Some students come to school feeling perfectly prepared. Others arrive totally overwhelmed. But both types are in for a couple of surprises, because college is not always what you expect—and you don't always know yourself as well as you think you do.
Here are five things I wish I hadn't gotten rid of when I graduated from high school.
1. Security Blankets
After leaving home, I began to believe I needed to be self-sufficient. I slipped into thinking that growing up meant putting aside the comforts of childhood. Right before coming to Patrick Henry College, I thought I needed to pull a Toy Story 3 and donate all my childhood memories in order to start brand new and begin to stand up on my own.
Don't feel like you need to do that. It's not necessary. Don't give up on the little items that bring you joy, whether it's a book, a poster, a hobby, a stuffed animal, or a literal blanket. Don't compromise your passions simply because they seem "childish."
2. Advice From My Parents
In another attempt to achieve self-sufficiency, I tried to avoid calling my parents for advice. When my grades started slipping and I didn't make strong friendships as quickly as I had hoped, my first thought wasn't to call my mom. I thought that doing so would be fruitless. If I called her even just to talk, I thought I would fail the challenges set before me.
I eventually realized that my parents are some of my best allies. They know me better than anyone else, and they're always glad to help. They know how much I should pay for carrots at the grocery store and when my last dentist appointment was. Because they have years of experience, they can understand what I'm going through and offer advice on dealing with even the most difficult of situations.
3. Friends From Home
Moving away from home makes it hard to keep in contact with everyone. It doesn't matter if you're 15 minutes or 1,500 miles from home, staying in contact with the people from your past as you get older is difficult. It's difficult enough to keep your parents up to date—you might as well forget about trying to keep your friends from home in the loop, right?
That's what I thought. I can count on one hand the number of times that I reached out to friends from home while I was in my freshman year of college.
Going home that summer, I realized what I had lost by failing to keep in touch with my relationships from home. Fortunately, being home that summer gave me the opportunity to reunite with my high school buddies. Going forward, I refused to let them go, and it makes going home that much richer. I learned that my childhood isn't bittersweet; it's just sweet, because my friends and I have been intentional about keeping those childhood friendships alive.
One of the most freeing things about college is being able to set your own bedtime. Sure, my parents stopped making me go to bed years ago, but there was an unsaid expectation when I lived at home. Before going to bed herself, my mom would nudge me gently and suggest I go to bed at a specific time. In college, there was no more expectation. I could go to bed whenever I wanted. That usually meant I went to bed around 3 a.m., even though I had classes at 8 a.m. I didn't realize how thoroughly that affected my life. It made finishing school work difficult, it made paying attention in class difficult, and it made staying healthy difficult. Choosing my own bedtime was freeing, but going to bed so late was more binding than having parents to tell me to go to bed.
We don't usually realize how much we need sleep until we finally get a proper night's worth and realize how big the difference really is. Start good sleep habits early. Prioritize the discipline of going to bed and getting up at reasonable times. You will appreciate how much healthier you feel in the long run.
PHC tends to attract pretty talented kids. We're pretty smart, pretty good at thinking, speaking, pretty good at writing, or pretty good at what we set our minds to.
When we were freshman, it was easy to think we were the smartest people around. I came in with my pride. I arrived at PHC thinking I was better than other freshmen in one respect or another—and we all do it at times whether we admit it to ourselves or not.
Leave that at home. Scratch pride off your packing list and pencil in humility, because you'll need it. You'll need it to make friends, you'll need it to succeed in class, and you'll need it to grow in your relationship with Christ.
Learn more about what to expect at New Student Orientation.