To lots of people, high school, especially senior year, is one of the best times of their lives. With prom and varsity sports to look forward to, skipping senior year, though not unheard of, is certainly unusual.
When I tell people I’m 17 and going to the University of Utah, I usually get confused looks and then, after explaining my enrollment situation, get told, “Oh, I’m so sorry, senior year is the greatest! I remember ... (insert random memory here) and I remember (insert funny story here).”
Attending fall semester at the U in Salt Lake City has made me realize the ups and downs of college as compared to high school. Some things can be good or bad, depending on how you take them.
For example, I hardly knew anyone at the university, but that encouraged me to be outgoing and meet new people. Another double-edged sword is the fact that you’re treated more as an adult once you’re in college. People will ask for your opinion and listen to you, but you also have to start paying bills and making your own decisions.
What I do love about college is the freedom. You can make your own schedule, choose from a wider variety of classes, and decide whether or not you want to go to class. In high school, you’re stuck from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day, but after you graduate, you can schedule classes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. if you want.
I do miss high school sometimes, though, especially in the winter. Walking around the university campus with black ice and treacherous piles of snow can make you pine for halls and classrooms confined to the space of one building.
There’s also the comfort of seeing the same people all the time in high school, even in different classes, and the fact that high school class sizes are significantly smaller, especially when compared with introductory level science and math classes at universities. That’s one reason why a student-faculty ratio is such a big deal. Also, because of the sheer number of students, college teachers are overwhelmed and tend to avoid getting to know their students.
Teachers are also a big deal when it comes to what people dislike about college. Bad professors are a common complaint, even when extensive research is done on websites like ratemyprofessor.com before picking classes. It’s also common for students to select the perfect class at the perfect time, only to realize that the session is full. The only options, then, are to take the class next semester, find a different class section, or sit in on the first week and pray enough people drop out so that you can enroll.
But no matter how prepared you are for a university education, college really is what you make it. You might expect to have to memorize constant deadlines, to forget to buy your textbooks, and to party at Crimson Nights, but there’s always something you’ll never see coming. For me, it was the opportunities. Research funding, internships, departmental scholarships, community service organizations — there’s no shortage of things you can do or try that will be major-applicable, resume-worthy and actually enjoyable.
Also, on one last note, don’t be put off by anyone who scares you into thinking college is too difficult. Your teachers might not initially be as invested, but there’s always help if you look for it. You have counselors and tutors available and paid for by student fees, instructors with required office hours, and teaching aides with discussion sessions.
And if all those fail, there’s always Google.
Minna Wang is a senior at NUAMES. When she has spare time she likes to read, write and listen to music. Email her at email@example.com.