By Cathy Cheng (ENG’23)
Thinking back to my senior year of high school, I remember being extremely excited — but, at the same time, so incredibly nervous — about what college would be like. I spent my summer browsing Pinterest for dorm ideas, researching study hacks, scrolling through social media, and taking more Buzzfeed quizzes than I care to admit…
But ultimately, even with all of that planning, my college experience was nothing like I had expected. So, to all of the high school seniors — or anyone else who’s curious! — here are some of the major differences I’ve noticed between my high school and college experiences:
1. Dorm Life
One of the biggest changes for me in college was dorm life. Even as someone who’s shared a room with their older sister for their entire life, I found it to be such a strange experience. For many of us, this may be the first time we’re living on our own. And while there certainly will be challenges along the way, take this as an opportunity to meet new people and also learn more about your own preferences!
2. Social Life
When it comes time to commit to colleges, chances are that you and your friends will be heading off to different places. While it can be difficult to adjust in your first few weeks and make new friends, just know that it does take time. But I’ve found that there many more opportunities to meet others in college, especially on an urban campus at a large university like BU. Be open to new experiences, but also make sure you’re keeping in touch with old friends!
The summer before my first semester at BU, as I was planning out my schedule, I remember being so thrilled about just how much I had in my day. Everything had worked out perfectly: I was out of class by practically 1pm every day!
I was in for a wake-up call, however, when I met with my advisor: I hadn’t included a single discussion or lab.
Even after accounting for any discussions or labs, there are still some other differences. At my high school, students typically took 7-8 classes a semester. In college, that number falls to 4-6. And you have much greater freedom in designing your college schedule — assuming your classes don’t fill up! Pro tips for planning your first schedule: don’t forget discussions/labs, take into account how far your classes are from each other on campus, and don’t forget to save time for lunch!
4. Classes and Assignments
Closely related to schedules are your classes and assignments. In most courses, assignments are usually due once a week. While that may sound like a relief, these are not designed to be completed the night before. So plan ahead!
And unlike at many high schools, there are rarely classroom copies of textbooks which can be rented out each semester. With 4-6 classes a semester, textbook costs can add up. Look into alternatives to buying textbooks new!
Finally, midterms aren’t actually…mid-term. Instead, many courses plan for 2-3 “midterms” (or projects) alongside a final.
Now, that might sound like a lot at this point. And it can be. But at the same time, there are many resources that you have access to as a college student. On the academic/career side, you have your faculty advisor at your college (in addition to a peer mentor and Kilachand advisor at KHC!), office hours, the Center for Career Development, and career fairs. On the recreational side, you have access to the Charles River and the Fitness and Recreation Center! And there are plenty of other resources as well — be sure to check out the very first post on this blog!
One of my most intriguing memories is going with a friend to one of the workshops hosted by the Center for Career Development on professional dinner etiquette. If you ever get the chance, RSVP for free food and the chance to learn how to hold your fork…the right way.
I’ll end it off on a high note!
In college, you can expect immense independence. While it can be easy to get stuck on the campus bubble, put yourself out there and explore the city! And make sure that you take advantage of all of the opportunities that you’ll have in these next four years!
Ultimately, no amount of reading or hearing about other people’s experiences can truly prepare you. Just remember: everyone is coming into college for the first time. It takes time to figure things out. But at the end of the day, remember to have some fun!