As a recent high school graduate, I’d say I’m well-suited to reflect on the differences between high school and college. During senior year, I tried to find out everything I could about college life so that I’d be ready once I actually got to campus. I heard a lot of different things from a lot of different people, and while it was all valid advice, none of it could truly prepare me for what I found when I finally came here. Here are some of the more surprising/unexpected differences:
So. Much. Walking.
Today I walked from Wolman to CharMar to Hodson to Levering to Brody to the FFC to Brody to Remsen to Brody to Garland to Wolman to the Rec Center to Wolman to the FFC to the Gatehouse to Wolman. Which, according to my phone’s health tracker, is 12,333 steps, 21 floors, and 5 miles. In high school, I was pretty much in the same building all day, and the farthest distance I walked was from my house to the bus stop. Although it can be cumbersome having to walk from Wolman to Hodson first thing in the morning, especially in a torrential downpour, I’ve come to appreciate all the walking. I can stay active, get some fresh air, and maybe catch up with a friend for a few minutes between classes. (Comfortable shoes are a must-have for college, btw.)
Schedules are way more messed up.
In high school, I’d have a full day of the same classes every day, then maybe go to an extracurricular (band on Tuesdays, newspaper on Thursdays, UNICEF club on Fridays) then go home, do homework, eat dinner, do more homework, sleep, repeat. I woke up at the same time each morning, went to bed around the same time every night and ate meals at the same time each day. Now, I have to set my morning alarm for a different time every night, then go to class for either 2, 4, or 5.5 hours, and after that anything could happen. I might check out a club meeting that sounds interesting, or cover an event for a News-Letter article, or go climbing in the bouldering cave, or just hang out in a common room. I eat meals whenever I can fit them in, alternating between the FFC, CharMar, whatever food is in my suite, and free pizza if I can find it. Homework is done in the few hours between classes and late at night. All the spontaneity can be hard to handle at first, but now that I’m used to it I much prefer it to the predictable, monotonous routine of my high school years.
Studying is a social activity.
Studying in high school meant sitting alone in my room, hunched over my desk, poring over my notes for several hours at a time. Effective, but a little lonely. In college, most of my studying gets done in a common room, while carrying on a conversation with the people around me, music blaring from someone’s speakers. After a few hours we might stop to watch the presidential debate or head to late night. Admittedly, it takes a bit longer to get work done this way, but on the plus side I can always find someone to help me with calc homework.
I have so much less stuff.
The majority of my readings and homework assignments are on Blackboard, Hopkins’ online course/learning management system, which means I have far fewer paper handouts than I did in high school. I still prefer taking my notes the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper rather than on my computer, so I haven’t gone completely paperless, but it’s still a big improvement from last year. As opposed to having a separate notebook and filled-to-bursting folder for every class, everything I need for college fits into one accordion folder, one three-subject notebook, and my trusty laptop. Less paper is better for the environment, and a lighter backpack is better for my shoulders.
No adult supervision.
Okay, technically college students are (almost) all over the age of eighteen, so we’re all legally adults, but I don’t think that really counts. In high school, there were teachers, administrators, librarians, and hall monitors telling me what to do all the time, and at home I had my mom to remind me to eat breakfast and make sure I didn’t sleep through my alarm. I had to ask permission before I went anywhere or did anything, and I was constantly looking to adults for approval and validation. At Hopkins, I don’t interact with adults anywhere near as much as I used to. Clubs are all student-run and the oldest people in my building (aside from the security guard) are the senior RAs. Sure, I see my professors every day, but I don’t always have the chance to talk to them one-on-one. If I need extra help, it’s on me to go to office hours or make an appointment. I am now the one who has to run mundane errands and fill out tax forms and keep my suite in some semblance of cleanliness. I’ve always been a fairly independent person, so this part hasn’t come as a complete shock, but it’s definitely forced me to learn new things on the fly and have more confidence in my own decisions. Even though sometimes I miss the safety net of adult supervision, being on my own and doing what I want to do is one of the best parts of college. Besides, if i really need it, my mom is always a phone call away.