the school, a car will be advantageous, but luckily, most colleges offer jobs right on campus that are within walking distance from the dorms. And as far as weekends go, most campuses are busy with events that are easily accessible via public transportation, so your student should always have something to do. They might even have a bike-borrowing program! Not to mention, not having a car will save money on gas, maintenance, and a possible parking permit. (This is a good topic to ask about early on, perhaps during a campus visit; if the vast majority of students have and use a campus car, it might be worth discussing. If not, your student can feel secure in not bringing one!)
Myth #4: College life is exactly like what you see on TV.
We have all seen our fair share of movies and TV shows that don't exactly paint college life in the best light. It may seem like college students are best known for drinking and frat parties, but the truth is, not all colleges are like an episode of Greek. In fact, most schools monitor parties pretty carefully. For example, the school I attended required all parties on campus to be registered with student life. Everyone attending the party had to be at least 21 years of age and drinking games were prohibited. I am not saying that all schools will have similar rules, but I want to stress that not all fun on campus is going to be filled with underage binge drinking. Colleges do their best to make sure there are always events happening on campus to keep students busy and out of trouble. That being said, keep in mind that your student may be exposed to underage and/or binge drinking, and discussing safety tips is always helpful.
Myth #5: Little-known colleges and universities aren’t very good.
Some of the best colleges and universities in the United States go under the radar. Try not to discount a school for your student just because you have never heard its name. Because athletics play a big role in college recognition, the more well-known schools are often those big Division I universities with the good football team. Make sure your student chooses a school for the right reasons and not just because of its popularity. Help your student conduct a thorough, thoughtful college search to discover those colleges you never heard of. You never know, you could find a perfect match!