6 Huge Changes You'll Experience In Your Life When You Finish High School And Start College

Photo: kevin laminto on Unsplash
6 Huge Changes You'll Experience In Your Life When You Finish High School And Start College

The move from high school to college is one of the biggest life events that a teenager will ever experience. And if you’re reading this, it is more than likely that you are about to experience that transition as we get closer to the start of a new school year.

College is so exciting and so fun, but it is slightly terrifying to think that you are just jumping into the deep end of a new life. Hopefully, reading this will help your transition go just a bit more smoothly.

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I was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. We lived there before and after Hurricane Katrina; it is the only home I have ever known! I really liked living there as a kid, but by the time my last year of high school rolled around, I wanted to be literally anything but Louisiana. I was in desperate need of something new and exciting to spice up my everyday. I found my hometown to be so predictable.

I wanted to live in a place that would continue to surprise me everyday, so I packed up my life into a couple of suitcases and moved 1,300 miles to New York City. And I can confirm, the city never sleeps.

Moving that far away from home isn’t the path for everyone after they graduate high school, but that feeling of being trapped is felt by so many. College is a time to try everything until something feels right. You truly find your true self at school. (And this is coming from a type A person who always thought she knew exactly who she was and what she would be doing, basically from birth.)

The excitement of a new place, new people, and a new chance to become you all meets on campus, and the opportunity is yours for the taking!

So if you are nervous about your big move to your new "" life as a college freshman, check out these major differences between high school and college, so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into:

1. Making (and keeping) friends.

When you went to high school, you probably grew up with the people you've been friends with. From kindergarten to graduation, you’ve experienced the innocence of childhood, the awkwardness of puberty, and the highly elevated emotions of your late teens together. You can probably name 85 percent of your graduating class. How could you not know the names and stories of those around you? There is nowhere else to be but around them!

You can float around within the school and find someone you know or can hold a conversation. Maybe you are walking to class and see your sister’s best friend’s cousin. Maybe you see your ex’s older brother. Everyone knows everything about everyone. And that can feel really suffocating.

Drama is sure to come about by means of sheer proximity. You are around each other 24/7, something is bound to blow up eventually. When you go to the grocery or the mall, you have a one in three chance of seeing someone you know. The world is small when you all live within a ten-mile radius.

In college, making friends is possibly one of the easiest things you will ever do. You have a built-in ice breaker: “What’s your major?!” Because of that, you pretty much exclusively remember people by some connection to what they are studying. “Oh, there’s Alex, that Accounting major,” or “Oh my God, that’s that Business major I hooked up with last weekend,” becomes part of your daily vocabulary.

Going to college really gives you a chance to reinvent yourself, especially if you go to an out-of-state school. Everyone is experiencing the same things you are in real-time. Walking through campus on the very first day of classes feels like the most liberating moment of your life. Finally, you can be the person you’ve been waiting to be but have been too bound by your entire childhood to express.

Once you make your rounds to find your college friend group, those people become your ride-or-dies by Fall Break. You feel connected to your friends on a deeper level than just circumstance. These people are showing their true personalities, no fake business. Everyone is figuring out life and relying on each other to make it through midterms!

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2. Food (how much you'll eat it — and how much you'll gain, too).

In high school, eating three solid meals a day is an absolute must, no questions asked. Your breakfast is either a protein-filled creation by one of your parents as you all sit around the table and talk about your plans for the day or a special treat from Starbucks with your carpool while you dish the latest gossip or scramble to complete some forgotten homework assignment.

Your lunch is a 3-coursed, perfectly balanced meal with enough snacks to seemingly feed an army. When it’s time for dinner, you simply walk out of your room, into the kitchen and help yourself to whatever hot, home-cooked meal has been prepared for you. The dishes get put in the sink and the memory of them never comes back into your mind again.

Every time you open your fridge or your cupboard, there are fully-stocked shelves… and it’s all FREE. Basically, you are eating well no matter the circumstance.

There is some kind of voodoo magic that happens once you enroll in college: you trade in all of your healthy food habits for constantly being hungry yet still maintaining to gain the Freshman 15 (yes, I am so sorry to report that it will happen).

Your everyday breakfast now consists of scary amounts of caffeine. How are you supposed to get through your three-hour Trigonometry class at 9 am on Monday mornings without an extra-large latte with two shots? By the time you get out of class and make it to the cafeteria, it’s likely way past a normal lunchtime. Who wants to even brave the crowds of Common Hour? Crazy people only. You’ll likely opt for a protein bar in the bottom of your backpack… again, and promise yourself a real treat for dinner.

You make it back to your dorm or apartment and start snacking on anything in sight. Of course, you can’t keep a bountiful stash of fresh produce in a mini-fridge. So, your selections are limited to chips and carbs. Dinner time comes and truly, the only thing that sounds good is a couple of packs of ramen noodles or rounding up some friends to chow down on pizza delivery.

Choose your splurges carefully, the fasting thing to go out the window in college is your allowance. Blow all of your cafeteria money in the first few weeks and you’ll have no choice but to mooch off your friends for the rest of the semester.

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3. Parties and social gatherings

Typically, in high school, going out on a school night is off-limits. Who has the time anyway? When school starts between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, a late night is never really appealing.

Someone’s birthday or graduation party is where you can really kick it. There are two kinds of high school parties: the family gathering and the secret night rager. In the first scenario, you enjoy soda and snacks while wearing a sensible dress and listening to some music in the backyard. Your best friend’s grandma is talking your ear off about your plans for the future so there aren’t many opportunities to really light the party up. In the second scenario, you invite your closest circle over and wait until the total fall of the night before you all sneak downstairs and nervously raid your parents' alcohol cabinet.

You fill up the bottles with water as to not raise any suspicion and take whatever you can get. And I truly mean whatever. How fun can the party really get if your mom is sleeping in the room right next to you?

In college, there's always a party. Monday night? Sure, we’ll party. We have a snow day tomorrow? Perfect time for a party. Did you pass an exam? Party. Did you fail an exam? Party. You round up the squad to go to your nearest grocery, liquor store, or CVS and head straight for the White Claws. After all, there really are no laws when you are drinking claws.

You also learn a transformative word once you enter the party atmosphere of a college campus: "darty". That is, “day-party.” The only true rule of a darty is to make it to sundown. Tailgates and brunches are the most popular darties. Class canceled? Darty. Skipping class today? Darty. After all, you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!

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4. Work load, projects, classes and assignments.

In high school, somehow you manage to wake up at 7 am, attend four to five classes work out, stay late for extracurricular activities, and finish all of the homework for those four to five classes — all in one day. You have weekly tests on top of your midterm and final exams. Your grades are incredibly important, especially in your upperclassman years, because they become a huge deciding factor in your admission chances for college. The pressure is on.

In your senior year, you are exercising every last writing bone in your body to perfect your college admission essay and waking up early on a Saturday to take ACTs or SATs. Everything you do in school will set up your material to be judged for the future.

But in college, more often than not, you’ll wake up to an email from your professor saying, “I don’t really feel like coming in today. You all get a 100 for participation this week.” Score.

During Syllabus Week, the first week of classes where professors go over the plan for the semester, there is a special feeling in the air every time a professor tells their class that attendance is not mandatory. You suddenly have so much free time on your hands, but the realities of adulthood definitely catch up to you. All of those dishes you would usually just toss into the sink now stay out until you do something about them.

Because of the strain of adulting, you can easily fall into the pattern of going to the one class you have for the day and then taking a three-hour nap at home before your next meal. You don’t really have anything to do except show up to the lecture hall, but you are always exhausted.

Usually, the professor will limit the graded material to a midterm, a final, and maybe a few assignments scattered throughout the semester. Suddenly, your performance on each major graded item becomes a hell of a lot more important. Those three assignments determine whether you pass or fail the course. And that’s a lot of pressure for a 20-year-old kid!

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5. Independence — you're finally on your own!

It's really hard to feel independent when you are coming home to your parents house every night in high school. Your parents are likely to have you check in with them every morning when you make it to school, when you leave school, when you make it to your afternoon practice, when you are on your way home, when you want to go to a friend's house, when you make it to that friend's house, and so on.

Often, parents will use a cellphone tracking system like Find My Friends or Life360 to keep a watchful eye on what you are doing. Of course, they mean well, but as you get closer to your move out date, that can feel really suffocating.

You feel ready to take on the world on your own terms, but you still live under your parents roof and rules. but, you have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to responsibility. If you forget your keys, your mom or dad will be home to let you in soon. If you get sick, you have some built in caretakers that can aid you pack to health. It can feel like you have to trade in some of your freedom for these amenities, and as a teenager, nothing in the world seems more oppressive.

There truly is a reason the big move to college is called "cutting the cord." Genuinely, overnight you are thrust into the throws of adulthood.

Your responsibility levels skyrocket and it can become overwhelming for many! You are now held accountable for finding your own way around campus, waking up for classes, and motivating yourself to get all of your assignments done on time. You go through a trial by fire in the first few months of your freshman year.

You will make mistakes, and you should make mistakes. Failing and getting back up to try again is the best way to learn in college. But the piling responsibilities of adulthood quickly reveal themselves to be immensely less glamorous as you had imagined them to be. Once you are three weeks into the semester with a laundry pile overflowing and a bank account in the negative, you'll quickly realize that everything is not necessarily how it seems.

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6. Home (and leaving it).

It's easy to get lost in the forest of being home when it's all you've ever known — especially when you're in high school. Your neighborhood streets and regularly populated restaurants can start to feel more like a restraint than an adventure. After all, you can only eat at the same salad place so many times before it starts to get really old.

You see the same people and do the same things everyday for years, so it naturally starts to lose its luster. As you get closer to your move out date, it definitely seems more exciting to try new things than to stay in the place you have known all of your life. You want to experience the world and take huge leaps of faith. It's normal!

I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. To many, that can sound like the most exciting place to grow up, and it was. But it started to feel very constricting as my eyes got bigger and my soul got hungrier for more than a relaxed, southern town. I wanted nothing more than to forget about my life in NOLA and only focus on the possibility of living my young adult life in New York City. You want to call somewhere else home for a while.

You truly never realize how good something is until you can't have it anymore, and that's especially true when you leave home to go to college. Going back home is one of the greatest and simplest joys of college.

Usually, you are back in your hometown for the perfect amount of time to relax and take a break from the craziness that is your first year at college, but not long enough to fall back into the habits that made you want to move out in the first place.

Like I said, when I moved out of NOLA, I wanted nothing to do with that past life. Yet, about three weeks into my first semester, I found my hometown sneaking its way into anything I said and every introduction I ever made. I got a point where I couldn't say my name without tacking on "and I'm originally from New Orleans" to the sentence.

Living 1,300 miles from the only home I've ever known has really made me appreciate the little things I used to take for granted in high school. From the smallest things, like driving my car, to the more obvious, like Mardi Gras. Of course, being 21 in New Orleans really helps the improvement my general appreciation!

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Madison Kerth is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.