Welcome to college: Now, enjoy the ride

Commentary by Bailey Pennington
Times-News correspondent
teens20@thetimesnews.com

When in college, don't forget to have fun. / Photo illustration by Metro Creative Graphics

During high school, most seniors are eager to graduate and move on to college. College means moving away from home, making new friends, going to parties and being able to make your own schedule where you can sleep late every day. Although all these things are true, there’s way more than meets the eye when it comes to preparing for college.
   DORMS: Although there are many pros and cons of dorm-room living, every college freshman should live in one at least once. It’s hard to transition from your comfortable room at home, to a smaller, shared one on a hallway full of people you barely know. (And don’t even think about the bathroom-sharing situation.) Keep in mind that this is a shock to everyone, and it’s easy to get aggravated. Try to stay courteous with those around you — even if you don’t see eye-to-eye. Although you don’t have to be best friends with everyone you live with, it will make life easier if you are respectful toward each other. Don’t be that guy or girl who is yelling and disturbing the hall at 3 a.m. Trust me, it happens, and sleep is highly precious in college.
CLASSES: Once you get to college, you are capable of choosing all your classes and the time slots you prefer with the teachers that you would like. Although this sounds great, beware of class scheduling. It’s easy to avoid early mornings and strict professors, but sometimes you miss out on some really great instruction that way. Try to create a balanced and well-rounded course load and try new things — you never know what you may enjoy. Also, just because you are placed into a lecture class with more than a hundred students does not mean you get a free pass to skip class. Some professors have a strict attendance policy, and missing a day of class can be highly detrimental to your grade. Try to be on a first-name basis with your professors, even if it is by email. After all, they could be writing your recommendations one day.
STUDYING: Don’t forget why you’re attending college in the first place …  for school. It’s easy to slack of and procrastinate with your schedule and free time at your disposal. You won’t always have homework in every class each night, but papers and tests can pile up quickly. Take time to study a little every night, whether it’s alone in your room or with your headphones on in the library. Although it may seem as if many people are out having a good time, just wait until exam time comes and the entire campus is locked in their rooms cramming for a test they should have studied for weeks ago.
EXTRACURRICULARS: Yes, it’s true: there is always something to do on a college campus. There are hundreds of organizations, teams and causes that you can be a part of. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Don’t be afraid to join a club sport or audition for an a cappella group. You never know what you may enjoy and the friendships and opportunities they provide will last a lifetime. Feel free to join several groups, but be sure to balance your schedule and manage your time wisely. Only attending one club meeting a month does not make you a member.
FRIENDS & FUN: Last but certainly not least, get out and make friends. Your friends from college often turn out to be some of your best friends in life. Don’t be afraid to attend freshmen meet-and-greets and campus-wide events. Having the courage to introduce yourself is the first step in meeting new people. No, everyone you meet may not become your friend, but you never know until you try. Take time to enjoy the college life every now and then. College is not all work and no play. Grab a late night meal with friends, take daylong outings off-campus, attend weekend events — it’s all about the experience. It’s acceptable to go out every now and then, just stay safe and know your limits.
College is amazing and will definitely be one of the best times of your life. A lot of things people tell you in high school are true — but it’s super easy to get caught up in the moment and forget the hard work that is also involved. Be sure to keep these things in mind as you enter into the next big chapter of your life; but also be sure to enjoy the ride.

 Bailey Pennington is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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