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For starters, you don’t dread it anymore.

Back to school is just about every kid’s least favorite time of year, but, once they reach college, many students start to feel differently about returning.

The fact that higher education is voluntary and you get to tailor your area of study to fit your interests definitely helps ease the pain of returning to classes. The emotions surrounding college are tricky, because it’s more than just another school, it’s an entire station in life and, of course, that means everything changes, including you.

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Here are the seven ways that going back to school for college is different from, and better than, going to back to school in high school.

1. You Actually Want to Go Back

This is the first and most obvious one, but it’s also the biggest difference. When it comes time to return to college, you might even try to get back early, if for no other reason than that you want to be back with your college friends, in your own space and have time to enjoy the brief period of freedom that exists between returning to your college residence and starting classed.

Plus, you’ll want to go back even more if you’re done with general education classes. Even if you still have GEs, you’ll still be excited for school to start for other reasons, like getting to see your friends, taking new classes, meeting new professors or just tired of being at home. But no matter what your explanation for wanting to return is, you’re probably more excited for the start of a new school year than you were before college.

2. You’re More Excited to See Your Friends

Not that you weren’t happy to see the squad in high school, but in college it’s different, because the squad might be scattered across the country, or even the globe.

When you’re in high school, your campus is only a short drive away, which means that your friends don’t live far away either. But, summer during college means that your nearest friend may be hours away or in another state, and you don’t always have the time or gas money to see them. However, once the year begins, they may be just a short walk away from your dorm, and even if your buddies are commuters, they won’t be too far from school.

3. You Have More Freedom

You’re in a dorm with other people your age, so no one in your house has authority over you. The only rules are common courtesy, and the only people who can discipline you are the RAs and RDs. Plus, your autonomy goes even further than your living situation.

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Back in high school, teachers would call your parents if you got a bad grade, and then you’d get lectured/grounded/yelled at/interrogated by your parents. In college, your parents won’t know if you fail a test; your grade is your business and no one else’s, unless you decide otherwise. Plus, depending on your campus rules, you won’t have a curfew either.

4. You Have More Responsibility

You’ve heard the old saying, “With more freedom comes more responsibility.” Well guess what, that saying applies to college.

Your parents don’t get notified when you fail an assignment, but that also means that it’s your job to maintain your grades, and no one else’s. You’ll also have to learn time management; sure you can go to bed at 3 a.m. every night, but you’ll have to face the consequences. Sometimes, all of this increased responsibility may make you miss your parents.

5. You Begin to See “Your” House as Your Parents’ House

When you’re living in a dorm for the majority of the year, school becomes your second home. Referring to the dorms as home is incredibly common among university students.

So naturally, when you go back to your family home, things just aren’t the same. You go into your old room and see that no one’s been in it since you left, the cabinets aren’t stocked with foods you like and, admit it, the house is probably cleaner than you left it, too. As you’re looking around at all the changes, a realization hits you: You don’t plan on living in this house much longer.

6. You Stop Caring About What People Think

Well, you at least care less. Worrying about popularity in high school is stupid, but worrying about popularity in college is even more dumb. After you receive your high school diploma, you realize just how fast four years went by and that your status during that time didn’t matter. You also discover that popularity fades, but your grades don’t. Plus, colleges are bigger than high schools, so your chances of standing out are pretty slim, not that it matters.

In addition to status, you start to not care about image as much as you did before; you’ll especially care less if you have an early morning class. Colleges don’t have much of a dress code, which gives you the liberty to come to lectures barefoot or in borderline pajamas. When you’ve been in school for a while, you’re just like, “Eh, no one’s hot,” and then you go to class in sweatpants again.

7. You Look Forward to the Unknown

Now, this applies in particular to first-year students, but it’s still true even if you’re not a freshman. If you’re going to college for the first time, chances are you have many mixed feelings about starting the next level of your education. Spoiler alert: College, like every other part of your life, has plenty of ups and downs. You’ll do fine if you take your education seriously and try your best.

And even if you’re further into your college career, you’re still aware of university’s newness. Every year is a year closer to your graduation, and a year closer to your degree. Once the school year ends, it feels almost like pausing a part of your life. Unless you signed up for summer classes, the vacation time is a standstill point between you and your bachelor’s. When you go home for the summer, it’s almost like returning to a previous part of your life, considering you have to move in all over again and have different classes every semester.

Whether you’re a freshman or a super senior, you can’t deny that college is entirely different from high school. Even though being a university student is only a short part of your life, it’s a part that teaches you a lot of invaluable lessons.

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Danielle Keating

Concordia University

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