The Differences Between Your First Year in College and Your Last
It’ll only take four years to turn you from a nervous, tail-chasing spaz into a listless but selectively-focused slug.
By Amy Lukac, East Stroudsburg University
A new school year has just started.
The night before your first day of freshman year, your new pricey backpack is packed and ready for a long day of classes. Your pencils are sharpened, and your pens and highlighters are organized in their own little sections.
The alarm on your phone goes off and you hop out of bed and get in the shower. It’s your first day as a freshman in college and you’re ready to slay the day. You made a healthy, filling breakfast and dressed your absolute best. While in class, all of your attention is on the professor; you even turn your phone off.
Each notebook for each class has pages of neat notes, some even highlighted. After your first day of classes, you go over all of the notes recorded that day and set your eyes on that Dean’s List.
Flash forward four year. It’s the night before your first day of senior year. Your drawstring bag (or any bag that would fit the size of your books) is far from prepared. The books you’ve rented are still in the taped boxes and you think you might have a pen or two in your car.
When your alarm goes off, you hit snooze three times and finally drag yourself out of bed. You take a quick shower, throw your hair up in a messy bun, and choose the most comfortable pair of yoga pants you own, grab a cup of coffee and flee to class.
As a freshman, you need to look flawless. You’ll want to get invited to frat parties, have perfect attendance and are looking to fish out your perfect romantic catch.
Seniors however, no longer care what they look like. It’s an accomplishment to even show up to class; you’re too tired to go to parties so you watch Netflix, and relationships are way too much work to be worth it so you, once again, watch Netflix.
Papers and extra credit are always scary, but important. Freshman year, you’ll write more than needed and complete every extra credit opportunity. As a senior, you’ll be keeping an eye on that word count, filling the page with rambling that barely avoids sounding like nonsense, and the concept of extra credit is too absurd to take seriously.
I remember how stoked I was when freshman year started. A few weeks before, I went school-supply shopping and matched my folders to my notebooks. I organized my backpack the way I thought was necessary and I had my outfit picked out and ready.
Before each class I was super nervous. I wasn’t sure if my fellow peers would be jerks or if I was going to like the professor or not, and I made sure I was the first one in the classroom so I can pick a good seat.
Now, as a graduating senior, I look back and laugh at myself. My classes started on the 19th of this month, and I ran to Wal-Mart to grab some folders on the 18th at 8:00 p.m. My hair was a mess on the morning of my second day of classes so I just grabbed a beanie and went on with my day. I’m also pretty much on a first name basis with my professors.
I’m not sure why I got so nervous before my classes back then. I guess coming out of high school where cliques are created, you go into a new school with a wall up. It was nice to figure out that college is different and much better than high school. We are all paying to go to school so we’re all there for one reason, which dressing like you’re ready for a party every day is pretty unnecessary.
My favorite part about being a senior, other than the fact that I’m graduating, is listening to the freshies talk about their freshman lives. “
I think I’m still drunk,” says the amateur behind me in class. “Are you going to Kyle’s party?” Or, “I studied for four days on this test. I better have gotten an A.”
It’s cute really, and I look back on the days that I used to study that much or feel a little tipsy in the morning. Now, I’m lucky if I stay up past midnight and I usually only drink on special occasions. It’s too much work.
One of the biggest differences in my life since freshman year has been the number of friends. I started my first year of college with the same friends I had in high school. Then, when you start classes, you meet other people and add them to the list.
As the years go on, you drop some and gain some. I later realized that the reason why I’m no longer friends with my high school squad is because we went our separate ways, and my attention was solely on my college career. The cliché saying, “It’s better to have a few true friends than 100 shitty ones,” is a motto that I like to live by.
These differences add up to two reasons: anxiousness and maturing. When you’re a freshman, you’ve got four years to not have to worry about the “real world.”
Your refund money (or mom and dad) will cover your food and whatever you need while you’re in school, and you just need to focus on getting good grades and a social life.
As a senior, you realize that refund money is going to stop coming once you graduate, you should probably have a decent resume to land yourself a job, and your social life is with potential managers and employers on LinkedIn.