All college grads remember the exact moment. Oftentimes it happened on the first day of freshman year, right when our moms and dads were pulling away in the family car, all misty-eyed to be leaving their baby to face the Big World.
We remember it all too well. The smile slowly cracked on our faces as that word repeated in our heads, softly at first but growing louder, the thump-thump-thump of a giant drum ushering the beginning of a brave new era…
Oh man, it felt good. But there’s an upside to freedom, and there’s a downside. The upside is clear: pizza, whenever you want it. Obviously.
The downside is that despite your independence, college is a journey that nobody can travel alone. You’ll fight it at first—“Hey man! I got this. I can totally juggle four courses, three activities, a part-time job, AND a social life. Who needs sleep?!”
Then one night at 4am, you flip on The Avengers, and suddenly something about Loki’s badass speech just hits you:
“It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled.”
You begin to think“He’s right! Freedom is my enemy. What am I doing with myself?! I miss those high school days where everybody told me what to do!”
Okay, chill out. It’s just a movie, and you’re coming down from a 17-espresso major buzz.
All kidding aside, this is a serious moment. College is about freedom, but it’s also about recognizing your limits. You can’t do it by yourself. Just like in life, you’ll depend on others for help—whether it’s a teaching assistant coaching you through a problem set, or a friend or professional counseling you through an emotional crisis.
Thankfully, colleges recognize that your four years won’t always be easy, so they’ve organized an array of resources to assist you wherever and whenever you need it most.
Talk To Your Advisors
At some schools, you’ll be assigned an academic advisor during your freshman year. At other schools, you may have to seek them out. Either way, they’re an invaluable resource in navigating the complex world of college curricula. They’ll provide advice on things like what courses to take if you’re interested in more than one major, when/how to fulfill certain requirements, and how to handle basic tasks like registration.
Stop By Your Professors’ Office Hours
These are easily one of the greatest but most underutilized resources in college. Oftentimes, a professor of a large lecture class will literally open his/her office doors for a few hours a week, allowing students to come in, ask questions, and engage in conversation. Unfortunately, many students either feel intimidated by professors or believe time spent one-on-one with them would be boring or useless. Both assumptions are wrong, and professors do what they do precisely because they love the interactions inherent in academia, whether it’s with colleagues or students.
Take Advantage Of On-Campus Tutoring
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in over your head in a certain class, and that’s okay. Even if you were valedictorian of your high school, chances are you’re going to struggle with at least one course in college. Luckily, there are a variety of options for on-campus tutoring, although they vary from school to school. You might find help within a department via a teaching assistant or graduate student. You could receive tutoring from fellow students who are taking higher-level courses within the same subject or major. Or your school might have volunteer tutoring organizations, run by magnanimous students devoted to helping classmates make the grade.
Frequent Your School’s Writing Center(s)
These are another of the greatest campus resources that are often underutilized. Writing in college—papers, essays, lab reports, theses, and everything in between—is a lot different than high school. Gone are the days of the five-paragraph basic structure. Academic writing is complex, and there’s a steep learning curve even for the most gifted of scribes. Writing centers exist to help you make the transition from high school to college writing, but their aid doesn’t stop there. They will help you throughout your college career, providing invaluable feedback and strategy, beefing up your writing skills where they need it most.
Take Care Of Yourself With On-Campus Health Resources
Did you know that 10 out of 10 college students live in a human body that pumps blood and is susceptible to infectious agents like viruses and bacteria? Pretty shocking statistic, right? What’s even more shocking is how many students don’t turn to their school’s health resources when they need it most. Sometimes that nagging little cold that’s lasted for two months is something more serious! Even when you’re healthy, you should go for wellness checkups every so often, since there’s value in preventative care. Also, your school’s health center likely provides free or low-cost mental health care. Widespread problems like depression and anxiety should be taken seriously and treated, as they can have a detrimental effect on your quality of life and even physical health during college.
Be Aware Of Hotlines & Crisis Centers
It’s a tough fact for many universities to admit, but there’s some bad stuff that happens on college campuses, even at the highest ranked and so-called safest schools in America. As wonderfully transformative as college life can be, it can also be equally dark. The transition from teenager to adult is certainly not an easy one, and problems like sexual abuse and suicide are not uncommon on campuses. For those who have been affected by sexual abuse or are considering suicide (or know someone who is), there are resources around to help, and they make their presence known, since finding help for serious problems ought to be easy. Whether it’s a phone/email/text hotline or a 24-hour walk-in crisis center, students can receive confidential help from both professionals and their peers, no questions asked. Sometimes you need someone to talk to or maybe you just want to get away, and there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it most.
Now comes the tricky part: balancing your newfound freedom and independence with the knowledge that from time to time, you’re going to need some support. We know it can bruise the ego to admit that you’re not perfect. But hey, neither are The Avengers.
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!